Lansing — Michigan legislation that would allow developers to capture a portion of new tax revenues generated by “transformational” redevelopment projects could jump-start plans for the long-vacant Pontiac Silverdome, Mayor Deirdre Waterman said this week.
Waterman, who testified Thursday in Lansing, told The Detroit News the package would provide the Oakland County city with a new tool to tackle an old eyesore, the now-roofless behemoth that was once home to the Detroit Lions but has fallen into disrepair.
“It was once a glorious structure, but it’s over, and its day is done,” Waterman said Wednesday of the Silverdome, which she wants torn down to pave the way for new development, likely a mixed-use project, on what she believes is a prime piece of real estate off M-59 near Interstate 75.
“We need to find ways as municipalities to encourage and influence developers to tackle these more difficult projects so that we can make way for cost-effective and organized economic development,” she said.
Waterman is part of a statewide coalition rallying around a tax capture concept first pitched last year by Detroit developer and billionaire Dan Gilbert, whose Rock Ventures has said the plan could pave the way for it to move forward on $2.5 billion in major projects in Michigan’s largest city. It would include development of the old Hudson’s site on Woodward in downtown Detroit.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who has usually moved the state away from tax incentives, supported a modified version of the plan last year after a series of financial caps and protections were added.
If developers like Gilbert “can’t make a deal to work without state aid, then it is not a deal worth doing, and Michigan taxpayers should not be forced to invest,” said Cotter, who has since been term-limited out of office.
The latest version of the bills would limit annual income tax captures from jobs and residents to $40 million per year and $800 million overall. Total construction-period tax captures would be limited to $200 million over the life of the bill.
The Michigan Strategic Fund could approve tax captures for five “transformational brownfield plans” a year, and no more than one project could qualify per city, allowing competition across the state.
Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, sponsored one of the bills in the package, and several other Senate Democrats signed on to several measures as co-sponsors. Business Leaders for Michigan, an influential group of corporate leaders and executives, also endorsed the tax capture plan this week, calling it “a crucial component to step up the state’s economic development efforts.”
In Pontiac, Waterman said city officials have been working with Silverdome ownership to come up with a realistic plan for redevelopment. Triple Properties, a Canadian-based company run by Andreas Apostolopoulos, bought the site for $583,000 in 2009 when a state-appointed emergency financial manager put it up for auction.
Triple Properties unsuccessfully tried to sell the Silverdome for $30 million in 2015, so the company said it would tear down the building to pave way for new development.
Conceptual plans released in late 2015 touted the potential for a mix of residential, retail, corporate and light-industrial developments on the 127-acre site.
“It’s not shovel-ready because it still has a structure on it that is concrete,” said Waterman, noting the cost of tearing down the Silverdome remains an obstacle to any redevelopment plans.
Its continued deterioration is particularly painful because residents remember what the Silverdome used to be, Waterman said. The building, constructed in 1975, was home turf for both the Lions and Detroit Pistons as well as hosted a series of high-profile entertainers.
“So it’s even more of a wound in the face of a very vibrant community that is resurgent,” she said. “We certainly are eager to have this parcel developed in a way that is in harmony with the rest of Pontiac’s revitalization.”