Feb 20, 2017
Billionaire Dan Gilbert, founder and co-owner of Quicken Loans, continues his efforts to gobble up land in downtown Detroit. His latest proposal is to take over the land where the failed Wayne County jail construction project sits, so that he can build a new soccer stadium there. In exchange, he would build a jail and courthouse, to replace the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice – but outside of the downtown area.
Gilbert is often portrayed in the media as some kind of savior for the city of Detroit. He already owns nearly a hundred other buildings downtown, and is given credit for “revitalizing” the area.
Gilbert doesn’t do what he does for love of Detroit. He does it to make money – which he has done handsomely. Forbes magazine puts Gilbert’s personal worth at 4.6 billion dollars. He’s already gotten tax breaks on almost all the buildings he owns, most of which he got from the city for as little as $1 a building, plus two parking garages along the way.
Gilbert is pushing the proposal, saying he’ll save the county money by doing the construction for them. Yet his proposal contains a vague clause that would pay him a currently indeterminate “portion” of whatever unclear amount the county would save if someone else finished construction of the old jail project and its operations. In other words, in the long run, Gilbert will profit from this deal also.
What does Gilbert care if his new site makes it much less convenient for family members and friends of jail inmates to visit them? That’s exactly Gilbert’s point – get the poor people out of downtown. They don’t fit with the image he’d like for his downtown Detroit.
Money to build his “Gilbertville” came from the taxes and fees the population pays – and it was stolen from their neighborhoods and schools their children attend.
This is the vicious meaning of Detroit’s shiny new downtown.