July 9, 2007
BY BOWDEYA TWEH
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
If a public hearing Monday is any indication, the Detroit City Council clearly faces a difficult decision on whether to raze Tiger Stadium for redevelopment.
The council heard opinions from nearly 20 members of the community and the city's planning and economic development commissions. Those who spoke were evenly split over the plan Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick unveiled last year to tear down the stadium in part or in full and turn the available space into a retail and residential development.
"If there's no developer on deck, what's the urgency?" said Councilwoman JoAnn Watson.
Watson supported the planning commission's recommendation to not vote on the plan until a developer and financing are in place.
The Detroit Economic Growth Corp., however, wants the council to vote to start the nearly $3-million demolition.
The work would be financed in part with proceeds from the sale of stadium memorabilia.
At the end of Monday's meeting, the council decided to discuss the issue again next Monday -- after the planning commission meets Thursday.
Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel said the issue is similar to the chicken-or-the-egg debate: whether financing for a project or a will to complete it should come first.
She sided with the development corporation's urgency to get the project started.
Art Papapanos, vice president of the corporation, said developers are more apt to want a cleared site rather than have to pay for demolition. With prompt approval from the council, Papapanos said, demolition would begin late this year and end in 2008.
The Detroit Tigers played at the city-owned stadium at Michigan and Trumbull until 1999. The team moved to Comerica Park in 2000.
With no decision on Tiger Stadium's future, it's been difficult to attract business to the neighboring area, said Tim McKay, economic development director of the Greater Corktown Development Corp.
McKay said he supports the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy's plan to save at least part of the structure. He said interest in the site could increase with actions from the economic development corporation.
Retired Detroit Police Officer David Malhalab said he wants "accountability on Tiger Stadium" and insisted Tigers owner Mike Ilitch contributed to the stadium's blighted condition by not managing it properly.
"It should be demolished," Malhalab said. "It could be a revenue-producing thing for the city. The NAACP could've held their rally there."
Bill Dow, a member of the Tiger Stadium Fan Club, said that if there's no developer, funding or detailed plan, then there's no way the council should think about doing anything.
"It's backwards to demolish it first," Dow said. Contact BOWDEYA TWEH at 313-222-6513 or firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.