by Bruce Walker
The Michigan Strategic Fund has agreed to subsidize a major portion of a proposed $19.7 million redevelopment of the former Lincoln Motor Co. headquarters in the Northwest Goldberg neighborhood of Detroit.
More than half of those funds will derive from public taxpayer assistance, including a $5 million state grant, $2.7 million in additional tax transfers, and another $3.4 million in tax breaks.
Not everyone agrees the significant costs shouldered by Michigan taxpayers is worth the gamble, including Michael LaFaive, director of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative.
“State and local efforts to lift economic growth and development with fiscal favors are often more boondoggle than boon,” LaFaive told The Center Square. “The state alone has wasted billions on corporate handouts for this or that project over the years, but research shows that that money could be better spent.”
The state often promises Michigan taxpayers jobs and revitalization projects, but they often don’t come true.
“The reality is they – led by agencies like the MEDC – have often produced business boondoggles – from Flint’s AutoWorld amusement park to a failed grocery store and even a movie studio. Scholarly research specific to Michigan’s efforts shows their corporate handout efforts fail outright or come with costs that greatly exceed the benefits,” he continued.
The Lincoln Motor Co. project, spearheaded by Life Is a Dreamtroit LLC, seeks to transform the sprawling 3.8 acre complex that once served as the headquarters for Lincoln Motor Company. The complex currently houses Recycle Here!, which claims to be Detroit’s only recycling center; the Green Living Science environmental nonprofit; and the Lincoln Street Art Park.
The facility is co-owned by Life Is a Dreamtroit’s Oren Goldenberg and Matthew Naimi, director of operations for Recycle Here!
A May 27 memo from the Detroit City Council Legislative Policy Division notes the Lincoln Motor Company headquarters was constructed in 1917, with portions added in 1932 and a separate building constructed in 1945.
“The plan entails the demolition of a significant portion of the two-story warehouse and renovate it into a modern mixed-use building featuring 73 housing units, as well as, office and retail space,” the memo reads.
The memo also notes the 1917 construction was overseen by famed Detroit-based architect Albert Kahn, who was also responsible for the design and construction of numerous well-known industrial, residential and business buildings throughout North America.
The redevelopment aims to install a mixed-use complex, mixed-income development, which will include “affordable live/make units for artists and middle income workers,” according to the 2019 Detroit Tech Startup Week website.
Detroit Brownfield Development Authority May 27 meeting minutes also states the two-story 160,000 square foot former warehouse will include office and retail space; a coffee shop; an art park and outdoor event space; shipping container shops; Art Industry; and a market/co-working space.
“Yesterday we presented the Dreamtroit Project to the MEDC/MSF [Michigan Economic Development Corporation/Michigan Strategic Fund] for approval for financing as one of the last pieces of the puzzle to make this project reality. … We received approval for our request, meaning that we are that much closer to making this dream become reality,” Naimi posted on Facebook Wednesday.
LaFaive said he doesn’t expect the project to be a boon.
“The redevelopment project ultimately just transfers wealth from the many to a few by way of state and local financial favors. I no more expect this project to be a boon for the community than was Comerica Park or Little Caesars Arena,” LaFaive said.
Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.