Ground broken on new south Warren city complex

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published October 13, 2017

WARREN — Officials gathered at a vacant lot on Van Dyke Oct. 12 to officially break ground on Warren’s new $5 million multi-use Civic Center, set to include a 9,400-square-foot library, a mini police station and ancillary city offices.

Set for completion in April 2019, officials said the building will be constructed without the use of money from the city’s general fund. Sources said the project will pull $3 million from the library fund, bolstered by a dedicated millage that was approved by Warren voters in 2010. Board members for the city’s Tax Increment Finance Authority voted 6-1 to approve an additional allocation of $1.5 million, with the remaining $500,000 earmarked from the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

“A lot of things are being done in south Warren, and it’s not part of the regular taxpayer’s burden,” Mayor Jim Fouts told those assembled. “We’ll finally have a real police station in an area that’s needed. I think that’s extremely important. For the first time it will be 24/7.

“I am convinced that once this complex is completed — and it will take a couple years to complete, by 2019 — I think it’s going to spur economic growth in the area,” Fouts said.

Library Director Oksana Urban said the new building, north of Nine Mile Road between Lozier and Continental, will be a “21st-century, state-of-the-art library” and that it will include a computer lab for 30 users, dedicated study rooms, an 80-person community room, and sections for teens and children.

The city opened the brand-new Dorothy Busch Branch Library on Ryan just north of Nine Mile earlier this year. 

A special-needs playground is also planned for the site along Van Dyke. Officials said a new fire station could be added later, where the existing Habitat for Humanity ReStore is currently, on the south side of the property.

In June, Economic Development Director Tom Bommarito told members of the City Council that the land had been acquired by the city’s TIFA over the years. The development plan, he said, would include closing Republic on the west side of Van Dyke. The new police station will be constructed on the corner of Van Dyke and Lozier, with Van Dyke frontage and parking in the rear. The library, the city offices and the playground will be constructed on the south side of the property, with a public entrance on the south side.

TIFA Board Chairman Lucky Hage cast the lone vote against the plan for the property and the use of funds. After the event on Oct. 12, he again expressed concerns about the potential impact on the neighborhood where the Burnette Branch Library currently exists, south of Nine Mile Road.

Officials said the Burnette Branch will be closed and possibly repurposed once the new library is built.

“I’m just afraid of what it will do to the neighborhood down there. It’s been there for 50 years, nurturing that neighborhood and providing its identity, anchoring it to the rest of the city,” Hage said.

He said he favors instead using the TIFA funds for blight elimination as a way of attracting new businesses.

Ironically, it’s not the first time such a plan has been considered at the site.

The late Richard Sulaka, who opposed Fouts in his first run for mayor, floated the idea of a combined 24-hour police precinct and City Hall annex on the same piece of property in 2007. Sulaka told officials at the time that he wanted to use between $5 million and $6 million from the city’s Downtown Development Authority and TIFA funds to build a 40,000-square-foot complex on 4.2 acres of land.

The plan never came to fruition after Fouts defeated Sulaka that November.