Buildings razed to open room for new parking lots
In less than two weeks, four buildings have been razed, including the former Chin Tiki, a Polynesian-themed restaurant featured in the Eminem film "8 Mile." The other demolished structures are a former apartment complex on West Grand River; an office building on West Columbia; and the former Egyptian building on Cass.
The last one to go is a parking garage at 145 W. Elizabeth, bought by an Ilitch executive in 2007 through a private company, which listed the Ilitches' Fox Theatre headquarters as its address. That was the period in which the Ilitch family quietly increased control of a rundown patch of downtown long considered a potential site for a new hockey arena for the Ilitch-owned Detroit Red Wings.
Mike Ilitch, co-founder of the Little Caesars Pizza chain that started the family's billion-dollar sports, real estate and business empire, has hinted he prefers building a new hockey arena near the Fox.
No decision has been made about that.
The flurry of demolition is all about "added safety and security," said Ilitch spokeswoman Karen Cullen.
"The structures in question were not suitable for long-term redevelopment," Cullen said. "The ability to move forward and remove non-viable buildings from the area ... greatly enhances the appearance for surrounding property owners and their venues."
In December, the city's Downtown Development Authority approved $2.5 million for the demolitions. The money came from state funding originally intended to level empty buildings in time for Super Bowl XL, three years ago.
The properties will become paved parking lots to accommodate the more than 100,000 people who will converge downtown during the first week of April for the NCAA Final Four.
"Yes, that's still the goal," said Fred Beal, president of J.C. Beal Construction Inc, who lobbied on behalf of the Ilitches to obtain the state money.
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