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."