Dearborn, Ford aim to make area a destination

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Dearborn — Dearborn and Ford Motor Co. updated the public Monday on development plans for the automotive giant’s campus in the community.

Much of the presentation at Henry Ford College centered on Ford’s 10-year plan to transform its local campus.

The efforts are part of a bid to attract workers, said David Dubensky, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Land Development, told the audience.

“We’re trying to make Dearborn and the whole area ... a great place to work, a great place to live and to play,” he said. “Trying to get to the point where people come here, they see this wonderful career opportunity and then they love working and playing in Metro Detroit, is our objective.”

The company recently leased about 240,000 square feet at Fairlane Town Center, including the former Lord & Taylor location.

Meanwhile, Ford is investing $60 million to develop Wagner Place: a project transforming about two blocks of largely vacant buildings in west Dearborn.

The 150,000-square-foot site on the south side of Michigan Avenue between Oakwood and Mason is slated to include a pair of three-story buildings with about two-thirds as office space for about 600 Ford employees and another third becoming commercial/retail space, the company said.

The façade of the historic former Wagner Hotel is expected to be maintained. There’s also a four-story, 373-space parking structure near the development for both consumers as well as Ford employees being built with a $3 million grant the Michigan Strategic Fund approved last year, officials said.

Groundbreaking started this year. Construction is expected to wrap in 2018, and workers could move in that summer, Dubensky said.

Meanwhile, the city has had interest from investors seeking to build high rise properties and affordable housing, Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly told the audience of about 50 people in the Forfa Auditorium at Henry Ford’s Andrew A. Mazzara Administrative Services & Conference Center.

“We’re conscious if we’re trying to recruit people, we also have to have places for them to live,” he said.

Dubensky also highlighted plans for Ford’s researching and engineering campus as well as its world headquarters, around which major modifications are proposed, including a new Ford Credit building.

The first effort is eyed in the next five to seven years, while the company anticipates tackling the other within seven to 10 years, he said. “It’s huge work. You can’t just do that overnight.”

Monday’s event, which was sponsored by the HFC Democracy Institute and the American Society for Public Administration – Detroit Metropolitan Chapter, drew residents curious about what lies ahead in Dearborn.

“I think that it’s a really good opportunity for the city,” said Jordan Wohl, who attends the University of Michigan Dearborn. “A lot of what they’re talking about is long-term. It’s making Dearborn not just attractive for people nationally and internationally to work but also to encourage people to stay and establish that community.”

The plans impressed Candace Cox-Wimberley, a UM-Dearborn graduate student who attended with classmates.

“It looked so far beyond right now,” she said. “It’s good to see how cities are growing and improving.”