More than 50 people joined along for the International Council of Shopping Centers East Michigan P3 Program tour Oct. 5 that featured several key buildings, businesses, and eateries in West Dearborn.
The tour focused on what public and private partnerships look like in the city. Examples include Ford Land’s transformation of the two blocks at Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street for public and private use including retail, restaurants, office and outdoor spaces.
The tour illustrated how public and private partnerships turn projects from plans into realities and who the players are transforming Dearborn.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from some of the stops on the tour.
1. West Village Commons shows that Dearborn can weather the storm
Barry Murray, Dearborn’s economic and community development director, told the group how buildings like West Village Commons can be steeped in history and still relevant today.
It’s part of “the superblock,” says Murray, referring to a multimillion dollar project from the 90s. It was built to have parking, areas for events, public gathering spaces and made to be shopping epicenter.
The superblock survived the 2008 crash where a 38 percent business vacancy followed in downtown West Dearborn. Now, 42 units for residential housing are being constructed and fulfilling a need in the city to bring in next generation, according to Downtown Dearborn Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius.
2. Common Grace Coffee finds success rooted in community.
The West Dearborn coffee shop is one of 28 new businesses to open in downtown Dearborn since 2015. Owner Dale Tremblay Dulong wanted to be a place where everyone can gather, he says, and a business aimed not at certain people but bringing people together.
“We wanted to create a space where coffee was being sourced ethically but also bringing together diverse groups of people. What drives us is creating a space to get a good product to you in a good way,” he says.
Tremblay Dulong started roasting beans in his house and serving at the local farmers market. He moved to selling online after that and eventually used a crowdfunding site to open his West Dearborn location.
3. Brome Modern Eatery is expanding to Detroit
Zane Makky, the executive chef at Brome Modern Eatery, was born and raised in Dearborn and says he wanted to “elevate the culinary vibe" in the city.
Along with owner Sam Abbas, also a Dearborn native, they’ve taken a simple concept of burgers and focused on customer service, organic and fresh items and a memorable ambiance, Makky says.
With all its success in West Dearborn, Brome Modern Eatery is expanding to the financial district in Detroit, with another location being planned at Shelby and Congress streets.
Their ambitious plan is to open another 10 stores in the next five years.
4. Mint 29 was an accidental concept
Among the new establishments opening since the the 2015 surge is Mint 29, a two-floor upscale dining locale with an outdoor patio space and seafood and steak on the menu.
General Manager Kamal Salame says the space used to be Dearborn Music and when they removed the drop ceiling in the former store they uncovered embedded coins in the walls. It took four months to reclaim them.
The building was built in 1929 as State Bank and used to make mint coins.
“We changed our whole concept of the restaurant to keep the history alive,” Salame says.
You can find the coins, with images of bells, ships and Native American chiefs, on the second floor of the restaurant.
5. Dearborn Brewing is proof you can turn a hobby into a career
Another entrepreneur that opened up shop in 2015, Dearborn Brewing owner John Rucinski translated his love of beer into a business.
“I love beer. I love making it,” he says.
Rucinski got started in his kitchen, moving to the garage and eventually to a storefront on Michigan Avenue.
“Every brewer goes through a phase where they think it would be cool to open a brewery,” Rucinski says. “I got tired of waiting for someone else to open one in Dearborn, so I did it myself.”
The company is now focused on distribution.