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New building, old style at landmark Wards site

Date Posted: December 18 2009

DEARBORN – From 1937 until it closed February 2001, the Montgomery Wards store at Michigan Ave. and Schaefer anchored the city’s east-side shopping district.

During this decade, several proposals to redevelop the old department store fell through, and the landmark building came under the ownership of the City of Dearborn and was demolished. City officials waited until the right offer came along, via the development firm Redico.

General contractor The Dailey Co., its subcontractors and the building trades are erecting what amounts to the next chapter for the site: the $71 million, 150,000 square-foot Dearborn Town Center, a mixed-use development that will offer multi-specialty medical care, office space and retail space. Senior housing with 100 to 120 units is planned for the final phase of the project.

“We’ve made pretty good progress and in the next few weeks we’re going to close it in for the winter,” said Ken Till, Redico’s vice president of acquisitions and development.

Work began last spring on the 130,000 square-foot medical office building (which includes about 20,000 square feet of retail. Coinciding with that is the erection of a 500-space parking deck on site. The senior housing associated with the project is another phase and has yet to be designed, Till said.

Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly noted at the groundbreaking the benefits that the new development will deliver: acting as an anchor and magnet for east downtown businesses, preserving 300 jobs and creating 200 new jobs, expanding the city’s tax base and giving a shot in the arm to area property values. “Today marks the start of a new chapter in Dearborn’s continuing success story, and a major step forward in the ongoing revitalization of the east downtown area,” he said on May 1.

The medical office building will be operated by Oakwood Healthcare and will serve as the new home of the Dearborn Midwest Health Center.

The Dailey Co. Senior Project Manager Deborah Anderson and Project Supt. John Gianotta said about 80 Hardhats are currently working on the medical office project and the parking deck. “It’s been a good job, a smooth running job,” Gianotta said.

There was a Wards auto service center at the site, so some oil clean up was necessary. Gianotta said the site at the southeast corner of Michigan and Schaefer is tight, but has just enough room for material lay-down areas.

The new building, Till said, is similar to the architectural style of the old Wards building, which was built in the Georgian Style. The Dearborn Town Center, he said, will also compliment the appearance of Dearborn City Hall, which is across the street from the new building.

Mayor O’Reilly said at the groundbreaking that the City of Dearborn carefully

examines its involvement with real estate development and only stepped in at the

former Ward’s site in 2005 when it appeared that earlier private investors would

not be able to deliver “a significant project” at the important downtown corner. Looks like they’re getting one.

“From an aesthetic perspective, the design of the new building will definitely offer an historic tip of the cap to the old Montgomery Wards building,” Till said.

THE DEARBORN TOWN CENTER is ready to get enclosed for the winter.

WORKING ON a lift on the Schaefer Street side of the Dearborn Town Center are Wesley Stel and Kevin Dreher of Glaziers and Glassworkers Local 357, working for Modern Mirror.

A RENDERING of the completed Dearborn Town Center.