Detroit City Council Makes Progress on Building New Criminal Justice Complex

By Rachel Leber

DETROIT — Decisions are being made with regards to a new criminal justice complex and land swap in Detroit City. The Detroit City Council approved a deal to build a new criminal justice complex north of downtown on Nov. 27, and decided on Dec. 1 with clarity that Wayne County won’t complete its unfinished jail project in Greektown.

Detroit’s first attempt to build a new jail began in September 2011, and work was halted in June 2013. The interruption in construction came when it was revealed that cost overruns were pushing the project $91 million over its already $300 million budget. The paused site was costing taxpayers about $1.2 million a month in bond payments, storage and security.

The new deal between the city and Wayne County would give the city the former American Motors headquarters site on Plymouth Road in exchange for 11 acres of city-owned land needed to build the jail complex. In addition, it will allow billionaire Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ventures LLC to build the $520.3 million complex, instead of the “fail jail site” on Gratiot Avenue next to the existing county jail, according to The Detroit Free Press.

In addition, a tentative agreement was made on Dec. 1 to have locally based Rock Ventures pay a $500,000 stipend to national firm Walsh Construction, which was the lone bidder offering to complete the unfinished jail at the foot of downtown, according to The Detroit News. The stipend is to compensate Walsh for the work it previously did preparing a proposal it submitted earlier this year to complete the half-built jail with 1,608 beds for $269 million, or 2,200 beds for $317.6 million.

The land swap still requires approval from the 15-member Wayne County Commission and the Wayne County Land Bank Board, which owns the property for the proposed jail site. In addition, the county needs to get approval from the Internal Revenue Service to use bonds for the jail at another site. The Wayne County Commission and the Wayne County Building Authority must also approve an agreement between the county and Rock Ventures to build the criminal justice center.