As downtown Detroit’s landscape continuously evolves, a new proposal between Wayne County and Rock Ventures is creating significant buzz among county officials, residents and business owners around the area.
Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans is now reviewing Rock Venture’s proposal to build a criminal justice center and use the jail site as a “welcoming center” of sorts with a sports stadium as the hub.
Evans recently releasing his recommended steps to vet the Rock Ventures offer. The Administration also called for a stipend for Walsh Construction to cover the costs to prepare its proposal to complete the unfinished jail at Gratiot.
“The Rock Ventures offer presents the County an option that warrants much deeper analysis before determining whether it’s the best course of action to finally address our jail issue,” Evans said in a statement. “I appreciate that Dan Gilbert and the Rock team submitted it before our deadline. I am instructing my team to take the same thoughtful, and deliberate approach in vetting the offer as we did with the County’s fiscal crisis.”
The Administration formally provided the County Commission with the following recommendations:
1) Approve a stipend agreement of up to $500,000 with Walsh Construction to prepare a proposal in response to the RFP, which was issued on Feb. 10.
2) Modify the contract with Carter Goble Associates LLC (“CGL”) to allow for analysis of Rock Ventures proposed jail site.
3) Approve a contract with CGL to assist in vetting the Rock proposal from an operations and detention facility approach.
4) Approve a contract with the National Center for State Courts to assist in vetting and analyzing the court and office programming of Rock’s proposal.
5) Approve a legal services contract with Zausmer, August and Caldwell to assist in legal issues related to the Rock proposal.
“We can’t expect Walsh to expend substantial time and resources to complete a proposal for finishing construction of the Gratiot jail while the County vets Rock Venture’s alternative offer without offering some reassurance that their time and commitment will be adequately compensated. And quite frankly, today, we’re closer to building on Gratiot than we are at Rock’s proposed site,” Evans said.
The stipend payment, if approved, will only be paid if the Walsh proposal is not accepted by the County.
“I know our commissioners share my concern about protecting Wayne County taxpayers and getting the best possible solution for our residents. I look forward to their input and analysis throughout this process,” Evans added.
In addition to releasing his recommendations, Executive Evans highlighted the three top issues that need to be addressed in vetting Rock Ventures’ proposal.
1) Whether what Rock is proposing to build on the proposed site, for an estimated $420 million, are adequate facilities to meet the County’s criminal justice needs?
2) Whether it is appropriate to pay Rock for any operational efficiencies resulting from the use of these new buildings, and if so, the details of how they would be calculated, when they would be paid and the duration of such payments?
3) Resolving the uncertainty of tax issues relating to the use of the jail bond and any jail bond proceeds to build the jail on an alternative site.
“We must know that the $420 million proposed site will fully meet the County’s criminal justice needs and there’s a lot of work left to figure that out,” Evans said. “We also need to do our due diligence on the bond and credit issues to make sure any action we take is in the County’s financial interests.”
As a result of the RFP process, the County expects to have a proposal from Walsh in May. On Monday, Feb. 6, the County received an offer from Rock Ventures proposing a criminal justice complex at an alternative site at East Forest Ave. The Wayne County Commission and Wayne County Building Authority would need to approve any contract with either Walsh Construction or Rock Ventures.
“I agree with Dan Gilbert that this is a 50-year decision, but it’s important to remember that we’re nearly a decade into a debacle we inherited that will continue to cost Wayne County taxpayers for decades. Getting this right for them trumps any other concern I have,” Evans said. “Our residents have been staring at a demoralizing Gratiot site with $151 million of their money buried in the ground that continues to hold back this County from truly surging forward.”
In September, working with its Owner’s Representative, CGL, the County issued an RFQu to complete the unfinished jail at Gratiot, drawing a lone response from Walsh Construction. After reviewing their response, the County qualified Walsh in late December for the project. In November, Mannik & Smith Group completed a visual and physical inspection of the structural steel, concrete and masonry onsite. The report of the site condition assessment confirmed that the prior construction at the site is structurally sound and suitable for restarting construction in 2017.