Thursday, December 9, 2010

Client News: New Oakwood Medical Center to Open on Old Montgomery Ward’s Site Opens January 3

Source: Press & Guide Newspapers
Written by: J. Patrick Pepper

Mayor John B. O’Reilly, Jr., Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, Dr. Mark Saffer, president of Midwest Health Center, Brian Connolly, president and CEO of Oakwood Healthcare, and Dale Watchowski, president and CEO of REDICO pose with the topping off beam at the Dearborn Town Center development in 2009 on the site of the former Montgomery Ward. Photo by Millard Berry.
A new medical center with two of the biggest local names in healthcare is on schedule to open next month in the heart of the city’s east downtown.
Named Dearborn Town Center, the $70 million facility is located at the southeast corner of the busy Michigan Avenue-Schaefer intersection, across Schaefer from City Hall.
The complex will house offices for Midwest Health doctors, administrators and support staff, as well as Oakwood Hospital specialists. Including maintenance and other ancillary positions, there will be about 500 people working at the building at any given time, development officials say.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Dec. 15 and Jan. 3 is when the place will be open for regular business.
The completion of the project marks a corner-turning for one of the city’s marquee corners. That’s because when the Montgomery Ward that formerly occupied the site closed for business in 2001, it began six years of uncertainty.
An investor first purchased the parcel in 2001 for $1.8 million and then sold it for a profit the following year. The buyers included Talal Chahine, the founder of the defunct LaShish restaurant empire who is wanted for tax evasion, and partner Kayed Bazzi.
With Chahine on the run from federal agents and city officials unsatisfied with the ideas being proposed for the site, the city bought the building for about $3.5 million in 2005. Two years later, Southfield-based REDICO was chosen to develop the property based on a proposal to build a medical facility.
Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly, who has been a vocal advocate for the project throughout, said Monday that he’s happy to see it finally coming to fruition.
“I really think this is going to be a great thing for the businesses around here, and the facility itself is in one of the few growth industries around here,” O’Reilly said.
With its brick-and-limestone facade and curved architecture at the most visible part of the building, the 125,000 square-foot structure shares some of the aesthetics of the Montgomery Ward department store.
Also like Ward, the facility’s main entrance is at the rear of the building, putting it in closer proximity to the municipal parking deck built for the project.
The roughly $11 million deck will be paid for using tax capture revenues from the new development, which is already 96 percent leased, and any shortfalls will be made up by the developer.
REDICO will complete the project in line with projected timelines, though some of the elements in the initial development proposal have been shelved because of the economy.
Those items include senior housing, which eventually is supposed to run along the residential neighborhood to the east of the property, as well as some retail suites. Development officials said these aspects would be built when the economy improves.

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