The Detroit City Council has decided to grant a 1 ½ year extension for a redevelopment plan for the Joe Louis Arena. Gotham Motown Recovery LLC, a creditor from the city’s 2013 bankruptcy, originally had until November 2017 to submit a proposal. A few months before the deadline, Gotham Motown asked for a 2 year extension but was offered 180 days instead. After suing the city in February, Gotham was granted an 18 month extension about a week ago.
History of the Joe Louis Arena
The arena opened in 1979 and housed the Red Wings hockey team until 2017, when the Little Caesars Arena opened in Midtown. The Joe also hosted a wide variety of concerts, the 1980 Republican National Convention, and six other smaller sports clubs. The Red Wings hosted six Stanley Cup Finals at the Joe Louis Arena, winning four of the series.
Future of the Site
The City of Detroit must demolish the arena, and crews will begin at the beginning of next year. The creditors argue that the tricky nature of the site has caused the delay in planning. The 9-acre site sits crammed between the Cobo Center, the Detroit River, the Lodge Freeway, and the Lodge exit ramps. Nevertheless, the location is still valuable riverfront property in a city that is developing fast.
Gotham collaborated with renowned Detroit architecture firm SmithGroupJJR in 2016 to sketch up some possible ideas for developing the site. Included in the ideas are “a 24-story residential tower, an expansion of Cobo Center and parking with about 2,000-4,000 spaces.”
The city is also trying to create a more open framework for the area, and they’ve thrown out the idea of demolishing the Exit 1A ramp from the Lodge Freeway, the Cobo parking ramp on Congress Street, and the parking garage pedestrian tubes that connect to Cobo. The city also hopes to reinstate the street grid and build more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly infrastructure.
The arena site redevelopment could be huge for connecting the east and west riverfronts and perhaps opening up the area south of Corktown to development. Eighteen months just to create a plan seems like a long time, so let’s hope that the results are worth the wait.