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EGLE approves funding to replace historic harness racing track with new housing and public parks

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is awarding a $1 million Brownfield Redevelopment Grant to a project that will turn the contaminated site of a former harness-racing track into new housing and parks. Plans for the Northville Downs redevelopment call for 446 new homes, 18,000 square feet of new commercial space, 54 full-time job equivalents, and three parks. Northville Downs was Michigan’s last horse-racing track when it closed Feb. 3 after 80 years in business.

The centerpiece of the new development at 301 S. Center Street will be the creation of River Park, which will cover 10.44 acres on the east side of the property. The biggest hurdle will be the “daylighting” of a quarter-mile section of the River Rouge that was re-routed into a concrete culvert and buried in the 1960s. The fill material used to bury the culvert is contaminated with metals and other chemicals. Contaminated soil will be removed, and a new riverbed will be cut through the area. The former track, barns, parking lot, and culvert will be demolished.

The city of Northville’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority applied for and was awarded the grant to pay for further investigations, removal and disposal of contaminated soil, and demolition work.

The new development is expected to bring in $248 million in capital investment. It will include apartments, condominiums, townhomes, row houses, carriage homes, and single-family homes to go along with the new commercial space, raising the property’s State Equalized Value from $7.04 million to an estimated $112 million. The 1.5-acre Central Park and 1.25-acre Gateway Park will add new green space to downtown Northville. The new River Park will have a restored riverbank and will connect to the nearby Hines Park Trailhead. River Park will be turned over to the city once construction is finished.

The Northville Brownfield Redevelopment Authority has approved Tax Increment Financing (TIF) in the amount of $17.8 million for the redevelopment. TIF allows the increase in property tax revenue on the finished project to go to the developer until it has recouped its costs. The city of Northville has indicated it will support a tax abatement for the mixed-use portion of the project under Public Act 201, while Wayne County awarded the project $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding. Construction is scheduled to be finished in 2026.

More than half of EGLE’s annual budget supports local projects, protects public health and the environment, and helps create economic growth and jobs for Michigan workers. Redevelopment increases the value of brownfield sites and other nearby properties. In 2023 EGLE awarded $31.3 million in brownfield funding to 67 projects around Michigan.