...and yes it's Detroit again. Learning the lessons that ruined the city, ignoring them and returning to the same old model and the same old mess:
Just a week after the city declared bankruptcy, a state board approved a $450 million bond issue for a new Red Wings hockey arena near downtown. To help finance it, Detroit would pay $284.5 million in subsidies and an additional $12.8 million annually on bond interest. In return, Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, who also owns the Detroit Tigers, MotorCity Casino Hotel, and Little Caeser’s pizza, would chip in $365.5 million for the arena and several mixed-use projects. The new complex would represent an upgrade from the dated Joe Louis Arena, where the Red Wings play now, and—boosters say—would potentially revitalize the Midtown area, which is already gentrifying somewhat. The Detroit Development Authority would fund and operate the arena with downtown property taxes. In other words, revenue traditionally used for schools and basic services would instead subsidize a billionaire.
As ever with these projects - and regeneration is riddled with them - the initial impact seems good. A new grand shiny stadium, theatre or concert arena springs up amidst the dereliction promising a new world of prosperity, wealth and success.
But then nothing happens, nothing changes. Except we've subsidised the grand project of a millionaire, provided contract opportunities for than millionaire's friends and raised false hopes in the hearts of suffering local people. And - even if the millionaires haven't stuffed their pockets - we've thrown a load of tax money at another grand and failing project.
In Detroit's case we know the story (as Scott Beyer describes):
The publicly operated Cobo Convention Center opened in 1960 and began losing money immediately, running annual deficits reaching tens of millions. In 1977, the Ford Motor Company financed the gargantuan, $350 million Renaissance Center; two decades later, Ford sold the complex for just $76 million to rival GM. The city connected the two facilities in 1987 with a much-ridiculed, $200 million People Mover. The monorail never came close to covering its upfront costs and still operates with annual losses around $10 million, while doing basically nothing to address transportation needs. Detroit continued to wield its eminent domain power, with attempted or successful takings to accommodate the city’s two remaining auto plants, a private bridge, a business park, a major housing complex, a waterfront casino district, and two relatively new stadiums—Comerica Park and Ford Field.
And did it work? Does shiny regeneration ever work? I don't think so. But we persist (and not just in Detroit) with vast schemes and programmes, subsidising large organisations and wealthy men to do things they wouldn't otherwise do.