Dearborn, Heights mayors highlight 2018 accomplishments

Photo by Robert Ankrapp Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. (right) answers questions about the city’s progress and future business endeavors alongside Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko during the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce annual Tale of Our Cities luncheon Jan. 15 at the Dearborn Hills Golf Course.

Photo by Robert Ankrapp
Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. (right) answers questions about the city’s progress and future business endeavors alongside Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko during the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce annual Tale of Our Cities luncheon Jan. 15 at the Dearborn Hills Golf Course.

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

The annual Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce Tale of Our Cities Jan. 15 at the Dearborn Hills Golf Course gave the mayors a platform to provide those in attendance an idea of what is going in each city.

Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said Wagner Place, Beaumont Health’s announcement of a new mental health hospital, Fairlane Town Center, transportation and a growth in home occupancy rate as important aspects in Dearborn. He also emphasized that all the collective work being put in will improve the city.

Wagner Place is a Ford Motor Co. $60 million mix-use development that restored the 120-year-old Wagner Hotel in downtown west Dearborn and celebrated its ribbon cutting on Oct. 10.
Included in the 150,000-square-foot project are 600 employees from Ford’s global data insights and analytics division, and The Great Commoner breakfast and lunch restaurant in the former hotel.

“It’s good for everyone because it means there’s more jobs, more opportunities that the city will benefit from because new businesses that come in that weren’t here otherwise,” he said.

Eleanor’s Café, Modern Greek Orangetheory Fitness, Salad Bar, Paradise Briyani Pointe Indian Cuisine and Yogurtown have spaces in the west part of the development, and City Barbeque and Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant & Brewery on the east part.

The Beaumont mental health hospital — scheduled to open in 2021 — will have about 300 employees, 150 beds when fully operational, clinical psychiatric training and outpatient mental health treatment.

It also will feature enhanced and expanded intensive day programs and outpatient care, substance use disorder treatment for patients also receiving mental health care, clinical pharmacists, social workers, therapists and more.

The $45 million, 100,000-square-foot hospital will be built on eight acres of vacant land near the Southfield Freeway across from the current Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn, as a joint venture with Universal Health Services.

O’Reilly called the new hospital “exciting” and a facility “that will provide a high level of care to its patients.”

He then touched on Fairlane Town Center which has been adapting to meet the changing needs of customers in a time where malls are losing business to online shopping. In 2017, Ford Motor Co. leased and renovated 240,000 square feet where Lord & Taylor was located to house 2,000 of its employees.

Starwood Retail Partners is the current landlords of the mall and is open to looking for multiple-use development opportunities, O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly said the city has been collecting data to help the city understand what they can do to build a big base and for the region.

“In our town we’re trying to raise awareness and we’re also going out to find out how can we bring more customers into our region, how do we get people to come here as a destination,” he said. “People who don’t even think about coming to this area for recreation or for purchases and so on — we want to figure out how we can see which are the best areas that we can go after and build our base.”

During his segment, Dearborn Heights Mayor Dan Paletko spoke on the city’s A-plus credit rating, Canfield Arena redevelopment, Warren Valley Golf Course ownership, road and water line replacement plans, new businesses and Van Born Corridor project.

In November 2017, the city began the process of purchasing the golf course to save it and the area from development, and in 2018 the city council continued that process to become official owners.

The formerly vacant Canfield Arena will be developed into a new sports training facility under its new name and ownership, Elite Sports Training.

Facility co-owner Mike Makki plans to construct a new building, improve the baseball field, and add batting cages, golfing and new artificial turf.

“We have a lot of new developments, one of the positive things is we’re working with the city of Taylor on the Van Born Corridor and you’re going to start to see some really fantastic improvements,” Paletko said. “We hope to bring in new development along the corridor … there’s going to be common signage and improvements.

“The two cities are not in competition, we are actually working to better the area and if we can bring in a major company that will supply jobs and improve the tax base — whether they locate in Dearborn, Taylor or Dearborn Heights it’s a positive for the community.”

Both mayor’s agreed that mass transportation is needed in the region and that one of the best options is the Regional Master Transit Plan the Regional Transit Authority that failed to pass in 2016 and failed to get on the November 2018 ballot. The plan looks to connect people of Wayne, Macomb, Oakland and Washtenaw counties and offer more transit options.

Paletko said it would be nice to be able to go downtown to an event and not have to worry about where you’re parking your car but take a mass transit instead.

O’Reilly said a limited airport shuttle bus that runs from the Detroit and Dearborn area to Detroit Metropolitan Airport has surpassed all expectations which demonstrates people are ready for mass transportation.

Another topic the two mayor’s shared similar views on are the legalization of recreational marijuana and marijuana grow dispensaries, facilities and recreational sales which passed statewide in the 2018 general election.

Both city councils voted to opt out in December to having the dispensaries, facilities and recreational sales in their communities until the state establishes rules and regulations.

“I wasn’t for passing that because I thought it was ill written and I wish we could’ve gone and done something that would’ve been more effective,” O’Reilly said. “Once it passed my only concern is that there are these large conglomerates that are taking this over all over the country.”

Paletko agreed with O’Reilly’s concern saying he’s heard that large corporations outside the state see this as an opportunity to come in and “squeeze a lot of the small people out.”

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)