Paint the Town Red

Paint the Town Red

The developers of the Detroit Red Wings’ new arena, unveiled in late July, said the $650 million arena and surrounding district will be a hat-trick for fans, neighborhood development, and the local tax rolls.

Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena is currently the fourth oldest venue in the National Hockey League. It will be demolished to the tune of $6 million, which Detroit will pay for through tax increment financing.

The developers of the team’s new home, slated to open in summer 2017, said in a press release that the new arena will spur “at least $1.8 billion in total economic impact, 8,300 construction and construction-related jobs, and 1,100 permanent jobs.”


Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, unveiled the plan to the Detroit Free-Press in late July. In addition to the new arena itself, Ilitch plans to build some 2,000 residential units, office space, and retail. “As the arena comes up out of the ground, so too will all of the mixed-use private development,” Ilitch told the Free-Press. “It’s a sweeping plan in the respect that it will not only transform part of our city core, but based on its location, it will connect parts of our city core that have been disconnected and are highly blighted.”

The Sports and Entertainment District, as Ilitch’s company refers to the project, will take up mostly vacant blocks around Woodward Avenue in between the Central Business District and Midtown. Its aim is to catalyze development in five neighborhoods, which the developer has assigned working names: Columbia Street (by the Fox Theatre and Fillmore); Wildcat Corner (near Comerica Park and Ford Field); Cass Park Village; Columbia Park; and an unnamed district by the forthcoming arena.

About $284.5 million in public money will support the project, mostly in the form of tax increment financing. The remaining $365.5 million (about 56 percent of the total cost) will be private investment. City and state officials have said none of the public money would come from the general fund of bankrupt Detroit.

Some economists have disputed Ilitch’s economic development figures, pointing out the district’s “new” jobs will come in part from the demolition of the existing arena.

At press time a spokeswoman for Olympia Development, the real estate arm of Ilitch Holdings that is managing the project, said they will release details on the design team in the coming weeks. In 2012, the Red Wings reportedly retained HKS and NBBJ to design the new stadium, which will be the Red Wings’ first in almost 40 years.


Olympia Development’s new districts will tie in with the planned M-1 Rail line along Woodward Avenue, as well as local attractions like Comerica Park, Ford Field, the Fox Theatre, MotorCity Casino Hotel, and the Detroit Opera House. Many of those are owned by Ilitch.

The developer’s “bold vision” for the corridor will include spending on public infrastructure in the area, including streetscape improvements and new parks. “We’ve done business in Detroit for nearly 50 years, and this is our most significant and ambitious project here yet,” said Ilitch in a statement. “By accelerating our investments in important neighborhood infrastructure and new mixed-use development, we will stabilize and develop dozens of underutilized blocks, create more jobs more quickly, and allow the city to spend public funds on other priorities.”