Magic Johnson firm agrees to buy Detroit fairgrounds land

DETROIT (AP) - A company with ties to former NBA star Magic Johnson plans to redevelop property at the old Michigan Fairgrounds in Detroit.

Magic Plus LLC will buy about 16 acres (6 hectares) for just over $29,500 per acre from the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority.

On Wednesday, the authority's board also approved Detroit's separate $7 million proposal for 142 acres (57 hectares) at the site where the once-popular state fair was held for more than a century through 2009 until declining attendance prompted the state to cut funding.

The fairgrounds, along Detroit's northern city limits, are bounded by Detroit neighborhoods and heavily traveled Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue.

Details of the Magic Plus plan were not released Wednesday. The city has to approve zoning and permit activities.

"We're into making certain we have goods and services and activities that the adjacent community wants," said Joel Ferguson, Magic Plus principal and trustee at Michigan State University where Johnson played college basketball. "Earvin always wanted to be part of making something happen in Detroit."

Johnson led Michigan State to the 1979 college basketball championship before a Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Lakers. In 2011, he joined a venture capital firm in Detroit and said he would invest in the city.

Detroit's City Council must approve the city's purchase. The council already has approved Detroit's 2018-19 budget which calls for $4 million to cover up-front costs for the land. The remaining amount would be paid once the property is developed.

"The state fairgrounds site is one of the largest developable parcels of land in Detroit and represents an opportunity to create economic growth and continued community development," the land bank said Wednesday in a news release. "The city will explore different development options that will ensure that the project creates real economic opportunity for Detroiters and do it in a way that harmonizes with, and benefits, the surrounding neighborhoods."

The Detroit City Council is expected to vote on the city's deal after environmental reviews are conducted later this spring. The city could take ownership of the 142 acres this summer. Magic Plus is expected to take over the 16 acres it's buying by May.