The difference between "vacant land" and "valuable development parcel" in Detroit is not always that obvious, and sometimes it takes quite a bit of effort and patience to turn one into the other. The site of the former Uniroyal property is one example of that. Beginning in the late 1800s and continuing through the early 1980s, the 43-acre site was home to numerous industrial operations, including tire manufacturing, ammonia production, iron production and manufactured gas production from coal. Those historical operations left industrial byproducts in the soils that have stopped redevelopment, because they must be removed first. Settling the questions about who should pay and how much took more than 20 years. In the meantime, the property looked simply like vacant land.
Today, the area doesn't look much different, but when DTE Energy and others signed an agreement with the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority
, it instantly became a valuable development site again. The most visible signs are the trucks and earthmoving equipment that have begun the 18-month first phase of remediation. As we begin the $20 million project to haul away hazardous material from the west third of the property, I think its fair to stop calling it "the old Uniroyal property" and start calling it "the Belleview Development Site."
The likely first redevelopment of the site will be the construction of one of the final sections of the East RiverWalk by the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. That is a very significant project. Right now the RiverWalk
runs continuously from the Civic Center to Mt. Elliot Park. Completing that last half-mile to Gabriel Richard Park will connect almost 10 miles of bike/pedestrian trail with three major destinations – downtown Detroit, Belle Isle, and Eastern Market.
A mixture of residential and other uses is expected for the remainder of the Belleview site. Bettis/Betters Development, LLC, holds an agreement with the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to develop it. What once was "toxic" vacant land is now on its way to becoming a milestone in the transformation of the Detroit East Riverfront District from industrial to recreational, residential and commercial. It has not been easy or quick, but it will be worth it.