By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Dearborn residents and business owners converged at the Dearborn Inn, 20301 Oakwood Blvd., Jan. 25 for a strategic meeting on Dearborn’s future.
The meeting, hosted by the east and west Dearborn downtown development authorities and the city, also included city department heads and officials.
Those in attendance at the meeting focused on the revitalization of the city’s two downtowns.
“Our commercial districts just as important because they help impact our neighborhoods and make them successful,” Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said. “Our downtown areas blend into our neighborhoods.”
During the strategic meeting, attendees were given an introduction and overview of the current plans, goals and visions for the city.
WDDDA Executive Director Cristina Shepard-Decius explained how the city is divided and what each downtown offers.
“The east downtown is the arts and culture district and west includes the entertainment and tourism district,” she said. “There is also a Fairlane regional destination district in located in the middle of the two downtowns.”
Shepard-Decius highlighted the current projects in the works in both the east and west ends of the city.
“The east has the Artspace City Hall Lofts project and the sustainable parking lot project under development.” she said. “In the west, Ford’s Garage, Bar Louie’s and Hampton Inn are under construction.”
She also said 15 new businesses opened in 2015 in downtown west Dearborn.
Next, attendees were broken off into groups at five brainstorming breakout stations including strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and core values for the first round.
Each group traveled to the station and made suggestions they would like to see for the city’s improvement to group leaders.
The second round featured social, economic, physical, connect and key words stations open for suggestions.
Residents, leaders and business owners identified their top priorities for the city during each round. Then, attendees were able to vote for two suggestions in each category as what they see is a top priority.
Some of the top needs were additional retail stores, safety, walkability, traffic control, updated image, interfaith network, connectivity and public transportation.
“Public input is very important because they are the people who live, work and shop within the city,” Shepard-Decius said. “Those people will give us the best suggestions for areas we need to work on.”
Next for the city and the EDDDA and WDDDA will be to take all the data collected and compose a plan for both downtowns in the city. A final plan is expected to be devised by March.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)