The plan was pitched as the fairgrounds’ best shot at a second chance: A $120 million mixed-use development covering 500,000-square feet and featuring plans for retail outlets, residential development, parks, a cineplex, a “big-box” retail anchor, and a senior living home. The plan sought to renovate historic buildings and revitalize the fairgrounds into something that looked more like an outdoor mall. For the Hammers, however, a plan to shuffle the fairgrounds to a private developer was riddled with concerns about a lack of public involvement. That year, the State Fairgrounds Development Coalition rolled out its own ambitious proposal, a “21st century sustainable concept” dubbed “META Expo.” The acronym, derived from “Michigan Energy Technology Agriculture,” was based on a wish-list of items gathered from the coalition’s community outreach. The concept would transform the fairgrounds into a regional transit hub, complete with solar arrays, greenways, a “geo pond,” and even plans for further urban development to the south in Penrose. “People coalesced around trying to find use for the land,” Karen Hammer says. “The whole idea was that this would be a 21st century development that would encompass climate, sustainability, and reducing Detroit’s carbon footprint.” Those ideas inspired the community advocates, but they didn’t find purchase in the places where it mattered.