Friday, October 3, 2014

The zany MEDC's request for proposals to 'develop' Fort Wayne

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 2:01 PM

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the same people who were instrumental in bringing us the deal under which Mike Ilitch will build his new hockey stadium with lots and lots of public subsidies, has another bright idea for us Detroiters.

They'd like to have a hand in the development of Fort Wayne. 

In fact, they quietly released a request for proposals for redeveloping the sleepy site along the Detroit River. The fort is home to a treasure trove of mid-19th century architecture and priceless Detroit memorabilia, as well as a stunning barracks building that needs shoring up soon. It's a little piece of history few people get to see.

The really strange thing is that the request for proposals, now lighting up the news media, seems to have already expired two weeks ago. Why should this document suddenly get so much play today

Then again, there's always the possibility that the MEDC published the wrong dates. After all, it wouldn't be the first instance a private-public partnership got the facts wrong.

Why, exactly, does Fort Wayne need to be redeveloped at all? For decades, the fort has been a place for summer soccer programs, flea markets, and the occasional re-enactor gathering or fife-and-drum parade. It's a place more people should see, if only to get away from the city while right in the middle of it.

Clearly, Detroit doesn't have a shortage of land to be redeveloped. Detroit, in fact, has rather large parcels that cry out for redevelopment. So why is this riverfront parcel the subject of an RFP?

The cynic in us says it's because a group already wants to develop it, and asked MEDC to issue a quiet RFP. (So quiet, in fact, it gets to the general public after it's too late to come up with, perhaps, more public-spirited ideas.)

The realist in us says it's because the fort is one of the few places you can do real greenfield development, as the land probably requires zero remediation.

But, who knows. The MEDC works in mysterious ways. And you might have your say too. Simply get into a time machine and go back three weeks. That should give you enough time to meet their RFP deadline.

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