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Residents propose plan for State Fairground property

By Marcus Wright
The Michigan Citizen

The Michigan Land Bank “Fast Track” transfer program has devised a plan to give developer MAGIC Plus LLC the State Fairgrounds property to build an outdoor strip mall. The property is owned by the taxpayers of Michigan.

According to Michigan Land Bank’s Web site, the proposal submitted by MAGIC includes a mixed-use development for the entire property that combines retail, residential, green space and entertainment uses. In addition, MAGIC proposes to renovate and utilize some of the existing buildings.

However, a group of citizens said they have a bigger and better vision for use of the property.

Michigan Energy Technology Agriculture, META EXPO, unveiled a plan Dec. 1 for a multi-modal mixed use center. GrowTown Vice President Kenneth Weikal presented the plan, “What Can Michigan Show the World.” It provided information on how the project would connect Michigan’s businesses, universities and entrepreneurs. The project hopes to bring together regional transit, exposition and entertainment, technology, green energy and blue water systems, commercial/residential and regional/metropolitan agriculture.

The property is scheduled for transfer to MAGIC between Dec. 15 and Jan. 1, 2013.

Opposition to MAGIC’s plan has hardened since Sherwood Forest Community Association President Kim Tandy July 11, asked the then newly formed State Fairgrounds Advisory Committee, “What’s the rush?”

The Committee, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, will be the sole “deciders” on the fate of the 160 acres of Fairground property.  The Advisory Committee, made up of representatives from five associations — Golf Club, Greenacres, Palmer Woods, Sherwood Forest and University District — requested the meeting.

“The Advisory Committee had no input on the requirements contained in the Request for Proposals, which were already made public in June before the Committee was even assembled,” Greenacres representative Frank Hammer said. “Committee members are dumbfounded with the imposed time constraints in light of the inaction in the three years since the State Fair closed.”

Weikal describes GrowTown as a nonprofit organization dedicated to enabling neighborhoods to self-organize. “My wife and I created GrowTown in the fall of 2009 in addition to our landscape architectural practice,” Weikal said. “This was in response to a need we observed during our work as landscape architects in urban areas, especially in post industrial cities like Detroit, Pontiac, Flint and Benton Harbor.”

Weikal said GrowTown supports Penrose Village, the project just south of State Fair where GrowTown also supports the local food movement and public open space initiative

Weikal is organizing against the Michigan Land Bank’s Fast Track process. He said he is urging Gov. Snyder and state leadership re-evaluate the extraordinary potential of the State Fairground property. “Our plan would offer excellent jobs and careers, world class Regional Transit and Strategic Economic Development opportunities to the residents and businesses of Michigan,” Weikal said.

E-mail, write and call the governor, the Land Bank and government officials to support or oppose the META EXPO concept  at the state fairgrounds (see  “Sample letter” below).

Gov. Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013, Lansing, MI 48909 
Phone: 517.373.3400

Michigan Land Bank
Phone: 517.335.8212
Fax: 517.335.1762

Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority
MEDC Building,  300 N. Washington Square, Lansing, MI 48913

Sample letter

Dear Gov. Rick Snyder and Michigan Land Bank,

The META EXPO place-making concept is an ideal use for the State Fair property at Woodward Avenue and Eight Mile Road in Detroit.

The current proposed “big box retail” plan being considered by the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track does not represent strategic economic development or the “place-making” that you have been promoting to make Michigan globally competitive, keeping existing talent in our state and inviting new people and innovators to Michigan. This plan does not address the State Fair property at the strategic crossroads of Woodward and Eight Mile Road as the obvious location for the most important Regional Transit Center in southeast Michigan.

The META EXPO Concept — Michigan Energy Technology Agriculture — addresses these concerns, and offers not only minimum wage jobs but more employment opportunities and careers, more regional mobility for everyone, offers a “place” to live and work for a better quality of life instead of acres of parking lots, and is a year-round showcase for Michigan’s best and brightest businesses, innovations and new industries.

So with great urgency, I request that the Michigan Land Bank’s “Fast Track’”process be stopped, that you re-evaluate the extraordinary development potential of this significant property, and use your leadership to create a development that would offer excellent jobs and careers, world-class rgional transit and strategic economic development place-making opportunities to the residents and businesses of Michigan.

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