Dearborn residents and workers gave their input Wednesday in what future development surrounding the city's Intermodal Passenger Rail Station will look like—including suggestions for increasing walkability, local business, and green space.
The city hosted a forum as part of Transit-Oriented Development, a process under the Michigan State Housing Development Authority under the MIPlace Partnership.
TOD is a process by which municipalities build their community around a transportation hub—in this case, the train station. The project is centered on creating a vibrant district for living and working, as well as ensuring that the space is sustainable, pedestrian-friendly, and welcoming to a diverse range of residents and visitors.
Dearborn’s TOD district extends a quarter-mile radius from the train station.
"It's very interactive," explained Michigan State University School of Planning, Design and Construction professor Warren Rauhe, who facilitated Wednesday's discussion. "We share ideas; we literally draw on the fly ... and together develop a vision; a conceptual plan for the area."
MSU, in partnership with the Michigan Municipal League, is helping to facilitate the process.
Suggestions collected Wednesday will be melded into the TOD design. A three-day session Jan. 17-19 will further develop the plan, leading to a community presentation and finally, a full report in June 2013 with specific design and planning recommendations.
Rouhe asked the dozens of participants in Wednesday's session to think about not only physical structures, but also non-physical qualities they'd like to see in the district—such as the character and events happening.
"Design can enhance things like that to happen, or it can get in the way," he said. "It looks great, but it will never support the things that are near and dear to you."
As such, the session asked participants to share the things they love and are proud of in Dearborn. The list ran the gamut, from city services and tight-knit neighborhoods to the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, plus a vibrant history and culture scene.
"You can live here, work here, play here—and go to school here," one participant shared.
"We value history and heritage," another attendee added, "but we also value innovation."
Participants shared that they would like to see numerous developments in the TOD area, extending into west downtown Dearborn and the city as a whole.
Ideas included a general consensus to develop and revive shopping and business; continuing to make Dearborn a leader in green technology; slowing down Michigan Avenue or even adding on-street parking; and making the district more walkable and bicycle-friendly.
Dearborn Historical Museum, which is in the district—said he'd like to see visitors welcomed to the area as "a nice, friendly, warm place to go."
Others suggested that the TOD district needed to be used to lure visitors into other parts of the city—such as the colleges, the Henry Ford, and west downtown.
"I'm interested in the station," a participant commented. "But what I'm more interested in is reviving west downtown Dearborn."
Residents with further ideas are asked to email Julie Smith with the Michigan Municipal League at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you think the TOD district and west downtown need? Add your ideas in the comments.