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Ford Land development transforms downtown Dearborn into 21st century hip locale

MSF supports landmark Wagner Place, a new mixed-use development that aims to attract talent

As part of a broad initiative to transform 12 parcels of land in Dearborn’s west downtown into a highly walkable, engaging destination, the Michigan Strategic Fund announced Dec. 20 it will provide a $3 million performance-based grant to the city of Dearborn. In addition, the MSF approved local and school tax capture of $31.4 million through Dearborn’s Redevelopment Authority for a new parking structure to support Wagner Place.
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Working in partnership with the City of Dearborn, Ford Land Development Corp. will invest $60 million into a mixed-used redevelopment in the two blocks of prime property on the city’s main street, including the plans to renovate the historic Wagner building, a 120-year-old former hotel at the corner of Michigan and Monroe -- which will not be designed for lodging -- has been vacant for 10 years. Ford Motor Co. will occupy offices on the top two floors of the buildings to be constructed at the site with retail businesses occupying the first floor. 

When completed, the Wagner Place project is expected to create 50 retail jobs. In the long term, as many as 600 Ford employees could be at the west downtown site as a result of Ford Motor Co.’s plan to relocate and consolidate staff.

“Corporations around the world realize that creating dynamic places with diverse working/living/entertainment offerings is a compelling way to attract and retain employees,” said Steve Arwood, CEO, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the state’s chief marketing and business attraction arm that administers and performs due diligence on proposals approved by the MSF.

“This project is a great example of the type of public/private partnership that aims to create a desirable space that accommodates a corporation’s business needs, while providing engaging attractions that make the public location a popular destination,” said Arwood. “It’s also a prime catalyst for further growth in Dearborn’s west downtown.”

The project aims to preserve the city’s history while clearly developing a compelling 21st century social/work environment.

“We’re grateful for the state’s partnership in this critical development, and for Ford’s ongoing commitment to the city of Dearborn, even beyond its traditional campuses,” said Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly, Jr. “This transformative project has all the key components we’ve been pursuing as Dearborn looks to the future. It respects our heritage while moving our community forward in energizing ways.”

The newly constructed buildings will be set back from street to create wider sidewalks along with other features to make the west downtown more pedestrian friendly.

Providing abundant and easily accessible parking and green spaces are an essential feature of the mixed development, according to a report from the Urban Land Institute Michigan, which provided technical assessment of the development.

“Ford Land is excited to partner with the City of Dearborn on this development project,” said Donna Inch, chairman and CEO Ford Land Development Corporation. “We have a long history of development in Dearborn and Wagner Place further signifies our commitment to the city.”

The Wagner Place announcement is part of the 10-year transformation of the company’s more than 60-year old Dearborn facilities which will locate 30,000 employees from 70 buildings today into primarily two locations – a product campus and a world headquarters campus.

The MSF performance-based grant and Brownfield Tax Increment Financing provides key gap funding in the construction of a 373-space parking structure that will be owned and operated by the city at the downtown site. Dearborn will invest $8 million through bond financing to build the parking deck, in addition to the $3 million awarded from the state. The city will also bond for $7 million in utility improvements and streetscaping in connection with the project.

In May, Dearborn City Council passed a resolution authorizing the sale of two buildings in the west downtown with a total of 10,000 square feet to Ford Land Development Corp. In order to alleviate brownfield conditions and prepare the proposed project site for redevelopment, the City of Dearborn Brownfield Redevelopment Authority received approval from MSF for local and school tax capture in the amount of $31.4 million.

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