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Michigan State Fairgrounds Could Be Sold, Redeveloped, According To Law Signed By Governor Snyder

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Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation allowing for the transfer or sale of the former Michigan state fairgrounds. The state fair was discontinued in 2009 because of its expense.
Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation allowing for the transfer or sale of the former Michigan state fairgrounds. The state fair was discontinued in 2009 because of its expense.

Unused since 2009, the Michigan State Fairgrounds could get a new life.

On Monday morning, Governor Rick Snyder passed Public Act 74 and 75, allowing the 163-acre property near 8 Mile and Woodward Avenue in Detroit to be sold or transferred out of state control.

The fairgrounds, which cost the state more than $1 million yearly in upkeep, have been operating on a loss most years since 1970, according to Michigan Radio. In 2007, the land was appraised at $13 million, according to the Detroit Free Press, but the property, which would also require $5 million for site cleanup and asbestos removal, would most likely sell for far less now.

Legislators plan to transfer the fairgrounds to the State Land Bank Fast Track Authority. Then Snyder will appoint representatives from neighborhood groups to a five-member advisory committee that will determine what's next for the site.

"I look forward to a positive future for the Michigan State Fairgrounds," Snyder said.

There are some restrictions: according to the Associated Press, the spot can't be used as a prison, casino, racetrack or railroad freight yard. The Free Press points out that Detroit's recent consent agreement with the state calls for a potential commuter rail station at the site, as well as a neighborhood and commercial center.

State Senator Virgil K. Smith (D-Detroit), who sponsored the Senate bill allowing the property's transfer, said the property could be used for housing, retail, commercial and office space. He also stated that he fought the original closing of the State Fair by former Governor Jennifer Granholm. State Rep. Jimmy Womack (D-Detroit) sponsored a related bill in the House.

Before its days of pie-eating contests and concerts came to a close, the State Fair had a long history. Started in Detroit in 1849, it was the second state fair after New York's. It moved around to different cities in its first few years before settling first in Lansing, then at the Detroit location in 1905.

But Michiganders still hoping to show off their prized pigs aren't totally out of luck -- the Upper Peninsula hosts its own state fair each August in Escanaba.

Flickr photo by Javier Corbo.

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