(Vickie Thomas/ WWJ)

Former NFL Star Still Envisions Turning Uniroyal Site Near Belle Isle Into Oasis

"I've put 15 years in of blood, sweat and tears."

July 03, 2018 - 8:08 am

(WWJ) When it comes to redeveloping the old Uniroyal site near Belle Isle, a Detroit native and former NFL star says he's still in the game -- despite more than a decade of leaping obstacles and dodging tackles from other businesses interested in the prime real estate.

Jerome "The Bus" Bettis still has a deal with the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to build on the site, although six months ago it was reported that Dan Gilbert wanted the land.

Gilbert reportedly envisioned turning the 43-acre site into a mixed-use development, which is very similar to the plan Bettis has been plugging away on since he was awarded a contract to develop the property while Kwame Kilpatrick was the mayor. 

And Bettis is still betting on himself.

"I've put 15 years in of blood, sweat and tears, not to mention my own money, but it's one of those projects that can be defining for the city," Bettis told WWJ's Vickie Thomas.

Bettis has been in the mix since 2004 when his Pittsburgh-based company C.J. Betters Enterprise was awarded a contract to oversee a planned redevelopment that, at the time, had a projected price tag of $500 million. His plan includes 2,000 residential units and retail space.

At a cost of $35 million, 15 of the site's 43 acres have been cleaned up after more than a century of dirty industrial use. The site was home to a Uniroyal tire manufacturing plant and a Michigan Consolidated Gas Co. coal-gasification plant from 1941-1978. Detroit bought the land from Uniroyal in 1981 for $5 million and spent $3.6 million more "razing structures and clearing the site."

Notably, Crain's reported that in 1986, Mayor Coleman Young toured the site with Donald Trump, who pondered a development there.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality assigned the cleanup cost to DTE, Michelin, du Pont and London-based Enodis plc in 2006.

And now Bettis thinks enough of the land has been cleaned up to take the next steps on his project.