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."

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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