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Investment Group Involving Magic Johnson Finalizes Purchase Of State Fairgrounds Site

The group will bring mixed-use development to the area along Woodward.

April 15, 2019 - 5:52 pm
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DETROIT (WWJ) -- The sale of a 16-acre plot on the site of the former Michigan State Fairgrounds has been completed to an investment group that includes Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

The Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority announced Monday that Magic Plus LLC finalized the purchase of the property along Woodward Avenue near 8 Mile Road for a little more than $472,000. The remaining 142 acres of the former fairgrounds will be sold to the City of Detroit for $7 million.

The development group was picked five years ago to purchase the 16-acre plot, but had delayed plans to move forward with development. Now that the sale has been finalized, one of the group's senior partners, Joel Ferguson, tells WWJ plans have not been finalized for what exactly will be built, but they intend to bring mixed-use development to the site, which has been vacant since 2009.

"I’m going to sit down with our architect to talk about exactly what we think and what they would want," Ferguson told WWJ's Michael Cohen. "We know it’s going to be some housing and we know it’s going to be some retail and we hope there will also be some educational piece there."

Ferguson said the company has not ruled out the idea of brining a theater to the property.

Ferguson says Johnson, the former Michigan State University basketball and NBA star, has been personally involved in the planning process.

"He worked for me when he was a student and State," Ferguson said. "Earvin is there and he trusts whatever we’re working on, what we’re doing right now. He’ll interface and give his ideas as we go along. He’s got an interest in whatever we do that’s going to help move Detroit."

Ferguson, who has developments in 14 cities and is currently working on "major" projects in Lansing, said it's been a pleasure working in Detroit because he and the city both have a goal of moving the city forward.

Ferguson says any final decision on the development on the site by Magic Plus will be coordinated with the city of Detroit.

Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority Director Josh Burgett told WWJ that with most of the 150-acre site soon to be controlled by the City of Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan has a singular focus.

"He really wanted to make sure that this created jobs and that’s what they plan to do with their portion," Burgett said. "It will be complemented with what Magic Plus is going to do with some commercial and other mixed-use opportunities on their 16 acres."

Many business owners in the area are eager to see what the development might do for business -- especially residential units.

"If it’s going to be all residential over there from what I’d heard it was supposed to be, condos, that would be huge for us," Jonathan Kanja, manager of the Verizon Quick Phone Fix on 8 Mile, told WWJ's Jon Hewett.

LaDawn Morris-Daniels, owner of Kitty's Cheesecakes and More on 8 Mile across from the fairgrounds property says she has been patiently waiting for something to happen on the property ever since talks started five years ago. She's not quite ready to say she's excited just yet.

"I will be once I see the groundbreaking or something. Not yet, but hopefully soon," Morris-Daniels said.

"We thought they were coming a while ago and then it was put on hold and we keep hearing different things. So we’ve been awaiting the new transformation of the development," Morris-Daniels said. "I just hope it expands and builds up and stays nice and it can continue to grow and prosper and bring everybody business."