Detroit council approves $ 18 million transit hub plan for former state fairgrounds


Detroit – In its final session of the year, city council on Tuesday approved a plan that will preserve two historic buildings of the former Michigan State Fairground as part of an 18.6-inch transit center millions of dollars.

Nearly seven hours after the meeting began, council members approved the plan by a 5-2 vote. City councilor Raquel Castañeda-López and Pro Tem President Mary Sheffield voted against.

The vote had been postponed of the formal council session last week after members asked the city administration to clarify how residents near the Palmer Woods neighborhood will be protected from emissions from transit centers.

Castañeda-López said on Tuesday she was not convinced enough proposals were being put forward to protect residents from emissions, reduce pollution and noise.

“I’m still at the midpoint as I was last week and would ask that this be brought back to the next term to allow the new council to engage the community on this,” Castañeda-López argued. “Surrounded by the industry in District 6, I know firsthand that over 200 additional trucks are passing through a specific area.”

But others, like City Councilor Scott Benson, opposed the postponement of the vote, saying “it’s something the residents of the Third District have been pushing for.”

Originally, when designs for the transit campus at the site of Amazon’s future $ 400 million distribution center were announced in August, residents raised concerns with council over the planned demolition of three historic buildings on the site.

In response, the city conducted a three-month feasibility study to see what could be saved from the 1924 Hertel Coliseum, a 60,000 square foot equestrian center that hosted circuses, concerts and rodeos; the 1926 Dairy Cattle Building and adjoining farm building, all of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.

As part of the plan, the 52,500 square foot Dairy Cattle building will be used for bicycle buses. While the Colosseum will be removed, the gantry will remain, accommodating passengers at the transit center. The farm building will not be used for the project as it is leased to Joe Dumars Fieldhouse.

Detroit Building Authority director Tyrone Clifton told council on Tuesday that the amended plan to transform the current shutdown on Woodward “is the best option and has been well received,” he said.

More than a dozen runners and supporters called during the public comments on Tuesday to primarily advocate for the plan, but a handful have called for it to be put on hold until the Colosseum can be saved.

Newly elected to represent Detroit City Council District 2, Angela Whitfield Calloway was among those who, during public comments, urged council to reject the Colosseum’s demolition and seek outside funding sources to save and reuse the historical site.

“The Colosseum is a historical and cultural gem, not only locally but also nationally and deserves to be saved,” Calloway said.

Christopher Johnson, chairman of the Bagley Community Council, favored the transit plan, noting that centers elsewhere in the country have revitalized neighborhoods and increased tax revenue.

“It is very important to know where we are going,” he said before the vote. “So I pray that there is no politics involved.”

DDOT Director Mikel Oglesby said officials hope to start construction this summer and the site will be nearing completion by winter 2022.

City council previously approved a $ 7 million plan for a brand new developer transit hub as part of their deal to buy the land.

The remaining project expenses of $ 18 million are covered by pre-approved bond sales and will not be paid from the city’s general fund.

A new city council will convene its first formal session on January 4.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_