Plan would move new Burnette Library north of Nine Mile

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published June 7, 2017


WARREN — The new Burnette Branch Library could be built north of Nine Mile Road as part of a broader plan to construct a multi-use city complex on Van Dyke, between Lozier and Continental avenues.

That was the gist of the information presented to members of the Warren City Council at a Committee of the Whole meeting May 22, where they got a look at renderings and include heard more about how a planned facility set to include an ancillary police station, fire station, playground and city offices could come to fruition.

“What we envision here is kind of a really cool civic center for the south end,” Warren Downtown Development Authority and Economic and Downtown Development Director Tom Bommarito said.

The land that would be used, Bommarito said, has been acquired over the years and donated by the city’s Tax Increment Finance Authority. The property on the west side of Van Dyke stretches south from Lozier past Republic, nearly to Continental Avenue. He said the plan would eventually include acquiring the property where the Habitat for Humanity ReStore is now. That site, Bommarito said, would be used in the project’s second phase, which would include building the new fire station and potentially a training area for first responders.

The plan for the new complex would include closing Republic, on the west side of Van Dyke. The new mini police station would be built on the corner at Lozier, with Van Dyke frontage and parking in the rear. The library, city offices and playground would be built south of that, with a public entrance on the south side.

Bommarito told council members the city would like to break ground next spring.

But not everyone is happy with the current details.

Councilman Scott Stevens questioned the use of 800 square feet for city business, including the Mayor’s Office, and pressed for more input from residents.

“So we got no input, really, from people in the area,” Stevens said.

TIFA Board Chairman Lucky Hage said he cast the lone vote last year against supporting the plan for the site north of Nine Mile with $1.6 million in TIFA funding. He said moving the library a little over a half-mile north would hurt the neighborhood south of Nine Mile, and that it would break a promise made to those who supported the city’s 2010 library millage.

Hage said anything included in the plan for an 8,000-square-foot facility north of Nine Mile could be built at the site of the current Burnette Branch Library, which opened in 1966. He said TIFA took steps in recent years to acquire the adjacent property necessary to do it.

“In my opinion, this is the right project in absolutely the wrong area,” Hage said. “To now remove that library from that location would absolutely devastate that neighborhood.

“This is a cultural institution that has nurtured and defined the character of that neighborhood for half a century. You can’t just take it and remove it and move it further north, closer to the real city, without hurting the neighborhood,” Hage said.

Mayor Jim Fouts said the current Burnette Branch site is too small to support the new community center, and that a new complex north of Nine Mile — but still in south Warren — would amount to the city’s first significant investment in the “forgotten area” in 50-60 years.

“It’s a great complex. It’s a great civic center,” Fouts said. “And it’s infusing new interest and development in the older area of the city.

“They’re no longer forgotten,” Fouts said. “We’re going to try to make things happen down there. It’s pretty exciting.”

Bommarito told members of the council that the current Burnette Branch building could be repurposed as a child care center, in conjunction with Van Dyke Public Schools, or that it could be utilized as a possible “transportation hub” conceived by General Motors.

Fouts said funding for the project would come from TIFA and various grants. A total cost was not offered ahead of steps to seek bids for construction.