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New life ahead for Kahn-designed former Ford mills in Wayne County

Three historic industrial mills in Wayne County are slated for redevelopment, with one already the target of a $2.5 million plan to turn it into a restaurant/banquet facility.

The Hines Park Mill Run Placemaking Project, which is part of a broader effort to improve and connect parks in Wayne County with about $5.5 million in spending set for this year, is just one of several efforts underway that will be discussed Thursday night during Executive Warren Evans’ annual State of the County Address in Dearborn.

The project, which was unveiled last year and is gradually making headway with development agreements signed or nearing completion, proposes that developers turn the three buildings, which range in age from 84 to 97 years old, into things such as restaurants, breweries, art galleries and bicycle shops.

A plan is already underway to turn the Phoenix Mill, built in 1922 at 14973 Northville Rd. in Plymouth Township into a restaurant and banquet center by Richard Cox and Gregory Donofrio, the group behind an entity called Critical Mass LLC.

Additional plans in the so-called The Henry project include streetscape and landscaping improvements, improved access to Middle Rouge Park and getting the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to township board documents. The purchase price is $615,000. Northville Township-based Inform Studio PC is the project architect while Taylor-based J.S. Vig Construction Co. is the contractor.

Cox said Michelle Lussier, the restaurateur behind Lucy & The Wolf and Table 5 restaurants in Northville, is behind the new restaurant at Phoenix Mill. In addition, the family behind Genitti’s Hole-In-The-Wall in Northville is working on the banquet component, Cox said.

Construction is expected to be complete in the fourth quarter next year, Cox said, adding that financing for the project has been finalized.

“We are in the middle of some of the site cleanup. We are working on Phase 2 completion and completing the tank removal that’s got to happen, and we are emptying the building right now,” Cox said.

Other buildings included in the plan are the 4,200-square-foot Newburgh Mill at 37401 Edward N. Hines Drive in Livonia, which was built in 1935, and the approximately 5,500-square-foot Wilcox Mill at 230 Wilcox Road in Plymouth, built in 1923. All three properties are in Hines Park, the sprawling 2,300-acre area that is traversed by the 17.5-mile Hines Drive.

The asking price for Newburgh Mill is $400,000; it sits on 1.83 acres and is being marketed for sale by the Southfield office of Colliers International Inc., a brokerage company.

The asking price for Wilcox Mill is $1.4 million; it sits on about 14.5 acres and is being marketed for sale by Southfield-based Signature Associates Inc., another brokerage company. Some activists are concerned that an 11-acre chunk of that property could be sold off for residential development. The county says that 11-acre parcel is secondary and it hasn’t yet decided to sell that parcel.

There are six of the Ford Village Industry Mills along the Middle Rouge River of the 19 that were built: Phoenix, Wilcox, Newburgh, Nankin Mills, Waterford and Northville, the latter two of which are privately owned.

Nankin Mills was turned into the Nankin Mills Interpretive Center at 33175 Ann Arbor Trail, the headquarters for the Wayne County Parks & Recreation Department.

Opposition to land sale

The mills project, which has faced pushback from a group called Save Hines Park that contends the county is selling off parkland, is part of a broader vision to, as Evans says, make the parks more appealing and connected.

“Right now you can go to western Wayne, and unless you want to get hit by a car or truck, you can’t go to the eastern part of Wayne in any sort of pleasurable way,” Evans said in an interview with Crain’s on Tuesday in advance of his Thursday address. This year marks the centennial of Wayne County Parks.

“The ability to connect parks in this county through hiking trails and bike trails is the next 100 years of the parks. I don’t think it makes sense to think the first 100 years will look like the next 100 years,” he said.

Yet Save Hines Park prefers leasing the mill buildings to private developers for redevelopment rather than selling them, as has been the plan with the mills and the Warren Valley Golf Course.

“We strongly oppose selling these buildings, and the parkland they sit on, because once they are sold they are lost forever and we will have no ability to protect these important historic park amenities,” the group says on its website.

Khalil Rahal, assistant county executive in charge of economic development, said the parks projects are part of a broader economic development effort in the county.

“Our economic development strategy utilizes a back-to-the-basics approach to developing our economy,” he said. “Western Wayne County is increasingly becoming a bedroom community. The key to developing our economy is the retention and attraction of talent. Today’s talent is looking for a sense of place, vibrant culture and atmosphere, and amenities that positively impact quality of life. The county executive believes it’s our job to provide that sense of place and quality of life so that we can retain and attract the talent which ultimately attracts businesses and investments. We believe investing in parks and trails will contribute significantly to that effort.”


Posted By: Crain’s Detroit Business on March 14, 2019.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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