The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Detroit Officials Propose Bigger Handouts to Billionaires

Jan 23, 2023

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and other city officials are pushing a proposal to give a 797-million-dollar handout to the billionaire family of Mike Ilitch and fellow billionaire and real estate mogul Stephen Ross. They claim the money will go to the construction of six buildings and renovation of four buildings controlled by the Ilitches. The new development would supposedly include 695 residential units, of which at least 140 would be available to low-income households. It would also include space for commercial office space and hotel rooms. According to the officials, the proposal would come close to paying for itself by resulting in 751 million dollars in tax revenues over 35 years.

Who believes that will happen? The city of Detroit and the State of Michigan already gave the Ilitches 400 million dollars in 2014 for the construction of Little Caesars Arena (LCA) for the Ilitch-owned Detroit Red Wings to play hockey in, and the surrounding area known as “District Detroit.” At the time the city announced awarding the money for the LCA construction, in order to win support from residents of Detroit, the website for “District Detroit” carried attractive artist renderings of developments the Ilitches promised to put up to benefit the community. They referred to five new neighborhoods with names like “Cass Park Village” and “Wildcat Corner,” complete with outdoor cafes and small shops. They predicted 184 new apartments would be available by the time the LCA opened.

None of these developments have actually been built. In 2019, resident activists from the 50-block area of Detroit known as “The District Detroit” spoke out about the Ilitches’ broken promises.

The promise that the new development will bring in almost as much in revenue as the city’s investment will cost also amounts to smoke and mirrors. The 751 million in tax revenue is what they predict will come in over 35 years. That money will be worth a lot less 35 years from now than it is worth today.

Though the Ilitches couldn’t manage to deliver on promises to provide affordable housing for low-income Detroit residents, they have certainly found the way to profit off of the city’s investment in "District Detroit." Because the city technically owns the LCA, the Ilitches pay no property taxes on it—but they were given rights to all revenue from the arena, including parking, food and beverage sales, souvenirs, TV and radio broadcasting contracts, fees for luxury suites, and naming rights.

The experience with "District Detroit" thus far is just one more example to show that billionaires like the Ilitches and Ross don’t build developments in cities like Detroit out of the goodness of their hearts, nor out of concern for poor and working class residents. They do it to pad their billion-dollar bank accounts.