Wayne County commissioners Thursday approved purchase and development agreements for two historic mills in Hines Park, officials said.

The commission voted 11-3 to approve the agreements. Commissioners Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, Tim Kileen, D-Detroit, and Diane Webb, D-Livonia cast the three dissenting votes.

Under the deals, the county is selling the 4.3-acre Wilcox Mill in Plymouth to a company called Rouge LLC for $360,000 and the 1.8-acre Newburgh Mill in Livonia to a developer for $405,000. Officials said the revenue will be reinvested in county parks.

The county retains the right of first refusal on each mill property should the new owners ever decide to sell them, officials said.

“This deal allows the transformation of the mills from eyesores into true community assets for Plymouth and Livonia while preserving an important part of our history,” Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said in a statement. “These projects also ensure the land surrounding the mills becomes public accessible and better connects Hines Park with surrounding communities.” 

The sale of the properties is part of the county's Mill Run project, which seeks to expand Hines Park's accessibility to the public. 

Terms of the sale require the new owners to redevelop the vacant mills structures in compliance with federal standards for rehabilitation, create new trail connections and open green space currently inaccessible to the public, officials said.

Rouge LLC was created by acclaimed Plymouth artist Tony Roko, founder of the Art Foundation of Detroit. County officials said Rouge LLC plans to rehabilitate the building into an art education space and construct a publicly-accessible “inner child sculpture garden” on the surrounding land.

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Newburgh Mill's buyer is a company operated by developer Richard Cox, who bought the Phoenix Mill in Plymouth Township from the county last year.

County officials said Cox plans to turn Newburgh Mill into a distillery with retail space and park space. The park space is expected to be in the shape of a spiral, meant to reflect the automotive parts once manufactured there, they said.

Both mills were once owned and operated by Ford Motor Co., which deeded the properties to the county in late 1948.

"The mill properties were essentially inaccessible to the public for more than 70 years,” Evans said. “These deals ensure the development connects it with local communities and the larger network of non-motorized trails as well as enhances Hines Park with unique destinations that will celebrate our heritage.”

Plans to redevelop the two mills weren't without controversy. Some residents opposed selling the properties to developers and formed a coalition called Save Hines Park. The group said it wanted to stop the properties from being turned into condos and commercial development. 

More than 300 people turned out at a Jan. 9 meeting at a Livonia library organized by critics of the sale.

County commission chairwoman Alisha Bell, D-Detroit, said the proposed sale of the two mills has been a passionate issue for her, her fellow commissioners and many Wayne County residents.

“Condos were on the initial plan and I made it known that it was a non-starter for me," she said in a statement. "Another issue that was important to me was that these mills would keep to the integrity of the park. Everyone here wants what’s best for Hines Park, the mills and the residents of Wayne County.”

County commissionersThursday also approved an agreement that enables the county to acquire 16.73 acres of the former Hawthorne Valley Golf Course in Westland and add it to Hines Park. Under the agreement, the county is required to maintain the property as a park, create pedestrian trails and make other recreation or conservation improvements.

“Acquiring additional park space will provide increased connections to Hines Park and recreational benefits to the community,” Beverly Watts, Wayne County's director of Public Services, said in a statement. “This type of initiative supports the vision of our strategic master plan and future planning of our parks.”

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