LANSING, Mich. -- Developers of the planned American Center for Mobility autonomous vehicle testing site plan to purchase more than 300 acres of the former Willow Run bomber factory for $1.2 million, the state said Monday.
The Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust, or RACER -- the trust charged with handling the cleanup and redevelopment of former General Motors Corp. plants in Michigan after the company's 2009 bankruptcy reorganization -- said the purchase agreement will allow the Willow Run Arsenal of Democracy Landholdings LLP to acquire the property for the proposed testing site.
RACER Trust said it also will make undisclosed contributions toward redevelopment of the 311-acre site in Ypsilanti Township, which it has owned since 2011. It was a former Ford Motor Co. bomber plant during World War II and, later, a GM powertrain facility.
The proposed deal puts the estimated $80 million self-driving car project a step closer to launch. The planned facility will simulate roads and highways for developers of autonomous vehicles to test the driverless cars and to support ongoing research.
The MEDC's Michigan Strategic Fund previously awarded the Willow Run landholding entity $3 million that can be applied to the property purchase.
"This is a major milestone in making (the center) a reality," Steve Arwood, the MEDC's CEO, said in a statement. "This facility will be a global leader in interconnected technology advancements, and a major economic driving engine for the entire state. The whole project represents a multi-layered partnership between many groups, and getting the agreement in place toward the purchase of the land is a giant step forward."
It was not immediately clear when a sale would close, nor what the immediate next steps will be.
The Willow Run project is expected to include $60 million in federal funding -- possibly from the transportation, energy and commerce departments -- as well as an additional $17 million from the MEDC.
"This is a major milestone for the American Center for Mobility as we continue to lead the effort to create a national center for connected and automated vehicles and emerging mobility technologies," John Maddox, its CEO, said in a statement.
"The ability to build out Willow Run with its deep historic innovative roots to now create a center to safely validate connected and automated technology is an incredible opportunity for not just the state of Michigan, but also our country."