Michigan Justice Center Project Running Over Budget

By Lisa Kopochinski

DETROIT—Construction on the Wayne County Criminal Justice Complex in Detroit is running approximately $40 million over budget.

With the rising cost of materials and labor over last year, real estate development company Rock Ventures is working to lower the cost as bids come in.

Rock Ventures Principal Matt Cullen confirmed recently that the new jail is projected to cost $573 million. However, Wayne County taxpayers will not be responsible for these escalating costs of the $533 million criminal justice complex project, which is located on East Warren Avenue near the I-75 service drive.

“We knew there was exposure to it going up,” said Cullen recently. “I’m not happy we’re over budget. I hope we can reduce that.”

Rock Ventures is shouldering that burden under the deal the company made with the Wayne County Executive Warren Evans’ administration last year. The agreement involved Rock Ventures building this jail and courthouse complex in exchange for getting the half-built Gratiot Avenue jail site. The company agreed to cover all costs exceeding $380 million — the county’s maximum contribution to the project.

Cullen said this jail deal was crafted without a final design plan, much less bids for the exact cost of the project. This left the development company exposed to a construction market that is already strained by nearby mega-projects.

“You don’t normally price something until you draw something or go out and get bids,” said Cullen. “Certainly, the fact there’s so much construction going on in Detroit and the region doesn’t help either.”

All of this activity is driving up construction costs to as much as 30 percent.

Kevin Koehler, president of the Construction Association of Michigan, said building costs regularly change as designs become finalized. “Once the design starts to be fleshed out, there are so many elements that can change and increase pricing.”

Construction of the new county jail, courthouse and office complex is slated for completion in 2022. At present, excavation work is approximately 55 percent complete and initial foundation and concrete work is about 25 percent complete.

When the new Wayne County Criminal Justice Complex is complete, Rock Ventures will get the county’s Frank Murphy Hall of Justice Courthouse and the County’s juvenile detention facility on St. Antoine Street, in addition to two older jails on Clinton Street.

These buildings will likely be demolished for the redevelopment of the Gratiot Avenue property.