Ford $60 million plan for downtown Dearborn facelift gets incentives

Posted on December 21, 2016

Ford’s plan for a $60 million mixed-use development on a large swath of downtown Dearborn’s west side won a package of incentives Tuesday from the state of Michigan.

Ford Motor Land Development Corporation, which bought up the real estate, and the city are partners in the project, which aims to redevelop 12 parcels of property encompassing three blocks. Construction is expected to include two, three-story, mixed-use buildings and a four-story parking structure.

The Michigan Strategic Fund, the state’s economic development arm through the Michigan Economic Development Corp., approved a local and school tax capture in the amount of $31,418,232 to aid the project. The fund also gave its blessing for a $3 million grant to assist the construction of the parking deck for the “Wagner Hotel Block Redevelopment Project.”

The city and company say they do not have the ability to secure 100% of the financing needed for the construction of the parking deck.
“The city owned and operated parking deck is necessary to support the need for additional parking as result of Ford Land’s multi-story, mixed-used
development,” the MEDC staff wrote in a memo to fund board members.

It is expected that the city and Ford will pursue bond financing for the parking deck and utility improvements associated with the project, utilizing tax increment revenue generated as a result of the Ford Land Wagner Hotel Block Redevelopment to repay the bond obligations.

The city will invest approximately $20 million to construct the parking structure and improve the adjacent public utility infrastructure. Ford Land anticipates making a capital investment of approximately $60 million into the mixed-use redevelopment.

The project will result in the consolidation and relocation of up to 600 Ford Motor Company and Ford supplier employees and could create as many as
200 jobs. In addition, the project is expected to create approximately 50 permanent full-time non-Ford retail jobs at the site.
The blended average wage for all the full-time jobs at the site is estimated to be $20 per hour.

After years of false starts and curiously vacant storefronts, Dearborn’s west downtown is experiencing a rush of momentum and could be poised for a big resurgence.

Trendy new restaurants, bars and microbreweries have started filling some of the vacancies that line busy Michigan Avenue and more are scheduled to open — along with projects for new apartments aimed at young professionals and a five-story Hampton Inn.

This expanding mix of restaurants, bars, offices and new residences could give Dearborn a more contiguous, walkable west downtown, similar to the successful and widely popular downtowns in Royal Oak and Ferndale.

“Downtown Dearborn is going to be that next downtown that everybody is talking about,” Cristina Sheppard-Decius, executive director of the West Dearborn Downtown Development Authority, told the Free Press earlier this year.

The latest project came about because Ford officials said they had a need to offer space in an urban and walkable setting in order to attract talent. All of this development comes as Ford undertakes a decade-long overhaul of its nearby headquarters and research and development campus.

The downtown redevelopment would include the demolition of existing structures while preserving the façade of the former Wagner Hotel, one of the most historic structures in the city. The façade will be integrated with a new, three-story mixed-use building that will include first floor commercial space and office space for Ford Motor Company on the upper floors. An additional three-story mixed-use building with a similar configuration will be constructed as well.

The newly constructed buildings will be slightly set back from the existing Wagner Hotel building to allow for wider sidewalks. The larger sidewalks are in concert with existing buildings in the downtown and will further the city’s mission to make the downtown area along Michigan Avenue more pedestrian friendly.
The parking structure will be owned and operated by the city and will support the mixed-use development. Public green space will be created between the new parking deck and the back of the Wagner Hotel building and will visually connect with a pocket park on the other side of Michigan Avenue. The existing public utilities will be buried in order to make the space more pedestrian friendly and to encourage public engagement.

A much-heralded project begin in 2003 to redevelop a former Jacobson’s store site produced new condos, two new city-owned parking decks and a pair of Michigan Avenue buildings known as West Village Commons. However, the project failed to deliver two planned seven-story buildings that were supposed to go between the parking decks and contain commercial space and a hotel.

More recently, some storefronts along Michigan Avenue have had trouble keeping tenants, despite their prominent locations.