State OKs $10-million loan to Detroit’s M-1 Rail line

From the Detroit Free Press:

Here's an artist's rendition of the proposed streetcar line on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. (From M-! Rail.)
Here’s an artist’s rendition of the proposed streetcar line on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.
(From M-! Rail.)

The odds that Detroiters will be riding a Woodward Avenue streetcar line by late 2016 rose Tuesday thanks to a $10-million loan from the state to the planned M-1 Rail line.

The Michigan Strategic Fund, meeting in Detroit, voted Tuesday to approve the $10-million loan to M-1. As part of M-1’s complex, multilayered financing plan, the state money will serve as a sort of bridge loan to help free up some of the money from longer-term pledges.

The MSF supported the state loan in part because of the long-term economic development expected to result from construction of the M-1 line. Jenilyn Norman, the chief financial officer of M-1, told the MSF board Tuesday that the multiplier effect from M-1’s investment could produce more than $2 billion in new development in the Woodward corridor.

“You build density, folks want to live there,” Norman told the MSF board. “It will build new jobs.”

The M-1 project itself will create 41 jobs when the line opens in 2016, the strategic fund staff said.

The term of the loan is 10 years at 2% interest, secured by a reimbursement agreement with Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority.

Michael Finney, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and chairman of the Michigan Strategic Fund, said the M-1 loan plus $6 million in funding for demolition of Joe Louis Arena also approved by the MSF Tuesday underscores the state’s commitment to Detroit.

“We are very supportive of Detroit, very excited about all the positive things that have been happening in the city for quite some time now,” he said after the meeting at Next Energy in Detroit. “And these commitments are just a further indication of the level of support that we have for the city of Detroit and its resurgence.”

M-1 Rail will create a curbside streetcar line running along Woodward from Jefferson Avenue to Grand Boulevard in the New Center area. Construction is slated to begin this spring and the line would be finished in later 2016 if the groundbreaking occurs on time.

Backers of M-1 rail predict that the three-mile line along Woodward will prove so popular that additional lines known as bus rapid transit will be added to grow into a metropolitan-wide system. Asked by reporters whether M-1 might suffer the same fate as the Detroit People Mover, a system that remained an isolated loop after being built in the 1980s, Finney remained positive.

“I don’t think anything is guaranteed,” he said, then added, “What you see, though, is a very big commitment from the community. The resources that are being committed are phenomenal, and we think it’s important to be a part of that.”s