Detroit Red Wings look to Arena District in Columbus

The deal to build Wayne State University‘s new business school in the mixed-use entertainment district anchored by the new Detroit Red Wings arena is a business development strategy torn straight from the playbook of a hockey rival.

In Columbus, Ohio, the owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets has spent 15 years populating 75 acres around Nationwide Arena with not only chain restaurants, hip bars and funky apartments, but also corporate headquarters and more than 1 million square feet of Class A office space.

That’s the recipe to create density both day and night, year-round, urban planners say.

It was announced on Friday that Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch will donate $40 million to Wayne State for construction of a 120,000-square-foot multistory building of classrooms, offices and other spaces for about 4,500 students.

The facility, expected to open sometime in 2018, will be called the Mike Ilitch School of Business. Wayne State will seek another $15 million to cover the full cost of the facility.

Real estate and development insiders laud the decision to bring the business school into the arena district because they say it will create long-term growth.

“I like the thinking that’s going on; I like the approach because it has long-term, sustainable objectives built into it,” said Michael Cooper, president of architecture firm Harley Ellis Devereaux Corp. and managing principal of its Southfield office. “It builds buzz, it creates energy, and it gets people coming down there.”

More important, it will convince people to stay longer or live nearby rather than going to a game or event and then returning to the suburbs, he said, and that will encourage entrepreneurs to invest in the neighborhood by building apartments and small businesses.

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