By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — Residents, mayors and the administrations from Dearborn Heights and Taylor discussed future development plans for the Van Born Corridor and ask the public for their input during a meeting Sept. 19.
Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko and Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars expressed their excitement and possibilities for the corridor during the meeting held at the Richard A. Young Recreation Center.
“The corridor is beneficial for both communities,” Paletko said. “When we work together, the possibilities to improve the corridor are endless.”
“We have the opportunity to bring consistency to the corridor and provide economic development for current and future businesses,” Sollars said.
Both mayors also said now is the time for public involvement from residents in both cities to help shape the plans for the corridor.
Wade Trim Senior Project Manager David Anthony presented a review of the firm’s land use evaluation, existing zoning evaluation, conceptual streetscape design and urban design macro-constraints.
Five conclusions presented from the land use evaluation:
• Split personality including neighborhood-based retail verses general retail.
• Independent zoning creating incompatible uses with industrial across the street from residential.
• Stripping commercial dominates.
• High visibility development zone along the I-94 corridor and easy access to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
• Vacant commercial properties due to the linear distribution along the corridor.
“Over the past few months we’ve done a safety analysis to collect traffic data along Van Born from Inkster Road to Pelham,” Anthony said. “There hasn’t been traffic collected in over 10 years on the road.
Data collected spread over 2012 to 2016 along Van Born and revealed 112 crashes in 2012, 126 crashes in 2016 and an average of 20,000 vehicles per day. The most crashes took place at the intersections of Beech Daly, Inkster and Monroe.
“Traffic trends are going up, but we don’t want to try to make that worse with our development plans,” Anthony said. “A solution could be removing some of the driveways on the road and that would help reduce the traffic congestion and the vehicle crashes.”
Anthony added that some of the urban design macro-constraints are high traffic volumes, narrow right of ways, property sizes, dual regulations, cohesive visual appearance and safety.
In the streetscape design goals, improved safety for all mobility types, urban design continuity, improved stormwater runoff controls and an increased multi-modal connectivity were listed.
Next, Anthony showed those in attendance three alternatives of what the corridor could look and the budget for each.
The first alternative had a 12-foot multimodal path, bioretention, no changes or pavement on the roadway, another bioretention and a pedestrian path with a cost of $700,000 per mile.
The second alternative includes a 12-foot multimodal path at a cost of $4.8 million cost per mile, bioretention basins, full road reconstruction and pedestrian path.
The third alternative also has a 12-foot multimodal path, bioretention basins, full roadway reconstruction, a landscaped median and pedestrian path.
During the first audience participation exercise, those in attendance were asked to write down the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities they saw for the corridor on sticky notes and place them on the corresponding location on maps.
Some of the feedback for the four-mile stretch of the Van Born Corridor was an opportunity for walkability, driveways being too close to the intersections, adding a three-way left turn signal, issues with pulling out of driveways into traffic, lack of lighting, having a library, large retail space and bike lanes as strengths, beautification of properties, more green space additions, and too many used car lots and empty strip malls.
The second audience participation exercise asked attendees to write down one word that comes to mind about Van Born Road, now and in the future.
For words that describe the corridor now, attendees said “rough,” “disorganized,” “old,” “antiquated,” “boring,” “decaying” and “potential.” Words for the future included “value,” “pleasing,” “happy,” “entertaining,” “attraction” and “resurrection.”
“We want to use the project to give a sense of hope and pride to the area and have that flow into the neighborhood, city and region,” Anthony said.
The third and final audience participation exercise asked attendees to list the most simple, medium and hardest changes or challenges that face the corridor.
Attendees listed improved sidewalks, green spaces, biking, walkability, landscaping and environmental improvements as the most simple. For the medium level they said civic engagement, neighborhood retail improvement, supporting existing businesses and replace roads are some of the areas to be considered.
Lastly, attendees listed traffic reduction, underground utilities, tax property incentive, remodeling businesses and zoning or ordinance improvement would be the most difficult.
At the end of the meeting Anthony and Paletko addressed some concerns over the cost and timeline for the project.
Anthony said there plenty of other ways besides having the residents pay for the project through tax dollars because of all the government grants or funding from organizations.
As for the timeline, Paletko said he hopes a recommendation will be presented to Dearborn Heights and Taylor city councils in November. Paletko also said if things begin to progress in November, ground could be broken at the corridor in January.
“Both mayors are committed to same zoning on both sides and will do everything in our power to make the corridor project happen,” he said.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)