Dearborn Advances Toward Sale of City Hall to Artspace

City Council approved a motion to allow the city to create a letter of intent to sell the building to Artspace developers.

Dearborn city leaders took a big step toward the eventual sale of facilities Wednesday night. In a special meeting, City Council approved a motion that will allow the city to create a letter of intent to sell the historic property to art-based developer Artspace.

The letter will identify Artspace "exclusively ... as the party we’re negotiating with," Mayor Jack O'Reilly said.

Artspace, working in conjunction with the , intends to turn the building into that could include performance areas, living space and areas for artists to work on their crafts.

Artspace expressed interest in the property as one of dozens of possible site for the project. The intent to sell to Artspace has been spearheaded by Mayor O'Reilly, who has been an outspoken proponent of the move.

However, speeding up the process was a letter sent by Artspace to the city on March 30, "which indicates that they'd really like to buy City Hall," said City Attorney Debra Walling.

“They can’t seek grant funding unless they have a commitment that the city is prepared to go forward,” added O'Reilly.

The letter of intent was supported by Councilmembers Mark Shooshanian, Robert Abraham, David Bazzy and Suzanne Sareini. Council President Tom Tafelski opposed the motion.

Councilmembers Nancy Hubbard and Brian O'Donnell were not present.

Tafelski said after the meeting that he felt that "the timing isn't right" for the sale, and that he does not believe that it's in the best interest of residents.

The letter of intent would specify that the city is selling the building as-is condition, given that it is in need of significant repairs to its roof and parking structure.

"We’ve identified a lot of deficiencies in this building," O'Reilly said. "The purchaser would have to bring it up to code."

Artspace has indicated that they would perserve it as a historic building.

"They're looking to rehabilitate it, bt not knock it down and rebuild," clarified Michael Bewick, director of the EDDDA.

The letter would also specify that the use of the property would have to be for a live/work space for artists; that Artspace would have to preserve at least the east wing of the building; and that grounds would be maintain.

The letter will expire 180 days from the date it becomes effective, and allow time for Artspace to apply for grants for the project. There will also likely an appraisal of the property–and Artspace has agreed to pay market value–but the city would have the ability to weigh in on the price if they feel like it's unreasonably low.

The ownership and maintenance responsibility of is still up for negotiation.

Also still a major point of discussion is where city offices will relocate to. Mayor O'Reilly supports a move to the ADP headquarters on Michigan Avenue, just west of the .

Supporters of the sale of City Hall said they believe that Artspace will bring new business and a revamped image to east downtown.

"People who come to City Hall don't shop in the neighborhood," commented Bewick.

"We have to create a new image of what Dearborn is," added Bazzy. "All we get is negative press and we have to turn that around."

marooned in Dbn April 06, 2012 at 02:49 PM
And, we also need emergency recall ballots.
Alex Talbot April 06, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Governments produce nothing; they consume hard working tax payer moneys, without much accountability. 1) City was crying broke, needed to cover a 20 million + deficit, so they layoff at least 1/3 of city staff, make many employees take huge pay cuts, and silently give 6 digit pay raises to all department heads. 2) City fleece's/ bamboozles taxpayers for more money to cover library, pool closings, etc....but on the city website doesn't guarantee the funds will go to those projects. 3) City behind the scenes is setting up a SAD of Special assessment now to cover pools, so the money voted for in the millage was BS. 4) City is building a multi-million dollar train station for what? 5) City is going to sell City Hall to an Art Studio, when it just cried poor, downsized it's staff, gave 6 digit pay raises to its department heads and now it's going to spend 20 million plus on a building that's 87,000 sq ft? I thought the city down sized and was broke. (scratches head) 6) When the Performing Arts building was initially approved by city voters it was only suppose to cost around $23 million, but wound up costing over $60 million and what do we have now? A building that the city can't manage, doesn't fully utilize, and costs $500,000 a month just in utilities to run. Why the hell didn't they build city hall into the performing arts building back then? I have two words " Rogue Government"
Pat Niedermeyer April 06, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Silvio Davis April 07, 2012 at 02:33 AM
The main question about this Artspace company is.Have they done there research for this location? Is there a demand for Artists to rent this space out, show there work, money to come in, profitable, attract people here etc.Goodwill has all these numbers available and we have denied them 3 times already.But the Mayor is moving toward the sale of City hall so the Tax payers can buy him a new office down the street? Why not keep the building, have them buy the building down Michigan that the Mayor wants.Does Dearborn own that building down by the Library? This is a problem with a lot of facilities in Dearborn, no preventable maintenance is done properly, A $40,000 mistake was made in 2011 because proper preventable maintenance was not done correctly at Crowley pool. Come on, for a city that is struggling to keep families here and businesses here the mayor should be focusing on building up Dearborn with legitmate businesses and working on what we already have here in Dearborn. Dearborn was one day a great city to live in. Invest the time and money in progressing the people's wants within the city lines. Nothing against Art, but come on we have all kinds of Museum's right here in Dearborn,one that is on the chopping block to be closed. Art work is nice, but will it survive and bring in traffic to Dearborn. My opinion is no. The Mayor has made many decisions in the last few years then this city can afford, lets not have him make another screw up that will cost this city more money.
Frank Lee April 07, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Silvio spot on!!
Alex Talbot April 07, 2012 at 03:48 AM
"Supporters of the sale of City Hall said believe that Artspace will bring new business and a revamped image to west downtown." Are they Fricken Kidding US What supporters? The handful of blind counsel people that voted for this future financial fiscal. I can see it now. I envision myself planning a shopping spree at Old City Hall, with all the extra money left over, from BS Taxes and special assessments (SAD), then spending all that money in Downtown East Dearborn, because of the new Mega Magnet Art Gallery. I know this is just a bad dream and I am going to wake up from this nightmare soon.
kim stanton April 07, 2012 at 12:09 PM
I foresee a future abandoned building! Who is Artspace really? In what other communities has something like this been done? I am so happy we moved 11 years ago!
Kathy April 07, 2012 at 01:38 PM
You are all asking who is artspace, will there be an abandoned building etc. Google people. http://www.artspace.org/about/ This group started in Minneapolis in the 1970s and has set up nationally. I live in the neighborhood near city hall and have been following the story of artspace looking for a building for a long time now. I am anxious to have artists in the neighborhood. U of M-D will be building dorms, artists not only working but living in the area all sound like good news to me. Dearborn should finally be seen and marketed as a college town. This group would host events bringing people to the area. I think city hall would be a beautiful space for them with the large windows letting in light. I have not seen the financial info which should be shared with citizens. How much is city hall being sold for? How much will the ADP building cost? In newspaper articles in recent months I've read that they expect the price of the ADP building to be lowered and were waiting for that to happen. Let's also remember that the city has a building fund as does the school board. The money should be coming from those funds, not any other department. I agree with much that has been said in the comments, I just hope we can be open minded, not something Dearborn has a reputation for.
Rich April 07, 2012 at 01:44 PM
While it's really all been said, my really big issue is that the city 'thinks' (I know - they don't really think) that they should be allowed to sell their property is an 'as is' condition. When ANYONE else in this $@^&#* city wants to sell theirs, they are CONSTANTLY hassled by REPEATED inspections from different inspectors each time (and charging for each inspection I'm sure). I am so glad that before the end of the year, my residence AND my business will be out of this @#%@*% city.
Peder Blohm April 07, 2012 at 01:57 PM
I can buy the argument that City Hall needs a lot of investments to be functional in today’s tech world, and that major repairs are needed, but this is not the way to “hit the city taxpayers over the head” The questions and answers that should have been communicated to the residents include: Who is Art Space? Where are other Art Space buildings? And how successful are these? Have the City or Art Space done a feasibility study on having City Hall converted to an Art community? And what is the result? What is the selling price of City Hall? And have Art Space proposed and presented a plan for conversion, renovations of City Hall to studios and galleries? And what is the investment Art Space is committing to? What is the cost of the new proposed building? What additional cost is budgeted for renovation, making it feasible for City administration to move in? And what is the cost for the physical move? Will Dearborn Schools administration move to the new building? And what is the budget and renovations for that move? What is the time line for the proposed move? These are some of the information that should have been given to the residents; we have a City Communication Department that should have gone out and talked to people in open meetings and all other ways of communication by social media, press releases and other means of communication. Remember, City Hall is the heart of the city.
Abu Ali April 07, 2012 at 02:35 PM
What? Keep it up to the taxpayers of Dearborn to vote for this sale. This is our right if we want to sell city hall since its going to cost us the tax payers a boat load of money just to move into the ADP building. This about all the fixing the ADP building is going to need and all the new furniture, computers, desks, and so on. They should take time and sit back, listen to other ideas before they make this decision without our permission, even though we the tax payers are footing the bill for the move.
Alex Talbot April 07, 2012 at 02:35 PM
@ Peder One thing I will agree with is the City of Dearborn needs to be transparent, in large and small financial decisions, they are suppose to represent the majority. The City Hall has had so many Multi-Million dollar failures that have been pushed under the rug that most of the general public will never know, until we end up with an emergency manager. What the is wrong with the current school administrative building? Most of Dearborn's citizens are blindly accepting more debt, without looking at the past accumulated debt and getting starry eyed about a rosy picture being painted. The main problem and mentality that cause our current Depression is and was debt that people, government, and corporations could not pay for, then defaulted on. But I guess if people think it's OK to spend, spend, spend, then default on debt and scam the system then sell City Hall and expand. If City Hall would have conserved and saved money, in the past, then they would have had plenty of money to buy this building and make the move, but the fact is they are extremely poor money managers and spend more than they have, thus the current deficit. So I ask fellow citizens, in times of huge debt and financial crisis do you personally spend, or do you tighten your belts?
Kathy April 07, 2012 at 03:02 PM
There have been several articles in the Press & Guide about Artspace and those of us in East Dbn have recieved mailings from the EDDDA about the search for a building for artspace to locate. They looked at several spots and city hall was their top choice. From there it' s up to the city to decide whether to sell or not. Remember these artists will live in the city too. Surveys were done of local artists to determine if there was enough interest to make it work. Whether city hall is the best location, I don't know. I do know i'll be hanging out the welcome banner to the artists.
JohnnyChristmas April 07, 2012 at 05:38 PM
They have done their research, and there is a market for affordable housing and workspace for artists in Dearborn. They did a pretty well-publicized survey about a year ago, asking local artists and arts-based businesses for their input. There was an overwhelming desire for something like Artspace provides. That being said, this plan to sell city hall is absolutely insane. There are plenty of other historic and underutilized properties in this city. Why in heaven's name is our mayor (and city council) doing this? Whenever the mayor does something stupid, I keep saying "This is the last straw." This might just be it. Will someone please pull recall petitions on this guy? He may have the greatest ideas in the world, but he has absolutely NO ability to sell them to the public. He spends millions on private companies to survey us, then he just makes an announcement as to what he is going to do. He has zero ability to relate to the public he has been elected to serve. Politicians can't just push through huge changes (pools, libraries, selling city hall) without a good public message and expect NOt to piss people off. O'Reilly is an example of a politician who has never learned how to build a consensus or coalition to make anything happen. He has always won his elections because of his name. It's about time he learn what happens when he does things people don't like. He does NOT have carte blanche to do whatever he wants. He has never learned this.
JohnnyChristmas April 07, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Peter, the mayor and his administration just have no concept of public relations. You're right, all of these things should have been answered prior to the roll-out of this story to the media. The mayor is currently acting as if he has no accountability, and up to this point in his political career, he hasn't. He just DOES, and gets re-elected without a hitch. I have a feeling that's going to change in 2013. Or maybe sooner.
JohnnyChristmas April 07, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Kathy, I agree Artspace is a great development for the future of our city, and I am personally looking forward to having a community of artists (and students) calling Dearborn home. I am not convinced, however that City Hall is the place it needs to be, and what angers me is that no one in the city's administration thinks it's worth their time to explain to the residents WHY this is the best option, or even give us an idea of what the other options are. I have been following the Artspace story since day one, I've attended public meetings with Artspace reps, I've read their reports. And I was still smacked upside the head by this story about "selling city hall." This is no way to run a city. My wife and I are starting to regret returning here and purchasing a home. I have absolutely no confidence in this mayor to do anything productive, fair, just or open. He just does what he wants, and WILL NOT ACCEPT DISSENT from the residents. He's a bully and has been since his screaming matches with Mayor Guido when he was council president. I remember watching council meetings and when he didn't get his way, he was absolutely terrifying. His face would turn red and he would scream It should be no surprise to anyone that he is governing from the mayor's chair the exact same way he did from the council president's chair.
Kathy April 07, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Maybe O'Reilly is not planning to run again and is pushing his agenda thru before his time in office runs out. If this has to happen, I wish there was a building for city hall that looked like a city hall. Dearborn is home to Greenfield Village, it's a historic city and the city hall should reflect that. The ADP building is just another dumpy looking office buildiing with no character. At some point soon, they are going to have to roll out some figures on the price tag for city hall, for the ADP building and for the amount of $$$ required to turn ADP into city hall.
Donna Hay April 07, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Kathy, is this wishful thinking on your part??
Dave Gorden April 08, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Well, "marooned". it's not much of a secret anymore.
Dave Gorden April 08, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Perhaps the media should have asked all of the above questions before "printing" the announcement.
Dave Gorden April 08, 2012 at 11:18 AM
No negative connotations to "wishful thinking", of course.
JohnnyChristmas April 09, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Dave, it's not the media's job to convince residents that this is a good idea. If O'Reilly wants people to support this plan, he needs to do that work himself. For one thing, the last I checked, his PR staff makes a hell of a lot more than your average editorial room.
Kent Gartner April 09, 2012 at 07:07 PM
One thing that's confused me, is if the ADT building is so great, why doesn't art space want it?
Jim April 11, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Remember these people at election time. This mayor and his RUBBER STAMP council have got to go!
Frank Lee April 11, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Kent Gartner has a great point
MJ April 30, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Most of the articles are in the Times Herald who just happens to be across the street from city hall and who's owner, Mike Bewick, happened to be hired by the city to work at the EDDDA. And also manages to never be penalized for the code violations in his office. There are many more folks that will come out in the wash of this dirty laundry. And maybe you should check out the crime issues related to the Artspace in Pittsburg. Oh that's right lets hide that under the rug too. Ask the seniors of our community what our mayors first career was....it will give you Kwame flashbacks.
MJ April 30, 2012 at 07:29 PM
The mayor has put in place a group of yes men that do what ever he wants. Dave happens to own Kenwahl steel and I hate to say it but I bet he doesn't have to worry about code violations now. This is a historic city and the current city hall represents that fact. If we really must move then why are we buying a building? What about the library? We own that and it has character and would look much better then that abandoned monstrosity. What a shame to watch our city slowly fail.
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