Detroit city officials are seeking a “compromise” on a potential Tiger Stadium development, as they eye a pot of federal funds controlled by Sen. Carl Levin and the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy.
George Jackson, CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. (DEGC) and a noted opponent of baseball-related activity on the Tiger Stadium site (his solution: big box! big box! big box! at a time when big-box retailers are retrenching), is accusing the conservancy of blocking any development because, as he says, the group is insisting on a full playing field on the site. This opposition, he says, has helped shoot down a proposed headquarters for the nonprofit Parade Company and an accompanying strip mall. Not so, says Conservancy President Thomas Linn: “It was our preference to preserve more of the ball field, but I don’t think it was our preference to say, ‘No, no, never’,” he told the Detroit Free Press.
Now, there are a lot of reasons to take Jackson’s comments with a dozen shakers of salt: his DEGC was set and determined to tear down Tiger Stadium no matter what was proposed, and ceding such power to the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy shows how ineffectual his agency was at finding an imaginative new use for the site. Detroit is on the rebound with the auto industry coming back and a host of imaginative new businesses establishing operations in the city, but there’s a long way before the city can be deemed economically healthy. Now that the city is broke and the conservancy holds millions in redevelopment funds for the site, Jackson is urging compromise. The obvious compromise that would have made the site very attractive for developers would have been the restoration of the Navin Field grandstand, providing a Corktown attraction and still leaving the vast majority of the old ballpark site available for development. But Detroit officials had only one use in mind for the ballpark site — to create a site friendly for a big-box retailer — and while it’s admirable they want to see a land use that adds to the city tax rolls, the unique nature of the site demands a unique solution. Jackson shot down a proposal by MLB to turn the site into a baseball youth academy (a proposal still out there, we hear), but after a decade seeking to persuade Wal-Mart to take up residence at Michigan and Trumbull, maybe Jackson and crew are willing to work with Sen. Levin and the conservancy on a plan that makes an economic input while preserving the memories of Tiger Stadium.
Photo by John Moist.
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