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$12M of state tax dollars will benefit Detroit Midtown Cultural Center

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(The Center Square) – Detroit’s Midtown Cultural Center will receive $12 million from Michigan taxpayers if, as anticipated, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs the 2024 budget passed last week by legislators.

The money will supplement the anticipated $38 million first phase of multiple projects to renovate a number of landmarks, among them the Midtown Cultural Center that includes the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Public Library, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Detroit Science Center.

The organization overseeing the project, Midtown Detroit, Inc., initially requested $15 million, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.

Susan Mosey, Midtown Detroit executive director of Midtown Detroit, was thankful for the appropriation.

“This $12 million appropriation will empower us to further invest in the vital infrastructure and stormwater management systems necessary to preserve and enhance the Cultural Center,” Mosey said in a statement. “We are deeply grateful to the state of Michigan and our legislative leaders for recognizing the importance of this initiative and for their unwavering commitment to the cultural vibrancy of Detroit.”

Among the first priorities is the construction of a $33 million parking structure that will provide more than 300 parking spaces. The structure would replace an underground garage that hasn’t been used in years.

“It is worth asking exactly how much is enough for cultural institutions and their supporters to have their thirst for taxpayer dollars slaked,” Michael LaFaive, senior director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, told The Center Square in an email. “How much is enough? This is far from the only state subsidy available to museums and other art-specific establishments and many taxpayers underwrite them at the local level, too.”

LaFaive likely was referencing the Tri-County arts millage passed by voters in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties in 2012, which has generated approximately $300 million thus far. Of that amount, Wayne County has claimed more than $92 million. The initial millage was supposed to sunset after 10 years, but voters renewed it for another 10 years, two years before it expired in 2020.

“It is fundamentally unfair to make all Michigan taxpayers underwrite this or any other cultural center in any city chosen by Lansing politicians or their lieutenants,” LaFaive wrote. “The first culture we should be concerned about is the state’s culture of spending. Scarce state resources redirected to museum districts is money not invested in schools, roads, bridges and public safety.”

According to a Detroit Free Press article, $6 million was appropriated to programs administered by the DIA. The remaining funds have been used at the DIA’s discretion for “operational expenses.”

Another $9 million was raised from private philanthropists to provide free Wi-Fi in the area.

“I applaud the private, philanthropic support of this initiative,” LaFaive said. “The project, however, should be funded solely by the private contributions of its supporters.”

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