Back in 2017, the cities of Taylor and Dearborn Heights began work on the Van Born Corridor, a section where the two cities adjoin.
According to officials at the time, the area was in disarray and not very attractive to new businesses, and the cities decided to work together to revitalize the area.
The work has continued for five years and is beginning to pay off.
At a recent meeting of the Dearborn Heights Planning Commission, Arthur Mullen, a planner from Wade Trim, spoke about some of the work that had been done to that point.
He said they are working on beautification issues as well as new ordinances for the “Taylor Dearborn Heights Gateway Overlay District,” as it’s officially known.
“We had a very good working group,” Mullen said. “We’ve spent a lot of time working on ordinances for the overlay district to be consistent in both cities.”
Mullen said they began by deciding exactly what the area should look like, then combed through both the Taylor and Dearborn Heights ordinances to see what part of each city’s new look was already codified.
Then they made an ordinance proposal for that overlay district for both city councils to approve.
The next step for both cities is to pass the proposed ordinances.
“This isn’t an overnight fix,” Mullen said. “This will happen for years to come as businesses renovate and new businesses come in.”
Both cities must hold a public hearing on the new ordinances before they can be passed, but ultimately it’s up to each council to decide whether or not to pass them.
The new borough would have the same requirements for Dearborn Heights as for Taylor, so both sides of the street would look the same.
“We want the public to be invited,” Mullen said.
A study agreed in 2017 dealt with three major topics:
• Defining problems and opportunities for multimodal transport to meet the combined needs of business, commercial services and retail establishments, and identifying existing and potential businesses/services that could come into the area serving the growing business/professional population would serve the area with the relocation of possibly several thousand employees of the Ford Motor Co.
• Developing a menu of streetscape recommendations that would unify and merge the two communities – making the improvements accessible to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike
• Developing a conceptual vision of the improved road environment that would result in a safer, more functional and aesthetically pleasing environment for motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and other road users/vehicles.
Leadership changes have occurred in both cities since the project began, 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 — have pledged to continue the process of updating this area of both cities.
“The first thing we have to do is draft a regulation for the Van Born Corridor,” Bazzi said shortly after taking office last year. “There were a few communities that were screened for their best practices, so we’re comparing the best regulation.”
Bazzi was not at the planning meeting as it was on the same day and time as the council meeting due to election week causing scheduling conflicts.
Dearborn Heights City Engineer Ali Dibb also recently spoke about the project.
“Once the ordinances are approved by communities, we will gradually transition to the new standards,” he said. “So the project is called ‘Van Born Overlay,’ so we’re going to be specifying things like landscaping, setbacks and things like that, and they’re going to be incremental as businesses and buildings are renovated or new businesses come in. You’ll see that the new standards apply. “
Woolley said both he and Bazzi are fully committed to moving forward with the project.
“We’ve talked about this several times and shared what each city is doing to help the area,” Woolley said. “We continue to work together on this project, and the more ideas that are in the room, the better. Taylor is continuing the grant program for companies along the Van Born Corridor focused on property improvement. We are also speaking to Wayne County to see what the future holds for this section of Van Born.”
Van Born Road runs along the northern edge of Taylor, just north of I-94, approximately from the Southfield Freeway on the east to Inkster Road on the west. North of Van Born is Dearborn Heights, and Ecorse Creek runs parallel to Van Born, creating a major federal floodplain stretching from North Taylor through Dearborn Heights to Dearborn.
Van Born is mostly home to many small shops and restaurants. Two of Van Born’s largest institutional tenants, Masco Corp’s massive headquarters. and neighboring Kmart, which was vacated in 2016. Masco left Taylor to drastically downsize into a new headquarters in Livonia, while the Kmart closure was one of hundreds announced by Sears Corporation.
Ford Motor Co. has occupied both the former Masco Building and the former Kmart Building in recent years.