County officials in southeastern Michigan want to redevelop historic Henry Ford mills to create a more vibrant parks system.
Wayne County officials hope the project along the Middle Rouge River will bring more visitors into Hines Park, which features hiking trails, pocket parks and ponds, The Detroit Free Press reported .
"The ability to connect the parks and make the parks more relevant to things people are doing now — hiking, bike riding, canoeing, kayaking, those sorts of things are great recreation — helps to bring the talent in the area," said Wayne County Executive Warren Evans.
Ford created the Village Industrial Mills in the 1920s and '30s. They acted as small factories that used hydroelectric power for manufacturing, mainly producing auto parts, until the county took them over after World War II.
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Evans' team foresees potential buyers preserving and restoring the mills while integrating them into the parks system. Having potential developers interested in fitting into the larger concept for the area is important, said Khalil Rahal, the county's director of economic development.
"In every one of these projects, when we're soliciting offers, one of the things we're telling developers is do you have recreational components as part of your development and are you going to maintain that in the future? Those are the offers that are more attractive to us," he said.
The county envisions the three remaining mills will be turned into restaurants, breweries, art galleries, bike shops and other recreation and cultural amenities to improve the park's offerings. One mill is slated to be sold to developer Cox, which plans to redevelop the mill into a public assembly space and restaurant.
Two additional mills in the area have already been transformed. One is now an office center while the other is a museum and headquarters of Wayne County Parks.