Plans to redevelop Tiger Stadium mean more than building a few
structures on that block. Corktown leaders believe it will drive
development in the old Irish enclave and clear out another reminder of
the stadium's busier days: old parking lots.
The city, which
owns Tiger Stadium, has proposed plans to tear down most of the stadium
while preserving the field as a park. Mixed-use buildings, lofts and
storefronts will then be built around the field. Parking lots aren't
part of the plan.
Those old lots of asphalt, gravel and grass –
often covered with garbage, weeds or cracked asphalt – make up about 70
percent of the greater Corktown area and have sat empty since the
Tigers left seven years ago. But these fields of dreams are filled with
R. Scott Martin Jr., the Greater Corktown Development
Corporation's executive director, says the parking lot owners haven't
developed the spaces in hopes another single-use tenant, such as a
sports team, moves into the old stadium. That would allow them to once
again collect bundles of cash in parking fees while paying low taxes on
property requiring little upkeep. "You can't blame them," says Martin,
a Corktown resident. "They're business people, too."
stadium went multi-use, however, the development could spill over.
"Then these parking lots will naturally become available for
development," Martin says. "At least at that point, nobody has an
argument for hanging onto them."
Development in Corktown is taking place on small and large scales now.
Grinnell Place Lofts project is progressing. Developers are building 34
lofts in the old Grinnell Brothers Piano Warehouse, located on Brooklyn
Street just north of Michigan Avenue. Half of those units, priced
between $163,000 and $390,000, are sold.
Diane Meidell, the
project's operations manager, said the developers want to build in
Corktown again. She believes the Tiger Stadium plan plays to the
neighborhood's strengths, history and location by preserving the
historic field and opening up more land for development near downtown.
such a great neighborhood," Meidell says. "What a perfect set up to
have that (downtown) urban lifestyle and still live in a neighborhood."
not everyone is waiting on the stadium to take advantage of Corktown's
assets or develop the lots. In 2004, Jason Nardoni bought an old
Corktown worker's cottage, at least 125 years old, which developer Ed Potas brought back from the brink
of destruction. Most of his neighbors marked the house, a burnt-out
shell, as beyond saving.
Potas saw it differently. He gutted it, rebuilt it,
gave it modern amenities and added a garage while maintaining its
Even though the cottage looks much
like it did when it was first built, 85 percent of the house is new.
The $100,000-plus investment turned Nardoni's 1,200-square-foot,
two-bedroom, one-bath home into a head turner on his block.
the day, the information security specialist walks to his job downtown.
At night he watches the city's skyscrapers from his backyard.
cottage came with an adjacent lot that where a similar house once
stood. Over time it became a parking lot, but no more. Nardoni plans to
build another house there in the near future to help complete his
block. He's more interested in density than a bigger yard. "If every
other house was knocked down so everybody can have a bigger yard then
that would take away from Corktown's charm," Nardoni says.
less density would reduce the number of eyes on the street. Corktown's
Martin explains that more houses and businesses mean more potential
eyes watching, making people feel safer.
Jana Cephas, a
research fellow at the University of Detroit Mercy specializing in
urban design, agrees. The former Corktown resident says parking lots
detract from a neighborhood's urban feel. "Whether it's a parking lot
or a vacant lot, really there isn't a sense of safety because people
aren't there," he says. "It feels less safe and less like a community.
It's actually a huge waste of land."
the Tiger Stadium mixed-use plan goes forward and the parking lot
owners still don't develop their land, Martin plans to push for
land-value taxing in Corktown.
"It's basically a policy where
buildings are taxed much less and surface lots are taxed higher," he
says. Martin hopes it won't have to come to that because these people
are still neighbors and local business owners.
Ray Formosa is one of
them. Formosa, born and raised in Corktown, owns a few parking lots in
the neighborhood, as well as Brooks Lumber on Trumbull Avenue.
wants to see something done with Tiger Stadium and is open to razing it
if it helps the neighborhood. He is even open to developing his parking
lots. But for now, he's waiting. "Yeah, it's something to look forward
to, but it becomes believable when it happens," he says.
says it will happen, even though critics and naysayers insist
otherwise. He says an auction of stadium memorabilia will happen this
fall, followed by demolition of most of the structure beginning late
fall. The field, dugouts and some seats will be preserved. Then, late
spring or summer 2007 will see construction start on the mixed-use
buildings around the field. It all should be wrapped up in about three
The plan is moving forward, he says, although he knows
some won't believe it "until the jaws start tearing into the stadium."
And those empty lots will become history, too.
Editor's Note: The original story, which appeared in our 9/26 newsletter, did not mention Ed Potas' involvement in Nardoni's rehabbed house. We regret the omission.
Jason Nardoni's Rehabbed Cotage
Ray Formosa of Brooks Lumber
All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger