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Dearborn's Train Station District—What Would You Add?

Residents added their suggestions to the plan for Transit-Oriented Development at a forum Wednesday evening.

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 juliehalessmith@gmail.com.

What do you think the TOD district and west downtown need? Add your ideas in the comments.

Donna Hay December 13, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Anyone know who has the final approval of the final recommendations?
Lee Jacobsen December 13, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Donna, the city planners, based on input from us, figure it out. My views?? Restore life/hope to the shops. Downtown Dearborn does not need or want commuters who put the car into drive mode, and come back to reality when they arrive at work, ignoring all else. Downtown stores need folk whose destination is downtown to eat, shop, mingle, etc. If you want to get to work fast, use Ford Rd, I-94, or other roads that are more efficient. (not Garrison). If you worked in Ypsilanti, would you take Michigan ave through Wayne, etc or just take I-94? Exactly!! When you want to go shopping at interesting places, and not go to work, then venture onto Michigan Ave in Dearborn. It could be another 'Its a Wonderful Life' ? Bedford Falls? Lot's of walking about and activity, from both the front and back of stores. That activity attracts stores to establish themselves to cater to folk, and isn't that what we want, a vibrant Downtown, rather than bars and a few restaurants that manage to catch a commuter on the way home from work who needs a drink and parks in back? Try trolling the free parking lot in front of the Men's Warehouse or Mongolians, it is always packed and those businesses are thriving. The rest of Dearborn could be the same way, slow moving and busy. If you want to just get to work fast, make sure you find another way . If you want to enjoy Dearborn's shops, then venture on Michigan Ave. The customer base is not commuters, it is the neighborhood, and eventually train folk.
M. Imsosure December 13, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Michigan Ave. is a US Highway. It is not Dearborns private drive for shoppers. SOME commuters could take a few extra miles to use other routes. I am sure the people who use Mich. are very aware of alternate streets but, the Ave. is their shortest and fastest route. I am tired of people (Doug Thomas) who want to slow it down even more that it is.
Michael D. Albano December 13, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Lee, everything you're stating about reviving/revitalizing west downtown I absolutely agree with. ""I'm interested in the station," a participant commented. "But what I'm more interested in is reviving west downtown Dearborn." I was the one, along with others that stated pretty much the same as the previous comment. While I'm all for the Transportation Center, I believe the more important factor with it, is that it helps initially reviving west downtown. Then eventually I hope it can also help revive east downtown and other parts of the city.
Dominic Raona December 13, 2012 at 05:24 PM
The train station definitely needs a Rental Car Company to have an office on premise. As an Amtrak traveler, one of the most difficult obstacles for train travelers is renting a car when they get to their destinations. In some cities my family has had to take a bus or a cab to the airport to rent a car.
POWDERBURNER December 13, 2012 at 05:34 PM
And don't forget the rail spur for FEMA cattle cars. After all, we're stuck with obongo for 4 more years. Nothing like mass transit to his prisons for the patriots that are left.
Lee Jacobsen December 13, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Dominic, it was suggested that the car dealerships could handle rentals, using their brands of course! Folk would arrive by train, lease a car to drive around, and , who knows, drive back home instead of taking the train! The car dealerships are easily within walking distance, or could provide a courtesy shuttle.
Lee Jacobsen December 13, 2012 at 06:48 PM
M.....regarding Michigan Ave, it is indeed a US Highway, and as long as anyone can drive it, that's acceptable. Slowing it down breaks no laws. Of course, some cities like Wayne slow it down a lot, to 25 or 30 mph, and allow parallel parking, and the downtown business benefits as a result. We can do the same thing. Forget Garrison as an alternative. Not practical. Serious commuters could take alternate , faster routes, most do and bypass Wayne when going to Ypsi, A2 , and beyond. For those with computer navigation and request speed, the expressways are the obvious choice that appears on the screen. 2 minutes south is I-94. 2 minutes north is Ford rd. The majority of remaining traffic that do use Michigan ave are there to visit, and those are the ones the City of Dearborn wants and needs. Parallel parking also adds a traffic buffer to the masses of folk that are anticipated to use the sidewalks. Businesses will have to open their front entrances again. Bikers will be ringing their bells like crazy to get through, and will heed the request to use the bike racks in the back of the stores. Since the parallel parking is 30 minutes max and free, longer minded shoppers will flock to the already existing parking structures, and save the parking ticket for validation from many participating shops. Congestion in downtown Dearborn is a good thing, and will be fun. Folk can sit on the benches and people watch again. Aren't you tired of empty store fronts? I sure am!
Lee Jacobsen December 13, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Dominic, I am sure the car dealerships will handle this aspect. What a perfect opportunity to sell their cars! They will rent them to folk like you, anticipating that you may enjoy the car so much that they will skip the train ride back, and even give you credit for your return train ticket. Shuttle vehicles sent from the Dealerships to the welcome center will compete for your business, a simple press of the button will summon one with the brand of your choice. Want a Ford, Chevy, Honda? Dearborn is big and diverse enough to have them all, and near the train station as well. The more enterprising bike folk will provide bike rentals, and even rental Rickashaws to move Grandma around, The Dearborn trolley bus may even be brought back.! All this will make those empty storefronts disappear quickly, as potential customers now have a transportation system, and stores have a reason for opening and renting space, with a strong customer base from the neighborhood and masses of folk from around the state and world via the train, and of course, Greenfield Village and The Henry Ford , visitors that now have simple and easy access to Downtown Dearborn, East and West, but more West for now as that is where the nucleus for this study exists, the train station of course..

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