Wayne County to finish $200 million job on former 'jail-fail'

- Wayne County is no longer being held captive by that unfinished jail. Leaders announced the project will be completed.

The county is moving full speed ahead to wrap up work on the unfinished jail at Gratiot and St. Antoine after an Ohio company spent the past month inspecting it and giving the green light to start construction next year.

"I'm no structural engineer, but I don't think anyone wants to try to finish a jail on the site until we know it's strong," says Wayne County Executive Warren Evans.

And now, for all intents and purposes, it seems Wayne County's jail fail will be completed after all.

Evans learned Wednesday the rusting steal beams, pre-cast jail cells, masonry and concrete work is still structurally sound, despite being left open to the elements for more than three years.

"Everything that could go wrong - even before I got here - has gone wrong," Evans says. "You had work stoppage; you had lawsuits that were filed."

The county pulled the plug on the construction in 2013 as the project ran into cost overruns. About $150 million was doled out on the jail fail. That's not including the million bucks and change this costs taxpayers every month it sits open, vacant and blighted.

"Obviously, it's an eyesore," says Josh Crowton. "It's right off Gratiot as well, so you figure anyone that comes into the city that's the first thing they see."

"I think it looks terrible," says Jen Cichoski. "It's an unfinished project that's been lingering there in the landscape of Detroit for too many years now."

But it appears that will soon change and so, too, will Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores' reported plans of building a Major League Soccer stadium here.

"It would have been awesome," says Christina El Haddad. "It wouldve brought in a lot more people that might not watch other sports down here."

"They're working on an alternative plan, obviously," Evans says. "But working on a plan and giving us something that we can take to the bank, literally, is different."

Wayne County can begin working on the jail site in 2017.

"We're going to send out a design build RFP (request for proposal) hopefully in January and see what the folks offer us and what comes back in," Evans says. "But, at the end of the day, to me, the cheapest way to do this for Wayne County taxpayers is to build on that site."

In a statement from Matt Cullen of Rock Ventures: "The current site on Gratiot Avenue sits right in the middle of some of the city's best venues like Ford Field and Greektown and serves as the 'front door' to the city. We believe the right development for that site is something that enhances the city and fuels the continued revitalization of Detroit. We remain committed to exploring an exciting and distinct large-scale development that will bring jobs, an increased tax base and substantial economic activity to our burgeoning urban core."

Finishing the jail will take more than $200 million and it will take about two years. County commissioners plan to tour the site Thursday afternoon and still have to vote on it. Bids should go out by January.

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