Dearborn moves forward in 2013

Photo courtesy of the city of Dearborn
The Intermodal Passenger Rail Station took a significant step over the summer, with the installation of the covered walkway that will allow passengers to easily get to The Henry Ford.

DEARBORN – Dearborn continued to encourage economic development in 2013 and seeks even more successes in 2014.

Led by Mayor John O’Reilly Jr., with support from the City Council, Dearborn made progress with important “main street” initiatives in 2013.

The city hopes to establish the Warren Avenue Business District Improvement Authority and the Dix-Vernor Business District Improvement Authority in 2014.

A crucial component is the full support of Wayne County, acting in conjunction with the city and the business owners in each area. With that support, final steps can be taken in 2014.

The authorities would act much like the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority and the West Dearborn Downtown Development Authority, promoting businesses in their area and managing infrastructure improvements.

The EDDDA has led the initiative to bring Artspace to Dearborn, a project that will transform the current City Hall property into a residential and exhibition facility, as well as a visitor attraction, by providing affordable housing and work and display space for artists around the region.

The current City Hall at Michigan Avenue and Schaefer is in the heart of the EDDDA district. Once opened, Artspace will bring more residents, more customers and more pedestrian traffic to the EDDDA area, and at more times than the business hours of the current City Hall.

It is expected that construction will start on Artspace in 2014.

A companion activity to Artspace is the move of City Hall operations to an office building west of the Henry Ford Centennial Library in 2014. The building is more modern and designed in a more efficient manner, and the move is estimated to save taxpayers about $400,000 annually in operational costs.

Another anticipated opening in 2014 is that of the intermodal passenger rail station, on Michigan Avenue, east of Brady. The station is fully funded with $28 million in federal money, and will provide modern transportation options for visitors and residents alike.

It was also the focus of a community brain-storming session overseen by the partners in the state’s PlacePlans Initiative.

The city received a grant to engage residents and stakeholders in late 2012 and into 2013 with developing ideas that would place the station at the center of new economic and community development opportunities, most notably helping to generate another unique “sense of place” for Dearborn.

The idea is to draw residents, visitors, customers and investors to the area around the train station.

The station will boost visitors to The Henry Ford, and is an important component for an accelerated-speed rail line between Pontiac and Chicago, as well as proposed commuter lines between Ann Arbor and Detroit.

Importantly, it also allows passengers to make easier connections to Dearborn’s business areas, Ford Motor Co. World Headquarters, the Gateway Trail, and Henry Ford Community College and the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

In 2013, the city also was a crucial part of the opening of apartments designed to serve 500 students at UM-D.

The $30 million project, being built by Urban Campus Communities, was made possible through cooperation with Ford Motor Land Development.

That type of successful collaboration between the city, businesses and institutions earned Dearborn the distinction of being named a Five-Star Community for Economic Development for the third year in a row by the UM-D iLabs eCities project, which analyzes key criteria to rate a municipality’s ability to promote growth in the commercial field.

Manufacturers in Dearborn continued to invest in the community, notably Ford Motor Co’s. $305 million at its Dearborn Stamping Plant, $49 million at the Research and Engineering Complex, and the 2013 announcement of $250 million earmarked for the Dearborn Truck Plant.

Ford is said to be investing in office space at its headquarters and its Regent Court building as well.

Severstal North America continues its commitment to its Dearborn facilities with almost $1.7 million invested in recent years.

Commercial re-occupancy rates in Dearborn held steady in 2013 with about 300 buildings inspected to allow for new business uses.

Dearborn also continued to promote neighborhood improvements in 2013. One high-profile activity is the construction of Habitat for Humanity houses in east Dearborn. These houses are being built with modern amenities and attractive features, refreshing the look of the mature residential areas on Neckel, Maple and Hartwell. The city is a partner in the construction of these owner-occupied homes, part of its successful neighborhood stabilization efforts.