DETROIT-A developer–and his plans–have been selected for the site of the long-vacant Uniroyal Tire factory along the Detroit River. A company led by Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis plans to develop as many as 2,000 townhouses and condominiums on the site.

“It’s already a great city. We just need it to look great,” Bettis says about the site, which is about two miles east of downtown along the river. The property includes about 2,000 feet of river frontage.

The development is in the area being upgraded as part of a plan by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to create a green belt along more than three miles of the Detroit River. The greenbelt will be incorporated into the plan for the project to be developed by Betters/Bettis LLC.

Estimates range from $300 million to $500 million for the project. The property includes 43 acres and is bordered on one side by the MacArthur Bridge, which connects the main land to Belle Isle. Betters/Bettis may spend up to a year performing environmental and other studies on the project then hopes to have up to 2,000 townhomes and apartments, and perhaps a hotel, built by 2011.

The Uniroyal factory was leveled after it closed in 1982, but the site contains several buried basements filled with water and demolition debris. Part of the site is contaminated, and half of it consists of fill that extended to the river’s edge.

“This is by no stretch just a greenfield piece of property,” George Jackson, president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., said when the city solicited development proposals for the site in March. “We need somebody who’s really heavy-duty into this kind of stuff.”

Bettis, 32, is a Detroit native, first excelling in football at Detroit’s MacKenzie High. He is now entering his 12th NFL season and is the sixth-leading rusher in league history with 12,353 yards.

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