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Report: Dearborn Train Station District Needs More Walkability, Residents

Residents and visitors are asked to give their input on housing, sustainability and economic plans for the area at a Dec. 12 forum.

Dearborn residents will get the chance this month to have their say in plans for development near Dearborn’s Intermodal Passenger Rail Station.

A Dec. 12 forum on Transit Oriented Development and ask for resident input on planning for future economic, housing and environmental developments surrounding the train station.

Global Green Report: More Pedestrians, Housing Needed

As construction began last summer on the federally funded train station, Dearborn was also .

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.

Global Green’s recently released study—which extends further into west downtown but encompasses the TOD district—examines ways in which the city can improve the area’s appeal and use in sustainable ways.

Download the full report from the City of Dearborn website.

Among their observations, explained Jessica Turner of the city’s Planning Department, Global Green felt that the district needs to be more pedestrian friendly, have more downtown housing, as well as encourage higher environmental standards for new and existing developments.

“This is ultimately building a future that’s … more environmentally responsible,” Turner explained, adding that the city “should promote housing developments … particularly student housing.”

Ideas for the district included both specific and general recommendations:

  • West downtown, as a district, should extend to the train station
  • Eliminating the right-hand turn lane at Michigan Avenue onto Brady Street to make the crossing safer for pedestrians and bicyclists
  • Planting more trees
  • Developing a defined bicycle plan for the district
  • Long term, creating on-street parking on Michigan Avenue in west downtown, as well as a “bike share” program with drop off/pick up stations near downtown
  • Filling in “empty” space—such as at Michigan and Brady, or near the parking decks on West Village Drive—with student housing

“There’s no need for any further non-residential development,” Turner said, “yet the area could benefit from a larger residential population.”

Residents: What Do You Think?

The next step in the process is gauging residents’ feelings on the proposals, which will be done at the Dec. 12 TOD forum.

The forum will be in Studio A at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center from 5:30-7:30 p.m., and will include food and the possibility of prizes.

Though TOD is not a familiar concept to most, Dearborn Economic and Community Development Department Barry Murray said he hopes the concept won’t deter residents from joining in the conversation.

“Please come and share your ideas about how the west Dearborn area can capitalize on the benefits of having a major train station in one of our downtowns, and how we can build on our community’s traditions to generate a unique sense of place,” Murray urged. “It’s meant to be fun, while at the same time giving people a chance to speak up about what they think should be included in the future development of west Dearborn neighborhoods and business areas.”

The forum is open to all, including residents throughout Dearborn, business owners, and those who work and go to school in Dearborn.

A three-day forum on TOD will take place in January.

Supporting the event through door prizes, food and beverages are: Joe Vicari’s Andiamo Italian Steakhouse, Bailey’s Pub & Grille, BD's Mongolian Grill, L.A. Bistro, Merle Norman, Sophia’s Giftique, Starbucks, The Post Bar, Westborn Market and PizzaPapalis.

Correction: This article originally stated that the TOD district extends to Military Street. This is incorrect.

V Jensen December 04, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Student housing? What students are you refering to?
Seymour Poon December 04, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Santa Monica-based Global Green USA is the American affiliate of Green Cross International, founded by ***President Gorbachev***, to foster a global value shift toward a sustainable and secure future. Global Green prides itself on this achievement: An archive with information about our past projects to help green cities: City Carbon Index in Los Angeles. As a part-time Los Angeleno, the City Carbon Index is completely unknown locally and likely means more taxes heaped on businesses. What is known: Is that Santa Monica has gone beyond sensibility with shared-lanes on the streets. There are "sharrows" painted everywhere. Recent legislation prohibits motorists from coming within 3 feet of a cyclist. Somehow, all of the responsibility accrues to the driver as your license plate can be reported to the police by cyclists, whereas the cyclists have no identifying markings and cannot be reported for riding on sidewalks, etc. Keep in mind, that Santa Monica has a mild climate and biking is a year-round activity - not so much in Dearborn. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR.
Margaret Schaefer December 04, 2012 at 02:42 PM
The students at U of M/D. They've purchased buildings from Ford Motor Land on Evergreen, on the west side of the Fairlane Town Center
bitsy08 December 04, 2012 at 02:48 PM
1)Take out the right turn at Brady? That will make a mess of the traffic. 2) Put in on-street parking on Michigan Avenue? I thought we just took it out. That would also compound the traffic problem. If you want to bring people in to downtown Dearborn, you need to put in stores that sell items people want. And then you need to do away with the paid parking. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't go to Dearborn for this very reason - unless I absolutely have to. I go to Westborn which has its own lot. I wanted to go to one of the bars one evening and paid in the lot, only to find that the bar didn't start cooking dinner for another 2 hours. Money lost.
City of Dearborn (Editor) December 04, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Global Green's report suggests even more student housing beyond the current, perhaps at Brady and Michigan. Do you think there will be a need for more?
City of Dearborn (Editor) December 04, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Here's a link to the full Global Green report: http://www.cityofdearborn.org/city-departments/city-plan/reports
Seymour Poon December 04, 2012 at 04:28 PM
What does all the bicycle infrastructure have to do the with the new train station? I take Amtrak frequently to and from Chicago, so I welcome a station closer to the neighborhood, but there is zero use for a bicycle in conjunction with taking a passenger train. Amtrak is not light commuter rail and if it devolves to such for day trips to Ann Arbor, Dearborn residents seeking a seat for travel to Kalamazoo and points west will be bumped off by commuters. Don't get me started on the bicycle sharing (rental) program, which are stalled in large metropolitan areas like Chicago and New York: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/14315965-418/citys-bike-sharing-program-delayed-until-next-year.html. These concepts are urban planner fantasies that will only end badly (cost overruns and implementing bike lanes) in cold weather climates.
City of Dearborn (Editor) December 04, 2012 at 05:35 PM
The Global Green report focuses specifically on sustainable efforts within the district, while TOD looks at the bigger picture. So the idea is that all those factors - being a green district, being walkable/bikeable, more business, etc. - would entice people to visit or live in Dearborn, which is what ties into the train station. The city hopes to see Dearborn become a "destination," as well as a place where residents can hop on a train to head out to Ann Arbor or Chicago for a weekend, or even a class at U of M. Your comments about the biking-related aspects of this are very interesting. Do you think making Dearborn a bicycle-friendly city would be a waste of funds that wouldn't pay off?
Seymour Poon December 04, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Who doesn't want to Dearborn to become a destination with interesting walkable streets? The problem with this "green" agenda is that is the focus is on the wrong green. Dearborn needs to focus on green as in the color of money, which is what the downtown areas of Birmingham and Royal Oak have done - not bike lanes and commuter rail. Enticing businesses to Dearborn is achieved by making it easy and attractive to locate or start a business not by removing existing paved thoroughfares to create bike lanes and shared lanes. Communities claiming some degree of bicycle-friendliness are located in semi-arid Mediterranean climates like California. In mild climates, bicycling is dependable transportation, whereas the Great Lakes are blessed with fresh water due to copious amounts of precipitation as well as frigid winters. Dearborn would be wise to walk before it runs...er, bikes. Keep in mind that the Global Green folks headquartered in Santa Monica live in a different world. Santa Monica is blessed with ocean beachfront where bicycle rentals along the bike paths ARE a business http://www.labikepaths.com/bike-paths/santa-monica-venice/. We're talking Dearborn here. Bike paths along the Rouge River and around Ford Field - fine. Taking a precious traffic lane from Michigan Avenue for bikes is a nutty idea.
Seymour Poon December 04, 2012 at 06:45 PM
BTW, where would this notion of commuter rail run? As it stands today, Amtrak between Dearborn and Chicago is chronically late (usually 45 minutes to an hour) in either direction due to contention with Burlington freight trains over the existing tracks. While a welcome addition, the new station will not make the trains run on time. Be advised; Amtrak is not well suited for commuter needs. This is why Chicago's light rail is provided by the CTA, Metra and South Shore lines: http://metrarail.com/content/metra/en/home/maps_schedules/metra_system_map.html.
LHB December 04, 2012 at 07:22 PM
HFCC, UofM - Dearborn
Dearborn Taxpayer December 04, 2012 at 07:37 PM
It's interesting how the city seems to make it more difficult for those who currently own "rental homes" in Dearborn (i.e. already providing housing units to young families and even some students) by having us pay to register the homes as rentals and putting us through onerous inspections while also paying high non-homestead taxes. Yet, they welcome businesses who are have never done business in Dearborn by fast-traking their projects through the city permit process and granting gernerous tax abatements. I'm all for new housing options in Dearborn, but I'm also for being fair and welcoming to those of us who have made Dearborn our homes and provide rental homes to others for many years now.
LHB December 04, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Having experienced the bike-sharing business in Minneapolis, I know it exists in cold-weather locations. I intend to research the profitability and usability of the program in Mpls. Even if that business is not viable for Dearborn, I KNOW the bike path, bike lane concepts would be wonderful assets to the livability of this city. I would certainly welcome this, just as I did in Chicago, where as a driver, I was aware of the significant bike traffic and watched for bike lanes. As far as the Michigan Ave west-end business district, bicycle traffic could be directed to lanes on parallel streets of Garrison or Newman/West Village Drive if bike lanes on Main drag would not be safe enough in our car-centric town. Having to obey laws and respect pedestrians and cyclists would definately be a learning curve experience for the car-drivers of this area - and the wrong-side-of-the-road bicyclists.
Seymour Poon December 04, 2012 at 08:07 PM
LHB - I lived in downtown Minneapolis and the Twin Cities topography invites bicycling with the river and 5 attractive lakes http://www.minneapolis.org/sites/default/files/u7/pdfs/Mpls-Trails.pdf. What does Dearborn offer in a comparable way? Do you envision biking from Dearborn to the casinos or Taylor or Westland or 8 Mile Road? Moreover, the Twin Cities experience less precipitation but colder average temperatures. You get more sunshine in the winter in Minneapolis, but the cold temperatures maintain the snow cover. For this reason, Minneapolis also offers the Skyway connecting buildings downtown http://www.skywaymyway.com/.
Lee Jacobsen December 04, 2012 at 08:17 PM
When an out of town visitor gets off the train at the new Dearborn station, and wants to check out the area, what options are there? A taxi stand? Rental agencies for cars? Rental antique cars, carriages,? Rental bikes? Smart buses? A trolley? My point is that the train brings the visitors to a certain point, the city of Dearborn has to figure out how to get those visitors to the area attractions. Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford are pretty much set, but what about the rest of the city? How do folk get around after they leave the train? Are there lockers for storing their stuff? Plus, it all needs to be 'green'.....
Marci December 05, 2012 at 12:15 AM
I agree first and foremost a plan for tourist transportation should be part of the train station planning. What happened to the "Gateway" plan for west Dearborn? How can the city expect to have bike paths on or near Michigan ave - the traffic cannot even be controlled at present. It is like a freeway. Also what about Dearborn police cars speeding 80 mph at least once a week. Planning "after the fact" is poor planning for bike paths and pedestrians. If we wish to implement a green plan it starts with recycling programs for businesses, and simply cleaning up the trash on Michigan ave and other streets. Promoting green by banning plastic bags over time. Green is a way of life not a few lines on the street for a bike path which likely not be used in the way it is planned. Think about it Dearborn citizens before your sold on it:)))
Your taxes pay my salary December 05, 2012 at 05:47 AM
The last thing I want near my house is student housing. The apartments on Brady are bad enough with all weirdos that live there, student housing would just bring more crime to the area.
Jaded Cynic December 06, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Dearborn needs more walkability? For what?! I admit that trying to cross Michigan Avenue on foot is taking one's life into one's hands, but what are people going to be flocking to Dearborn for? The only things to do here are eat out and get drunk, as the only businesses on Michigan Ave. that seem to stay are restaurants and bars. Unless something unique and worthwhile opens up, the train station is just going to be another stop on the way to Downtown Detroit or Chicago.
Lee Jacobsen December 06, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Cynic, You are putting the cart before the horse. Why should interesting businesses come to Dearborn if customers can't access them? Other communities such as Northville, Plymouth, Farmington have walkability and interesting businesses as a result. Royal Oak in the 60s was a 'loser' city. They slowed down the main thoroughfare, made it pedestrian friendly, and the result is a thriving business climate. If we slow down Michigan ave, allow folks to see the businesses and access them from front and back, we will give a reason for interesting businesses to open their doors, in fact, folk will take the train all the way from Ann Arbor just to visit our city, if we provide the means of access and a reason for them to come. As a cynic, you are not suited to be a business owner, so stick to the 'eat out and get drunk' scenario, Dearborn appreciates your business no matter how you spend your money....and thanks for being a part of this forum....all views count.....
Jaded Cynic December 06, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Lee, You can only have so many Royal Oaks and Ann Arbors. Look at all the empty store fronts in Northville and Plymouth. Take Troy for example. They're a big suburb with lots of businesses without a downtown area. I'm sure people could argue that the Big Beaver corridor is a downtown area, but Troy doesn't have that cool downtown Ann Arbor vibe. What Troy does have is a nice set of posh shopping establishments, restaurants, hotels, etc. They found out how to be the best Troy they could be- it might not be Ann Arbor, but that's OK. We need to learn to be the best Dearborn we can be and stop immitating other cities. It's OK if we don't have the best downtown this side of the Mississippi. We need to find out what works fo us. What I am most cynical about is how are tax dollars are so flippantly thrown around, whether the economy is boom or bust. We're being asked to make an investment in something that is rather high stakes- after all look at the empty most recent developments in downtown west Dearborn. I can't imagine all those empty storefronts are an asset to this city.
bitsy08 December 09, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I'm in agreement with those that say - train to what? There IS NOTHING in Dearborn besides restaurants and bars. Every small business I remember has come and gone. And some, in my opinion, were original and should have remained. I know for a fact that one business moved because of the paid parking. She was livid that even her employees who were paid at minimum wage, had to pay to park. As I said before, I even contacted the Dearborn City Council about free parking for those young workers who were making minimum wage only to be blown off. Dearborn has never been able to sustain "interesting" businesses so far. What makes you think they will be able to now - bike lanes or no. Besides. Do you really have to be that intelligent to know that cutting down on the traffic lanes would be disastrous? Traffic would probably re-route to Ford Road which would then cut down on the flow through the city even more. Seems to me that green would be a nice idea but without the infrastructure already set and working, I think it's too much to ask of a city that's struggling now. As far as our politicians go, you need to watch very closely because it seems to me that ANY politician nowadays has a habit of running over the wants of the citizens to fulfill their own agenda(s).
Michael D. Albano December 09, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Hopefully all of the questions and or complaints will be answered at the meeting at Studio A in The Center on Wednesday, between 5:30 until 7:30pm. Let's all show up to voice our concerns and/or our ideas. I hope to see you there...
Lynn Brewer December 09, 2012 at 08:59 PM
When Fairlane Shopping center went in, West Dearborn's business declined. Muirheads, one of the finest stores you could find any where, closed. Crowley's closed and other stores as well. (I especially miss the Hallmark store) Bicycle paths? SPoon covered that very well. Parking on the street????What happens to all the parking structure? Maybe we can find some answers at the 12th meeting.
Lee Jacobsen December 10, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Lynn, we now have a upscale Goodwill store, so all is not lost. Regarding bikes, we initially just need places to park them, lock them up, so the neighborhood folk can ride a few blocks and enjoy a meal, or do some quick shopping. The only bike path needed would be from the RR station, so outsiders can experience Dearborn. Regarding parking, once we slow down Michigan Ave with free parallel parking, on both sides, leaving two lane traffic and a center left turn lane, interesting stores will reopen due to the increased customer traffic, on foot and via car, and , in decent weather, bikes. With more stores opening, and even more customers, the parking structures will fill up with the overflow. The free parallel parking is simply the 'hook'. If store vouchers for parking happens, that will certainly help matters. Folk shop for a reason, and we need the shops as a reason to attract folk. However, shops need customers to see them, need impulse shoppers to stop and buy things, and an expressway thru downtown Dearborn does not help. Slow the cars down, let them see and stop at the shops, and even more interesting and unique shops will come. Leave it as it is, well, is everyone happy with Dearborn's current stores? Perhaps, but we need more! The stores still with us need reinforcements, more stores to attract more folk, and, in turn, they will help each other with a larger customer base, which is us, and of course all the folk from the RR station. Fantasy? Why not?
bitsy08 December 10, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Oh, my, God. Slow down traffic on Michigan Avenue? That's a MAJOR thoroughfare. Parking on both sides of the street? Are you kidding me? If you did that, I'd make sure I found another way home. I have a niece who works at Ford and she refuses to drive down Michigan Avenue. She takes Ford Road and I'm sure that's what a lot of people would do. So far, all Dearborn has are restaurants. Can it sustain more restaurants? I doubt it. I think this whole thing is wishful thinking. Nice idea but you don't have the infrastructure to sustain the big ideas. Perhaps it would be nice to start with the train station and then move on to other ideas in a few years. I still think that if you inhibit the traffic, you're cutting down on your customer-base big time.
Lee Jacobsen December 10, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Bitsy, read what you wrote. You actually agree with me. 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. 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, that is the time you would venture onto Michigan Ave in Dearborn. It could be another , what was the town from 'Its a Wonderful Life' ? Bedford Falls? Lot's of walking about and activity, from 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, as you say, make sure you found 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.

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