Residents and business owners shared ideas at a recent interactive community forum on future development around Dearborn's new rail station, to set the stage for this week's three-day charette at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave.
The city staff and experts from MIPlace Partnership will return again to the center to hold their Jan. 17-18 Dearborn Design Workshops in Wet Rooms 1 & 2, continuing to take public input on design ideas for the neighborhood around the Intermodal Passenger Rail Station (now being constructed on Michigan Avenue near Brady).
Invited groups, stakeholders, and land owners will meet from 1-4 p.m. Thursday and Friday., followed by the public drop-in sessions from 5-7 p.m. All participants are invited to the 11 a.m. Saturday “Presentation of Design Concepts” session in the same Wet Rooms 1-2, in which the revised Transit Oriented Development designs will be presented to all groups and the general public (whose reactions to the conceptional designs will be recorded).
This next step in the PlacePlans Initiative will continue “our efforts from December's 'What is T.O.D. (Transit Oriented Development)?' Visioning Session, here is the next opportunity to lend us your imagination and be part of Dearborn's transformation as it relates to development potential around Dearborn's new train station!” according to a statement by those coordinating and facilitating the event. The December brainstorming session attracted about 100 residents to Studio A.
Dearborn Economic and Community Development Director Barry S. Murray explained to last month's visioning session that the PlacePlans Initiative was the result of a grant application on behalf of the rail station project.
“All in all, it's going to be a fabulous project when it's done—I think it's going to be pretty close to done by the end of 2013, and now we're starting to think of other things,” Murray said. “And that's why we applied for this grant.
“It's a grant that's coming through one of the governor's programs, dealing with 'place making,' which is taking a look at Michigan's cities, help make them better, more interesting, attractive places, and you'll here more about that from the team tonight as well. We were one of five successful communities that have been inching out of this process,” Murray said.
The process has brought to the city a team of professionals to work on this workshop series, he said, to work out ideas on what TOD can be done around the station. The property will rise in value, because of interest in building higher density and “walkable kinds” of development around the station, Murray concluded.
1) What are you proud about the community, the really special places where you take people?
2) What are you sorry about?
3) If you were floating above the neighborhood around the station 15 years from now, what would you like to see there, and what would you like to do there?
Points of pride raised by the audience included Homecoming; neighbors pitching in to help each other; not all hard steel and concrete “like center of Tokyo;” history and heritage like The Henry Ford, Commandant's Quarters and Henry Ford mansion; the International Festival; cultural melting part; proximity to Detroit area; and company professionals visiting from other companies.
Complaints were raised on Michigan Avenue's paid parking and lack of rapid-turnover (15-30 minutes) parallel parking, cookie-cutter chain stores supplanting mom and pop stores, poor quality shopping mix along Michigan Avenue with unkempt and largely generic storefronts, lack of theme, being hard to cross Michigan Avenue to tie into Rouge River parkway and the University of Michigan-Dearborn/Henry Ford Community College campuses, tens if not hundreds of thousands square feet of empty commercial and industrial space across town, Michigan Avenue sidewalks not being pedestrian-friendly, and frequent removal of huge trees.
Future changes suggested included walking and riding bikes to station from southwest; safe railroad crossings; developing lake into park area; developing surrounding land into plazas, high-quality shops, restaurants, and small quaint hotel that ties into railroad, lake and green space; making Welcome Center more visible; get rid of auto dealerships (or use them to promote the town with antique cars); winter skating rink, ice-carving and tree lighting; have parking for campers visiting the Henry Ford; diner, souvenir store, running buses, and continuous-loop trolley; and working with car dealerships to provide auto rental for visitors to try out their product in driving to downtown.
The Jan. 17 session is intended to engage people on their ideas for designing the TOD neighborhood and diagram their ideas. Multiple areas will be staffed by a planner/designer and a student, and these team members will produce graphics for Friday's sessions for review and comment.
The Jan. 18 session will take comment and feedback on the initial design concepts, and the design team will make changes “on the fly” for additional feedback and interaction. The design team will develop approaches (or only a single neighborhood design if possible), for presentation with illustrations to the single all-invited session on Saturday morning.
The new intermodal passenger rail facility had been in the planning stages for more than a decade, Murray told last month's visioning session, when the city received $30 million from the federal government, "one of the largest grants that was given to anybody nationwide for a new train station," and construction was underway at Michigan and Elm Street.
In updating the meeting on the project, he said construction has been delayed because of Michigan Department of Transportation also receiving a grant to buy the rail line that the Dearborn station is on. But, Murray reported, the closing of the deal the previous Friday now means the last missing piece, 130 miles from Detroit to Kalamazoo, will now be run by MDOT instead of Amtrak.
"It will still carry both freight trains and passenger trains, but the focus will be on passenger trains so we can start to have 110-mile service between Detroit and Chicago," Murray said. "And also very local--and you may have seen some recent articles about this--we'll have a commuter train system here running between Ann Arbor and Detroit as well, so all those things are in the works."
Since breaking ground in April, he added, the station construction on the site has been installing underground utilities, and half of its parking lot has been paved. The other half of the lot is currently being drilled for geothermal wells (the new station will feature geothermal heat), Murray said, and the building will also be LEED-certified for energy efficiency.