The University of Michigan-Dearborn
and a private developer are embarking on a project that would bring the first student housing to campus and also revive shuttered Ford Motor Co. property.
The city of Dearborn and the state of Michigan are supporting the Union at Dearborn development by approving discounted taxes and other incentives to help Urban Campus Communities, the developer, renovate and turn prominent, vacant buildings into student housing and a student activity center, says Barry Murray, director of economic and community development for the city of Dearborn.
"We are just thrilled about this," Murray says of the $47 million proposed project that could employ 20 people in full-time jobs and lead to numerous construction jobs.
The first phase of the project, he says, would renovate former research and testing facilities vacated by Ford Motor Co. when it began its downsizing. Three buildings ranging from one to four stories tall would house about 525 students, possibly by fall 2012, Murray says. A second phase, if it comes to pass, would add more housing, possibly another 300 beds. There is also talk of bringing student housing to downtown Dearborn, he says. One building in the first phase would also include a student union.
The buildings are located on Evergreen, on the ring road around Fairlane, across the street from the university. At 150,000 square feet, they represent 10 percent of the city's unused buildings and have been declared brownfields, which makes the project eligible for tax abatements, $2.34 million of which were approved last week by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority.
Murray points out that UM-Dearborn is the only state school to have no student housing, something that market research by the school found to be a deterrent to choosing it over other schools with housing. He says that research shows the school could support 2,000-3,000 students in housing.
"This is a true green use for obsolete buildings," Murray says. "The best thing you can do for the environment is re-use buildings."
Beth Marmarelli, associate director for communications and marketing at UM-Dearborn, says enrollment numbers for this year will not be finalized until next week. The project is still in the planning stages, she says.
Sources: Barry Murray, director of economic and community development, city of Dearborn
; Beth Marmarelli, associate director for communications and marketing at U-M Dearborn
Writer: Kim North Shine