By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN —Artspace held a ground thawing April 21 to celebrate the completion of winter construction on the former city hall complex.
The celebration took place at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center where members involved in the project gathered.
Artspace representatives gave those in attendance an update on construction and design plans for the building.
The Michigan-based Monahan company has handled the construction for the project and Neumann Smith Architecture helped with the design.
Winter construction began in February with furniture clearing, environmental abatement and the demolition of the parking deck.
Spring exterior construction will include site work and improving the roof. Interior work will begin to shape the units and spaces.
“Currently we are putting in plumbing, dry wall and unit finishes,” said Heidi Kurtze, vice president of Property Development at Artspace. “We’ve already defined the rooms and put in the pipes and ventilation.”
Kurtze praised the support from the community to get the project done.
“It takes an incredible team that the mayor has with him on the council and in the city to make this project possible,” she said. “Artspace owns and operates 38 projects around the country but this is our first city hall and it is definitely unique,”
Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said he first contacted Artspace in 2009 to talk about a possible project in Dearborn.
“With the recession at the time we were looking at what Dearborn could do to generate new interest and new activity,” he said. “I was already aware of Artspace so we reached out to them.”
O’Reilly said he visited two Artspace projects in Minnesota to meet with other mayors and residents.
“Both mayors acknowledged that the Artspace projects in their communities transformed underperforming neighborhoods into vital areas of economy and energy,” he said.
EmmaJean Woodyard, Dearborn Community Fund executive director, also spoke about the process to get Artspace to Dearborn.
“I was one of the lucky people who got to visit the proposed properties on the list before we zeroed in on city hall,” she said. “The DCF supported Arspace from the beginning because we believed it would bring a new dynamic to the city.
The Minneapolis-based non-profit purchased the building on Dec. 30 and got the keys to the building on Jan. 5.
The seven-year process began in 2008 after Artspace met with the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority to discuss the possibility of the project.
This is the first project for the non-profit in Michigan. Artspace looked at more than 20 possible sites in Dearborn before deciding on the former city hall complex.
The completed project will include 53 apartment units made up of affordable live and work space for artists and their families as well as work studios, co-working space for entrepreneurs and artists, a live-and-work unit for an artist-in-residency program, and galleries.
The total cost will be around $17 million, which came from various funding. The project is expected to be completed by December with leasing information coming this spring.
For more information on the project to go artspace.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at email@example.com.)