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Moving Dearborn City Hall? Not a New Idea

Documents from the 1960s and '70s show conversations about moving City Hall, as well as combining Dearborn Public Schools and city offices.

The impending sale of –as well as the possible consolidation of city and Dearborn Public Schools offices–has drawn skepticism from residents, as well as City Council President Tom Tafelski.

City officials this month approved a plan to Artspace, a national company .

The immediate result has been a heated debate over whether the move is a good one for the city.

But what’s surprising is just how far back the debate goes.

Documents from a "Joint City-School Building Committee” from August 1967 focus on the feasibility of consolidating the city and school offices into the Dearborn Civic Center.

The findings of the committee were that “some type of combined usage would be possible,” especially concerning public space, equipment rooms, and meeting space for small conferences, as well as for City Council and the Board of Education meetings.

The committee also found that the potential for savings was high for both the city and schools.

“The biggest economic saving would be involved in those areas in which combined facilities or operations would, in fact, result in a complete elimination of duplication of space and facilities,” the committee wrote in the study.

The committee noted that purchasing efforts could also be consolidated, thus saving money.

“Just how far the matter of joint facilities can be carried rests largely with the degree of cooperation that exists between the school board and the city,” the committee added. “It is largely a matter of desire.”

As with present day discussions, the city felt that that moving City Hall and DPS in line with other city services would be appealing to residents.

Movement on the matter stalled for a number of years, but a $2.7 million federal grant given to the city in 1977 to be used to build a municipal office building renewed the debate.

At that time, two clear opponents of the move arose: the City Beautiful Commission, and the newly formed .

The DDA went on record “opposing any move of the City Hall from the Michigan-Schaefer location,” according to meeting minutes from Jan. 13, 1978.

Concerns from the district centered around the competition posed by the continued movement of business and residents toward the suburbs, compounded with the opening of the Fairlane Town Center.

Mayor John B. O’Reilly stated, “the heart of East Dearborn is at Michigan Avenue and Schaefer.”

In contrast, the current East Dearborn DDA has been the driving force behind Artspace, which named City Hall as its No. 1 choice for the Dearborn location.

Supporters of the sale said they believe that the live/work space for artists will revitalize east downtown, bringing foot traffic to the area in a way City Hall cannot.

The future location of City Hall has not been determined, but Mayor Jack O’Reilly has stated he supports the possibility of moving city offices to the former ADP headquarters on Michigan Avenue, just west of the .

Dearborn Public Schools officials that they were definitely planning to consolidate their offices with the city, saying that the move was just a possibility–not a set plan.

Next Gen April 24, 2012 at 01:32 PM
There is some sort of ailment with Wayne County politicians, and unfortunately there is not much that the voters of Wayne County can do to find a cure. This ailment is the unchecked power and spending discretion bestowed to our Mayor and County Executive. (I think we all know our County Executive's issues.) In a time of great cutbacks and privatization, and a recent Dearborn mileage to add to the supposedly weak city coffers, our Mayor found money to abandon historic City Hall, and move a few miles to the west side. I thought the City was broke? It seems the Mayor is selectively funding his priorities like fall leaf pickup, Camp Dearborn, and a City Hall closer to his home. How many other loyal, hardworking, and caring Dearborn residents feel hoodwinked by the Mayor? The ailment cannot be solved when the political process (err...machine?) is broken. The Mayor and County Executive have little competition for their jobs. Few candidates would dare try to unseat a longtime name in Dearborn, and a longtime henchman of the McNamara machine.
Donna Hay April 24, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Do you happen to know when the city received this grant? Am I correct in assuming that this 2.7 mil. can only be used on city hall? Seems to me that the mayor has had this move in the works for some time now. To the taxpayers out there that are saying, that's OK with me it won't be any of the money I'm paying for my city taxes because it's a federal grant, just remember if your paying federal taxes you are paying for this!
City of Dearborn (Editor) April 24, 2012 at 01:40 PM
The grant mentioned is in reference to the federal dollars the city received in 1977 to be used for a municipal building. It was used to build the annex. Sorry if that was confusing!
Abu Ali April 24, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Change is good and also can be bad. The city should put this up for a vote so residents of Dearborn can decide.
Donna Hay April 24, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Sorry Jessica it wasn't confusing I just read it wrong, thanks.
Frank Lee April 24, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Next Gen you are one 100% correct. The process is broken. The city of Dearborn citizens and business exist to serve the machine. No example is better of this entitlement mentality than Jim Oconner claiming our Fire Department does not generate enough revenue. What type of fool considers our public safety, a revenue generating source. Government exists to serve the common good. Oreilly and his rodeo clowns see government as their personal playground and status. Boy how far have we degenerated as a body politick at every level. At a time when our city is eliminating services to children and seniors, it is handing out generous tax abatments to politically connected corporations, building bigger less efficient beurocratic projects, and seriously considering taking on millions of dollars in debt to build a city hall. Citizens voted to maintain our services not to serve the politicians.
Bob April 25, 2012 at 06:45 PM
I agree with all of the previous comments. I thought the City was broke too and that's why they HAD to close Snow Branch Library…they HAD to close Whitmore Bolles pool…they HAD to close Hemlock pool…they HAD to have the money for the general millage and the library millage to simply function at a basic level. Now that the millage has passed, it seems like the Mayor has all kinds of money to spend. It’s funny we didn’t hear about selling City Hall BEFORE the millage. Personally, I would rather see City remain City Hall. And I would really like to know when we're going to see these “numbers” that show much more it would cost to "fix" whatever is wrong with City Hall and how much more it's going to save to move to a new building. It seems to me if they move to the ADP building they would basically need to remodel the entire building to suit their needs. How is this cheaper than staying in City Hall? Also, we haven't heard from the schools since the letter of intent was issued. Are they planning on moving now too? I’m all for Artspace to come to Dearborn, I just don’t believe City Hall is the best choice of locations. It’s my understanding they were originally looking at 24 potential project locations and then they narrowed it down to 10. I’m assuming it’s because of the Mayor that City Hall became their number one choice. I agree with Abu Ali, the City should let the citizens vote on this one.
Gilda Tamburro July 17, 2012 at 11:22 AM
In my view, Dearborn no longer has areas that fall under the category of historic sites or locations. Including the Ford Historic Homes. We have been asked to view these areas as simply old homes that no longer suit the needs of today's needs. Therefore, are worth as much. Why spend money fixing a "historic" site when the perception is that it's more cost effective to move to a newer site? Why should families invest in "historic" Dearborn when they have the option of moving to a newer and better location?

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