Friday will be the final day for taking ideas for development possibilities in the neighborhood around the new Intermodal Passenger Rail Station being built in west downtown Dearborn along Michigan Avenue near Brady.
Michigan State University professors and graduate students held design workshops (or charrettes) Jan. 17-19 regarding the area including the future train station entrance into The Henry Ford, the Michigan Avenue vacant lot next to the station, the automotive dealerships and Newman Street, and the Ford property and pond past the viaduct along Oakwood.
After a Jan. 17 walking tour of the site by city staff and the MSU students, the charrettes that day identified connections and features on area maps, and desires of the landowners and residents for the site. The experts from MSU, Michigan Municipal League (MML) and Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) drew up and refined designs for the site; derived from commentary by participants in the Thursday and Friday charrettes, “Plan A” and “Plan B.”
After taking more input from stakeholders in the final charrette on Jan. 19, the entire presentation was put on the city's website home page. The city has continued to accept comments on this presentation until Feb. 15 at email@example.com. These comments are being forwarded to the design team, which will further refine the design for presentation to the public at some yet-to-be determined date in the next couple months.
“All these ideas will be presented by our people from MSU and MSHDA at the next meeting,” said Liz Hendley, planner for the city. “Their designs will incorporate everything residents talked about during the charrette.”
During the Dec. 12 community visioning session, residents expressed pride in historical sites, the community (diversity, history, homeowner codes, restaurants and cultural life), and public services (police, fire, civic center activities, and Bryant Library). Features that drew regret were traffic (congestion, parking meters, lack of bus routes and bike lanes, pedestrian safety), property & buildings (rental housing, empty storefronts and no river access from Museum), and shopping choices (loss of anchor stores, struggling restaurants, and the Michigan Avenue shopping strip).
The “Vision” that came out of the December session took in environment (trees and gardens, walking families, biking students, murals and sculptures), public transportation (links between Henry Ford Museum and west downtown, and safe road crossings), and the transit-oriented development area (college student housing, increased density, walkable and establishment of a design theme).
The Plan A concept developed and commented on at the charrettes would relocate the car dealerships, revitalize Newman Street, locate high-density buildings south of Newman near Oakwood and low-density buildings of one or two stories east of Elm Street, and set up an interpretive nature path around the pond (which would contain a “learning island”), and complete streets on Michigan Avenue.
Plan B would landscape Michigan Avenue, install full pedestrian access on Newman Street, put one-story and two-story low-density developments south of Newman and a high-density development along Elm Street, modifying auto dealerships into boutiques with indoor showrooms, and dividing the pond area into a pond district and entertainment district.
The input the city is seeking by Friday's deadline: residents' thoughts on these concepts, which concept they prefer, what elements they like, and what elements they think are still missing. After the public input is used to further develop design alternatives, the draft report will be presented in either March or April. Following identification of state and other outside resources to assist in implementing the project (taking place in May or June), the final report will roll out the specific design and planning recommendations in July.
The MML and MSHDA experts, and MSU planners, are assisting city staff on this visioning process through a grant from MIPlace Partnership. Dearborn is receiving this planning and design assistance for transit-oriented development through “Place Plans,” a new MIPlace Partnership initiative to help communities design and plan for transformative placemaking projects.
According to the MML, common features of transit-oriented development are giving pedestrians highest priority, making the transit station the prominent feature of the center of town, high-density and high-quality development within a half-mile walk around the station, supporting transit systems (buses, taxis, trolleys, streetcars, light rail, etc.), design to accommodate other transportation (bicycles, roller blades, scooters, etc.), and managed parking within a half-mile circle of the station.
The train station is scheduled to be open by early 2014. Anyone with questions can contact Hendley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (313) 943-2171.