Dearborn moves forward on neighborhood stabilization, economic development projects

Photo courtesy of the city of Dearborn

Oakwood Helathcare System and Midwest Medical Center celebrated the grand opening of the Dearborn Town Center Jan. 30.

DEARBORN – Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. and city officials continue to promote Dearborn as a great place in which to invest, conduct business and buy a home.

Among the economic highlights of 2010:

Severstal steel mill modernization: Severstal formalized its North American headquarters in Dearborn and continued to reinvest in this icon of American manufacturing.

This year’s addition of more than $700 million in steel finishing lines elevates this advanced manufacturing center to a global leader in steel technology. Severstal’s total investment in the last five years is $1.7 billion.

These decisions and investments retain/increase employment to nearly 2,000 jobs and extend the life of this plant by at least 50 years.

Oakwood/Midwest Medical Center (Dearborn Town Center): This mixed use development in the heart of downtown east Dearborn reclaims the former Montgomery Ward site and continues the ongoing transformation of the district into an office, service, retail and cultural center for the community.

This $50 million investment retains 300 jobs, adds 200 jobs and includes “green” elements like LEED certification for the building and a state-of-the-art parking deck with solar electric collection, LED lighting, smart lighting programming and eight electric vehicle chargers.

This public private partnership was recognized by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation as the first 20 percent transformational tax credit project ever is-sued.

O’Reilly joined Oakwood, Midwest Medical Center and owner/developer REDICO in a celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony in December. The Midwest Medical Center opened for business on Jan. 3. It includes specialty medical care and an urgent care facility.

Reoccupancy of commercial buildings: In 2010, the city’s Economic and Community Development Department’s Commercial Division processed 119 more applications for reoccupancy of commercial buildings than in 2009. That was 336 reoccupancies in 2010 compared to 217 in 2009.

The revenue generated is projected to double during Fiscal Year 11, which spans July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011.

At the end of December, the division had issued 6 percent more permits than the previous year. The revenue generated is projected to be $261,754 more than the last fiscal year.

The total value of commercial projects constructed from July 2009 to June 2010 was more than $71 million.

Intermodal passenger train station: With the award of $28 million in federal funds in 2010 to construct an intermodal passenger train station, the city is proceeding with plans for this project, which will be a gateway into downtown west Dearborn and support additional visitor traffic at The Henry Ford, encourage activity in the business district and at the nearby University of Michigan-Dearborn.

The city also is a key player in an initiative sponsored by the state of Michigan to use trains traveling from Ann Arbor to Detroit, with a stop in Dearborn, as couriers to special events in metro Detroit. This activity is a precursor to a planned commuter rail line.

Neighborhood Stabilization Program: Dearborn actively has been working on neighborhood investment for more than 40 years and 2010 was no exception.

The influx of $2.4 million in America Recovery and Restoration Act/Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds from the federal government helped Dearborn to acquire and demolish substandard housing and rehabilitate solid, but aging homes to maintain neighborhood values, stability and integrity.

The success of Dearborn’s program has garnered another $1 million in NSP funds for 2011.

This item also is directly related to the Neighborhood Stabilization efforts of the city’s Residential Services Department, which used city resources to purchase and demolish marginal homes in the wake of the foreclosure crisis of 2008-09.

Since the inception of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the city has purchased close to 200 properties with federal and local funds. Although about a dozen homes are being rehabbed, most are being demolished for future development or sale as side yards.

The city’s Operation Eyesore program also continued. Under this program, the city purchases and removes substandard buildings from neighborhoods and offers the property for sale for new homes. In about the last 18 months, 12 buildings have been acquired and slated for demolition. Since 1960, 1,312 buildings have been demolished and 585 residential structures have been built by private owners.

Elimination of Escrow Policy: Dearborn has made it easier and less costly for people to purchase homes by eliminating its escrow policy. The escrow policy required home buyers to deposit money in an escrow fund equal to the cost of fixing building and safety violations, or to purchase a performance bond to ensure that critical repairs are completed.

Today, home buyers can choose to sell the home with a certificate of occupancy or transfer the responsibility for correcting violations and making necessary repairs to the proposed buyer. If the responsibility is transferred, the proposed buyer signs an agreement and pays a fee to cover the cost of monitoring the property to ensure that the violations are corrected.

Demolition of the former Quality Inn Motel: This project was financed jointly by the His-torical Commission and with the help of Economic and Development Community Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund, Downriver Community Conference Brownfield Consortium, and the Dearborn Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. The project demolished the former motel, at Michigan Avenue and Brady.

It has cleaned a blighted property and improved the entrance to the west downtown business district. While it will likely remain a park or green space for the near future, it also allows the museum/Historical Commission the opportunity to develop the land in a fashion to support the museum’s operation.

In addition, the razing of the motel also has created a welcoming, pastoral vista at the entrance of the west downtown business district.