'Stop gaslighting us': Protesters accuse Duggan and Ilitches of new District Detroit empty promises

Lawmakers and activists are criticizing a plan to give hundreds of millions of tax dollars to developers in downtown Detroit.

They argue those tax dollars can be better spent helping Detroiters -- and they're concerned the developers won't hold up their end up the bargain.

"We did this 10 years ago - you said you were going to build affordable housing - you didn't do it," said US Rep.Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit). What makes us think they're going to do it this time?"

Tlaib and fellow protestors spoke out against the latest proposal involving District Detroit - the one Mayor Mike Duggan touted during his State of the City Address.

"Let's talk about the biggest project of all - District Detroit," he said, calling it the largest-scale new construction since the 1920s.

"It's going to take these vacant parking lots that everybody's complaining about," Duggan said. "How many times have you heard - all the Ilitches have, are these vacant parking lots, and it's going to turn them into four new office buildings and two new hotels and 695 apartments. Downtown luxury apartments that are going to accept Section 8 vouchers."

The mayor says it will create $1.5 billion in investment - 12,000 construction jobs - and 6,000 permanent jobs. But District Detroit is asking for $800 million to make it happen.

"If you're a City of Detroit taxpayer, it's going to cost you zero," he said. "Coming out of Detroit school taxes - zero. Coming out of Detroit library taxes, zero," he said.

Instead, Duggan says $400 million will come from taxes from the Downtown Development Authority - money which has to be spent downtown - and another $400 million will come from the State of Michigan.

"When this project is built out, the city general fund will get $21 million dollars a year," he said.  

"This is how we fix the parks, the roads, rec centers - so to Detroiters- your sidewalks, all the things that we need really to run a city," said Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison.

Bettison says its revenue that will go to the city's general fund - to be spent on projects throughout the city.

"It has to be our downtown and our neighborhoods - and our neighborhoods and downtown," Bettison said. "It's one city, Detroit - so let's build and let's prosper together."

But critics don't believe it saying the city already subsidized the Ilitches' Little Caesars Arena a decade ago and the Ilitches put in parking lots instead of delivering on their promises of development for District Detroit.

"Stop gaslighting and lying to our residents," Tlaib said. "Stop showing them renderings that we know is not going to happen - this is not a corporation that hasn't shown us who they really are - they showed us."

The proposal must still be approved by City Council.

A statement was released byOlympia Development of Michigan & Related Companies that said:

"Community involvement has been a critical part of this process, and over the last two years, we have hosted 250 community engagement meetings and nine Neighborhood Advisory Committee meetings. We are not only building The District Detroit for Detroiters, we are also building it with Detroiters.  This joint venture is a $1.5 Billion investment, expected to create 18,000 hourly and salaried jobs and much-needed affordable housing for Detroiters. 

"We expect the City of Detroit to realize a City Net Benefit $751M, with $0 coming from the City's General Fund. We look forward to helping to build on the city's momentum by creating more opportunity for Detroiters."