Let Private Developer Find Money-Making Use for Ford Auditorium Property

DETROIT-Rather than accepting bids from contractors to restore and rehabilitate the old Ford Auditorium, city officials should sell the property lock, stock and barrel to a private developer, according to a Feb. 16 Detroit News editorial.

The auditorium has been closed since 1990, and had been underused for decades prior to that. In the meantime, the city government has failed to come up with a suitable plan for the building or the land.

In 1990, then-Mayor Coleman Young ran an idea up the flagpole: Bulldoze the site and let Comerica Bank build a $200 million, 25-story headquarters on it. But critics shot the idea down, saying it would block river views and access. Then Young tried suggesting a deal with Hilton for a $250 million hotel, but voters rejected a ballot proposal that would have rezoned the area for private use.

The cost to bring the old auditorium up to building code specifications is estimated at about $8 million. But to make it into a state-of-the-art facility would cost more like $25 million. And even then, there's no guarantee the building would be used frequently enough to justify the expense.