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DETROIT-Following a few failed commercial ventures for the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit, the Brighton-based Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority is talking with the state to transform the large property into a park for 11 months out of the year.The property could become part of the authority’s chain of Metroparks, large green areas with lakes and trees and activities such as waterparks, golf courses, farms, concerts and exhibition space.

The state owns the property, and had tried to sell the land to developer Joe Nederlander for a hotel, racetrack and concert venue in the 1990s.However, local residents protested because of noise and pollution concerns, a lawsuit was filed and the racetrack idea died, resulting in Nederlander pulling out of the land ownership through pressure from the state.

Other projects, such as space along Woodward and Eight Mile Road for a new Detroit High School and a Home Depot, also failed.The fairgrounds have struggled as State Fair attendance has dropped over the years. For many years the Fair had to be subsidized by the state, and only in the last couple years has the Fair made a profit under leadership by chairman John Hertel.

Now, the Huron-Clinton authority may arrange an agreement where the grounds remains in state hands, but is used as a park every month, except late August, when the State Fair is held, said authority spokesman Dave Moilanen.The authority would not be charged any money for use of the property, but would set aside funds to redevelop buildings and construct attractions for the site, he added.

He said the authority Board of Commissioners agreed Thursday to direct staff to develop plans for the site, and to enter into discussions with the state to create a possible agreement.”There will be a lot of hurdles to discuss, such as what happens to the existingfairgrounds we would use. We would do what we could to make the property a park setting, such as picnic areas, a playground and an interpretive nature center,” Moilanen said.

Currently, the property is pretty barren, except for fair buildings, parking lots and large dirt fields.The property runs along the Eight Mile Road border with Oakland County, where many of the Metroparks are located. However, most of those parks are located in the northern, greener areas of the county. There are no Metroparks in Detroit.

“We’ve been trying to get into the city of Detroit for years,” Moilanen told GlobeSt.com. “We tried to take over the Belle Isle area in the 1970s, but that fell through. Just recently, we’ve offered to do something with Fort Wayne downtown, but that’s been ignored.”

All Metroparks require a fee for entry, but Moilanen said any fees will be up for discussion with state officials. The authority has to be cautious of charging too much in an urban area. Event fees would likely be charged, Moilanen said, so some money will be provided to help the fairground finances.

Another benefit of this site for a Metropark is the major public bus stops outside the fairgrounds, Moilanen said. “We’re really excited, it seems like a win-win for all involved,” Moilanen said.

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