It looks like Dearborn is going to have to sacrifice a bit of its past to have a brighter a future. At least that's the case with the old Montgomery Ward building in the city's downtown.
The city and developer for the site, Southfield-based Redico, plan to tear down the historic structure at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Schaefer Road. Doing so will allow Redico to build a 125,000-square-foot, mixed-use building in its place, creating hundreds of news jobs, thousands of square feet of new retail space and dozens of new homes in the city's core.
"I got over it (tearing down a historic building) pretty fast when we have a $45 million development going in its place," says Barry Murray, economic and community development director for the city of Dearborn. "In this case there are 500 jobs coming into the city. It's a big difference from a vacant department store at that corner."
Montgomery Ward opened the store in 1937. Over the years the business expanded into 93,000 square feet until it went belly up in 2001. It has been vacant ever since. The developer had originally planned to reuse much of the building in his redevelopment until complications were discovered, including a lack of space between floors and windows.
Redico plans to begin razing the old Montgomery Ward building in January or February so a new three-story, brick-and-stone façade structure can go up in its place. The new building will mostly be occupied by Oakwood Healthcare System and Midwest Health Services.
About 20,000 square feet of ground floor retail space will also be at that corner and along Schaefer. A 500-space parking deck will be built behind the new building and 100 to 120 units of senior citizen apartments will be built behind that so it melds in with the surrounding neighborhood filled with single-family homes.
Work on the main structure is expected to wrap up by the spring of 2009. The senior-citizen housing is expected to take a little longer.
Source: Barry Murray, economic and community development director for the city of Dearborn
Writer: Jon Zemke