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It's official: Former state fairgrounds in Detroit up for re-development

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Sarah Cwiek
/
Michigan Radio
A sign designating the Michigan state fairgrounds as a historic site.

Governor Snyder has signed bills that pave the way for transforming the former Michigan state fairgrounds at 8 Mile and Woodward in Detroit.

The land has largely sat idle since former Governor Jennifer Granholm cut state funding for the fair in 2009. Until then, it was one of the nation's longest-running state fairs.

The land will likely go into the state land bank. From there, Snyder says it will go through a competitive bid process to find the best re-development plan or plans for the historic site.

“Here’s a parcel of land, more than 160 acres," Snyder said, "that can be redeveloped in a very positive, constructive way, with residential opportunities, commercial opportunities, industrial opportunities, job opportunities, real community opportunities to integrate with the existing communities.”

The laws do prohibit certain uses for the site. It can't be turned into a racetrack, a casino, freight rail yard, or a prison.

Snyder also noted one potential use could be as a hub for a future commuter rail system. The Governor says he thinks development could start on the former fairgrounds “fairly quickly.”

Community groups in the surrounding neighborhoods are tentatively supportive.

Frank Hammer, President of the Green Acres Woodward Civic Association, had pushed a plan to make the site into Detroit's first Metropark. But the Huron-Clinton Metropark Authority rejected that idea in 2010.

Hammer says whatever does end up here, should honor the site’s history as a place where Michigan’s rural and urban traditions met: “I think that would be a tremendous loss if we were not to replicate that in some manner.”

Community groups will have some influence on future decisionmaking for the site through an advisory board. Their role is, however, purely advisory.

As for the state fair itself, Governor Snyder says it's "possible" it could return somewhere, in some form--but people shouldn’t expect that.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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