DETROIT -- With a deal to expand Detroits Cobo Center on the rocks, Detroit auto show organizers are concerned about the shows future.
Detroit City Council voted 5-3 to disapprove the transfer of Cobo Center to a regional authority, putting a halt to a proposed $288 million expansion and renovation deal approved by the Michigan Legislature late last year.
Councilmember Alberta Tinsley-Talabi joined Council President Monica Conyers, Council President Pro Tem Joann Watson and councilmembers Martha Reeves and Barbara-Rose Collins in voting against the proposal.
Its not clear whether a veto is an option for Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. Six votes are required to overturn a mayoral veto.
At this years auto show, show co-chairman Doug Fox said the wheel of a hi-lo fell through the Cobo floor. Loading dock doors, once open, sometimes dont close.
Fox said he and other auto show officials will meet next week in Geneva with a group of German manufacturers who had committed to the Detroit show.
The expansion, he said, was a significant incentive for manufacturers to show in Detroit.
The German manufacturers, he said, are responsible for about 30 percent of the auto show floor space and about 40 percent of the dollars actually spent.
If Detroit loses key manufacturers, Fox told Detroit City Council, the Detroit show doesnt just lose its spot at the top of the auto show food chain.
We go from No. 1 to No. 10, he said. Because we become a market show, not an international show. And the $500 million to $600 million the auto show brings goes elsewhere.
Cobo doesnt compare to facilities in Los Angeles and Chicago, two cities courting the Detroit show, Fox said.
If were going to have a world-class show, we need a world-class facility, he said. And we need it for 2010.
During negotiations in Lansing, consensus on the Cobo deal didnt come easily, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation President George Jackson said.
Under the deal, control of the center would pass to a five-member regional authority with representatives appointed by Cockrel, Granholm and leaders in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.
Thats a sticking point for the dozens of Detroiters who spoke to council Tuesday, saying that the city was selling its assets to a disinterested suburbia that didnt have Detroits best interests at heart.
But not everybody outside of Detroit is happy about taking on Cobo, Jackson said. And the city feels like something is being taken away from them. We have to get past this impasse somehow."
Council members opposing the deal have also said the $20 million the city would receive under the deal isnt a fair price for the civic center, but according to a report by councils fiscal analyst, Cobo is a drain on the citys finances.
If repair and expansion needs, operational deficits and deferred maintenance are considered, Cobo has a negative $284 million net value, Fiscal Analyst Irv Corley Jr. wrote in a report to city council.
The city contributes $13 million to $15 million annually to Cobo Center, which operates with an annual deficit. If control of the center had passed to the authority, that entity would have been responsible for Cobo operating deficits or cost overruns. And a hotel and liquor tax that financed a 1985 Cobo expansion is set to expire in 2015; the Cobo legislation would have extended that tax through 2039, according to Corleys report.
Some urged the city to seek federal stimulus dollars to fund the expansion, but Kim Trent, director of Gov. Jennifer Granholms office for southeast Michigan, said that was unlikely, saying that Cobo doesn't meet the stimulus package's shovel-ready requirement.
And getting the go-head on a second Cobo deal could be difficult. State and local officials have said that there is no political will to craft another package of Cobo legislation in Lansing, and state officials noted that its likely that the Legislature would have to approve any use of stimulus funds for a Cobo expansion.
The proposed $288 million project would add 166,000 square feet of exhibition space for a total of 866,000 square feet, and upgrade the centers loading docks and electrical and technological infrastructure. The expansion and renovation are necessary, officials say, for Cobo to compete nationally for conventions and shows.