Wayne County Executive weighs Rock Ventures offers to build new Wayne County Criminal Justice Complex

Rock Ventures LLC submitted an offer to Wayne County on Monday for a new, state-of-the-art, consolidated criminal justice center that includes the construction of new adult and juvenile detention facilities (divisions 1 and 2) and a new criminal courthouse (replacing the current Frank Murphy Hall of Justice). The proposal also calls for the transfer of the Gratiot Avenue Site to Rock Ventures for a planned $1 billion commercial development.
The County estimates the completion of the jail on Gratiot Avenue and modest renovations to the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice will be $300 million. Rock Ventures is prepared to build the County a new, high-tech criminal justice complex (estimated cost of $420 million) for the same $300 million, in exchange for the transfer of the Gratiot Avenue property and a credit for the savings a new consolidated criminal justice complex will provide.
The proposed site of the new criminal justice complex is located at East Forest Avenue, east of I-75, approximately 1.5 miles north of the Gratiot Avenue Site. It is where the Lincoln Juvenile facility is located, including the 8-plus surrounding acres. The land is owned by Wayne County.
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said on Tuesday in an interview with The Michigan Chronicle that there is enough in the proposal to merit review, however he affirmed that the bid submitted by Walsh Construction to continue building the jail on the Gratiot site (Walsh has made the only other bid) is still very much under consideration.
“We still need to vet it [the Rock Financial proposal], and in order to vet it correctly we need some consultants to come in and look at it .. to make sure what we would get in this deal is what we expect to get, and that can’t really come in the proposal. That’s got to be flushed out a little later. What I saw in the proposal was enough to make me say it’s worth further investigation. But I haven’t stopped moving forward with Walsh at the same time. Honestly, if I had to make a decision today, I would be going with finishing on Gratiot. But there are some parts of this proposal yet to be fleshed out that may actually be better for the citizens of Wayne County. I don’t know that yet, but the potential is there for that. I think it would be wrong for us to dismiss it out of hand.”
According to Rock Financial, their proposal offers the County significant operational advantages including state-of-the-art design and engineering, and eliminates the substantial financial risk associated with the bidding and award of construction contracts to complete the jail facility and renovate the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. Rock Ventures will be responsible for all costs and financial risks associated with the proposed criminal justice center site including the demolition of the existing improvements, design fees, testing, permits and related construction.
“We have worked hard to develop and deliver to the County a proposal that, we believe, will be the best long-term outcome for the County and for the future of downtown Detroit. Specifically, we will deliver to the County a modern, consolidated criminal justice center with no risk and at the same dollar amount they estimate it would cost them to complete the project on Gratiot,” said Matt Cullen, principal of Rock Ventures.
“In addition, we are prepared to build a development on the Gratiot Avenue Site, located in the heart of the sports and entertainment district, that will provide significant economic impact and that Detroiters will be proud to have at the ‘front door’ to the city,” adds Cullen. “We respect the County’s process and look forward to working side-by-side with Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and the County Commission to do the necessary analysis to validate the assumptions in the offer.”
Evans reiterated that his primary objective is to negotiate the best deal for Wayne County.
“Certainly I’m not going to base decisions moving forward on whether they got a soccer deal or not. I’m going to make decisions like I have based on what’s best for the Wayne County taxpayer.”
Evans later implied he was a little irritated with the bid submitted last week by Palace Sports and Entertainment Vice Chairman Arn Tellem and Pistons owner Tom Gores last week listing the Gratiot site as the only site under consideration to build the proposed soccer stadium “because the implication there is that it’s a done deal, and it’s far from being a done deal.”
“I think we’re deliberate and thoughtful and try to make the right decision, and I’m not going to be rushed into making this one, but I will say it looks interesting enough for sure.”
Plans for the transformation of the Gratiot Avenue Site contemplate some combination of office, commercial, hotel and residential space, parking and potentially a Major League Soccer stadium in conjunction with Tom Gores and Platinum Equity. Preliminary estimates show this scale of development could produce up to $2 billion in economic impact, as estimated by the University of Michigan Center for Sport and Policy.
The criminal justice complex plans are based on similar projects developed in other jurisdictions around the country by HOK, a leading justice design firm in North America, with value engineering provided by Michigan-based Barton Malow.

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