Dearborn moving forward with economic development projects, neighborhood stabilization

Illustration courtesy of the city of Dearborn

An illustration of the new intermodal passenger train station. Groundbreaking for the project is planned for spring with expected completion in 2013.

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

Among the economic highlights of 2011:

Five-star city for economic development
The city of Dearborn received the highest rating possible by the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Center for Innovation Research (iLabs) for fostering entrepreneurial growth and economic development

Dearborn was honored as a five-star community through the program known as eCities for its efforts to promote investment and for its support of businesses pursuing innovative endeavors.

This is the first time that Dearborn has been named a five-star community by the UM-D’s iLabs, having earned a commendable four-star designation in 2010.

O’Reilly said the five-star designation reflects the city’s commitment to encouraging a dynamic and diversified economy.

“Dearborn continues to promote economic development and commercial investment,” O’Reilly said. “We also have a great track record of smoothing the way for innovative approaches. We appreciate this distinguished recognition of our efforts.”

Severstal North America modernization
Severstal North America continued to reinvest in its headquarters in Dearborn, modernizing its steel-making operations to produce advanced high-strength, low-weight steel.

In January 2012, its $285 million hot-dipped galvanizing line, which began service in a limited capacity in October, was officially commissioned.

The steel produced is expected to be used in the exposed automotive, appliance and furniture industries, as well as precision automotive products, including high-strength and advanced high-strength steels sought by auto manufacturers.

In August, Severstal started operations in its new $450 million pickle line tandem cold mill.

Both operations are part of an overall $1.1 billion modernization initiative centered in Dearborn.

These investments are designed to retain or increase employment, with a goal of supporting nearly 2,000 jobs, and extend the life of this iconic plant by at least 50 years.

The city of Dearborn has actively supported Severstal’s initiatives and championed the steelmaker’s projects as it sought investment incentives at the state and federal levels.

Intermodal passenger train station.
The city is proceeding with plans for a spring 2012 groundbreaking of the $28 million in intermodal passenger train station, with expected completion in 2013.

This federally funded, landmark project will be a gateway into downtown west Dearborn, support additional visitor traffic at The Henry Ford: America’s Greatest History Attraction, and encourage activity in the business district and at the nearby University of Michigan-Dearborn.

In addition, Dearborn is among just eight communities in America that will receive free neighborhood design consultation in 2012 from Global Green USA with the help of a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program.

The grant focuses attention on the new intermodal train station in west Dearborn, and the surrounding neighborhoods that will be part of a transit oriented development plan.

The grant pays for sustainability experts to make recommendations to the city of Dearborn on how to integrate environmentally friendly and energy efficient concepts into the TOD.

The new train station itself will be built according to national recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver standards.

Four sustainability experts will conduct a three-day visits to Dearborn in early 2012 to help with the TOD plan.

Henry Ford Health System’s Ford Road Center
Henry Ford Health System opened a new medical center in 2011 and began renovations on its Fairlane Medical Center, reflecting an $11 million investment in Dearborn.

The new, 66,000-square-foot Ford Road center is at 5500 Auto Club Drive, and the Fairlane Center is at 19401 Hubbard Drive.

Services at the Ford Road center include women’s health, dermatology, laboratory, radiology and pharmacy, pediatrics, after-hours urgent care, and rehabilitation and athletic medicine.

In August, the Henry Ford OptimEyes Super Vision Center opened at the Ford Road Center, offering comprehensive optometry and ophthalmology care, and ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery.

The Fairlane facility recently celebrated its 35th year in the community. It is the busiest ambulatory center in the Henry Ford Health System, with approximately 350,000 patient visits and 62,000 Emergency Department visits annually.

Departments remaining at the Fairlane site on Hubbard Drive will be able to expand within the building, which will also receive improvements and updates to better serve patients.

The expansion of Henry Ford’s Health System in Dearborn in 2011 follows the January 2011 grand opening of east Dearborn’s Midwest Health Center, which is affiliated with Oakwood Healthcare System.

Reoccupancy of commercial buildings.
In calendar year 2011, the city’s Economic and Community Development Department’s Commercial Division processed 82 more applications for re-occupancy of commercial buildings than in 2010. That was 333 reoccupancies in 2010 and 415 in 2011.

The number of commercial building permits increased in fiscal year 2011 to 1,847, up
from the fiscal year 2010 number of 1,557 by 290.

Commercial projects totaled $32 million in fiscal year 2011.

Other Economic Development efforts
The city is still actively engaged in potential development projects that would strengthen the community’s economic base or boost the appeal for continued commercial or residential development. Among those potential projects:

• Greenways and non-motorized connections to urban and natural systems

• Student housing for the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Henry Ford Community College

• Dearborn Conference Center to boost tourism, economic development and visitor activity.

• Artspace project in downtown east Dearborn to attract artists who would live, work and exhibit in one facility and welcome visitors to their unique space.

Neighborhood Stabilization Programs
Dearborn has been actively working on neighborhood investment for more than 40 years, and 2011 was no exception.

Federal neighborhood stabilization program money, combined with local funding, helps Dearborn to acquire and demolish substandard housing and rehabilitate solid, but aging homes to maintain neighborhood values, stability and integrity.

Since the inception of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program in 2008, the city has purchased 205 properties with federal and local funds. Most are being demolished for future development or sale as side yards, although about 10 percent of those homes have been rehabbed.

In January 2012, about five rehabilitated homes were ready for qualified first-time home buyers to purchase under regulations established by the federal government, which include special incentives for veterans, teachers and public safety employees.

Private homeowners also continue to invest in Dearborn. In 2011, permits were pulled the construction of seven new homes, with an average price of $470,000.

All told, more than 1,050 residential building permits were issued in 2011. Building permit revenue increased from $207,087 in 2010 to 2011’s figure of $229,443.

Ensuring residential values
The city also takes positive actions to help preserve residential property values.

Among those actions:

To maintain the appearance of its neighborhoods, the city routinely inspects, investigates complaints, manages nuisances and enforces property maintenance ordinances.

The city also requires the registration of vacant homes and monitors each property to ensure that it’s maintained and secure.

The city inspects all residential properties upon sale and requires registration and regular inspection of rental properties.

In 2011, O’Reilly created a Landlord Task Force to develop positive ways the city can ensure rental property is maintained to neighborhood standards.