In 2017, the cities of Taylor and Dearborn Heights began work on the Van Born Corridor, a stretch where the two cities border.
The area was untidy and unattractive for new businesses, according to officials at the time, and the cities agreed to work together to beautify the area.
The work went on for five years and is about to start bearing fruit.
At a recent Dearborn Heights Planning Commission meeting, Arthur Mullen, a planner at Wade Trim, spoke about some of the work done up to this point.
He said they are working on beautification issues, as well as new ordinances for the “Taylor Dearborn Heights Gateway Overlay District,” as it is officially known.
“We had a great working group,” Mullen said. “We spent a lot of time working on ordinances for the overlapping district to get them matched in both cities.”
Mullen said they started by deciding exactly what the area should look like, and then scoured the ordinances in Taylor and Dearborn Heights to see what part of the new look was already codified in each city.
They then submitted a proposed ordinance for that overlapping district for both city councils to approve.
The next step for both cities is approval of the proposed ordinances.
“This is not an overnight fix,” Mullen said. “That will happen over the years as companies innovate and new businesses come in.”
Both cities will have to hold a public hearing on the new ordinances before they can be passed, but ultimately it is up to each council to decide whether or not to pass them.
The new district would have the same requirements for Dearborn Heights and for Taylor, making both sides of the street look the same.
“We want it to be inviting to the public,” Mullen said.
A study agreed in 2017 addressed three main topical areas:
• Defining the problems and opportunities for multimodal transport to address the combined needs of commercial businesses, commercial services and retail facilities, as well as identifying existing and potential businesses/services that could enter the area that would serve the ‘increase in the corporate/professional population of the area with the relocation of potentially several thousand Ford Motor Co. employees
• Developing a landscape advice menu that unifies and blends the two communities, making improvements accessible to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike
• Development of a conceptual vision of improving the road environment which would result in a safer, more functional and more aesthetically appealing environment for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and other transit users/vehicles.
Since the project’s inception, both cities have seen changes in leadership, with then Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars losing a re-election campaign and then Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko dying in office.
The new officials — Taylor Mayor Tim Woolley and Dearborn Heights Mayor Bill Bazzi — pledged to continue the process of updating that area of both cities.
“The first thing we need to do is incorporate an ordinance for the Van Born corridor,” Bazzi said shortly after taking office last year. “There were some communities that were looked at for their best practices, so we’re looking at the best ordinance.”
Bazzi was not at the planning meeting, as it was the same day and time as the board meeting due to election week causing scheduling conflicts.
Dearborn Heights City engineer Ali Dibb also recently spoke about the project.
“Once the ordinances are adopted by communities, we will gradually transition to the new standards,” he said. “So, the project is called ‘Van Born Overlay’, so, we’ll specify things like landscaping, setbacks, things of that nature and it’s going to be phased, as businesses and buildings get renovated or new businesses come along you’ll see apply the new standards.
Woolley said both he and Bazzi are fully on board with continuing the project.
“We’ve discussed this several times and brainstormed what each city is doing to help the area,” Woolley said. “We are continuing to work together on this project, and the more ideas, the better. Taylor is still continuing the grant program for businesses along the Van Born Corridor, which focuses on property enhancement. We’re also talking to Wayne County to see what’s in the future for that stretch of Van Born.”
Van Born Road runs along the northern edge of Taylor just north of I-94 from approximately the Southfield Freeway in the east to Inkster Road in the west. North of Van Born is Dearborn Heights, and Ecorse Creek runs parallel to Van Born, creating a large federal floodplain that runs from north of Taylor through Dearborn Heights and into Dearborn.
Van Born, for the most part, is home to many small businesses and restaurants. Two of Van Born’s largest institutional tenants, the sprawling Masco Corp. headquarters and nearby Kmart, which was vacated in 2016. Masco left Taylor to downsize dramatically to a new Livonia headquarters, while Kmart’s closure is was one of hundreds announced by the Sears company.
Ford Motor Co. has occupied both the former Masco building and the former Kmart building in recent years.