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Detroit developers unveil plans for old state fairgrounds

Arielle Solomon

Developers want to turn Detroit's old state fairgrounds into 160 acres of senior living, apartments, shopping, small parks, and space for Wayne County Community College.

Those plans were unveiled to the public in detail this week.

“We know that downtown and Midtown is being pressured because of the lack of units,” says Marvin Beatty, one of the developers.

“People are paying pretty exorbitant fees and rents to live there. So here’s an opportunity really to be in the neighborhood, to be close to transportation, and really immediately adjacent to the retail necessities that people have.”

Beatty also sees the development plans as doing something radical for the city: making shopping more accessible for people who don’t want to, or can’t afford to, leave the city.  

“I mean Detroiters, have had to shop in the suburbs for the last 40 years. We haven’t had a grocery store in Detroit for many, many years. We haven’t had a place where you could really go buy a pair of socks.

“That’s all changing. It’s a shared opportunity, because those folks in Ferndale, they don’t really have those kinds of shopping amenities and opportunities to take classes.

“So it’s just going to create a whole other level of energy, and we hope what it does is ... offers Detroiters, and suburbanites who want to move back to an urban environment, a real opportunity to do so without changing their whole lifestyle.”   

But the plans have raised concerns because, in their current form, they would move a bus stop that’s currently right in the middle of the property on Woodward, farther south to State Fair, and turn it into a bus terminal.

Dan Dirks, of the Detroit Department of Transportation, told the Detroit News this would force people to walk half a mile if they want wanted to transfer to other buses.

Beatty, however, stresses that the plans aren’t set in stone yet, and that they’re happy to meet with Dirks and make changes.

“We have the interest and we want to be good community partners in this whole process. We don't want to leave anybody out."

He says they'd like to have construction well underway by late 2017.

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