Even if the city, county and Gilbert solidify the deal, Gilbert’s plans could be scuttled if Major League Soccer does not give Detroit a franchise. Of the two available, the league awarded one to Nashville and is still deciding on whether the other one will go to Detroit, Sacramento or Cincinnati.
In an effort to beef up their chances, Gilbert and his partner in the team bid, Detroit Pistons basketball team owner Tom Gores, brought in the owners of the Detroit Lions and the William Clay Ford family as part of the expansion bid team. The Ford family offered Ford Field, home of the National Football League Lions, as an alternative to building a new stadium.
Even without a new soccer complex, Gilbert has positioned himself as a significant developer and redeveloper in downtown Detroit. His most high-profile project is a near-$1 billion skyscraper on the site of a former Detroit landmark, Hudson’s department store. The new building will be Detroit’s tallest when complete, but the complex will also include a mid-rise, mixed-use structure with a public skydeck; office, retail and event space; a market; a 700-car underground parking garage; and 93,000 square feet of exhibit space.
That’s just one of many projects Gilbert is involved with in downtown Detroit, and his development activity has contributed to the $5.4 billion of projects either planned or underway in the city during the next few years, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.