The banquet center was constructed for the Hayden-Ford Mill building in Tecumseh
TECUMSEH — Business partners with experience in restoring buildings associated with Henry Ford are interested in restoring the Hayden-Ford Mill building in Tecumseh.
The city’s former community center is back on the market this summer after another investment group’s plans to convert the facility into a German-style restaurant and banquet center fell through due to environmental remediation issues in the basement. Eventually, the adhesives used to seal the old wood floors decomposed and released gases that were discovered by the previous developer’s environmental consultant.
New proposals for the building are due by October 19.
Greg D’Onofrio and Richard Cox on Monday presented a plan to the Tecumseh City Council to convert the building between East Chicago Boulevard and Globe Mill Pond into a banquet facility with a restaurant. Their plan was the only one submitted, although some local business owners looked at the building, Tecumseh City Manager Dan Swallow said in an email.
D’Onofrio said the previous developers’ vision for having a restaurant and banquet facility was a good idea. Their conversations with people in the community about uses for the building reinforced the idea that another banquet facility was needed.
They told the council how they had restored two other Ford facilities – the Northville valve plant and the Phoenix mill in Plymouth Township. The Valve factory now houses a mix of tenants, including a fitness center and engineering, technology and architecture firms. The Phoenix Mill is a ballroom that attracts people from all over Metro Detroit.
Because the Hayden Ford plant has a banquet tenant, they can have the banquet up and running in about a year, even with environmental remediation, D’Onofrio said. They don’t have restaurant renter’s insurance yet, so it will take longer, perhaps up to two years.
D’Onofrio told the council that the Tecumseh Senior Center would be welcome to stay, although it may be moved to another part of the building.
“This has been a big concern of mine,” Mayor Jack Baker said. “… I hope that what I talked about will happen, which is that this will be allowed to continue. …That would be good for you guys. You will have some great success in this community if this continues.
In both Northville and Plymouth, they designed the land to be open space that the community can use, D’Onofrio said. The Phoenix Mill property has been used by the Road Commission for decades. They removed salt storage barns and limited parking and plant occupancy to preserve green space. They’ve added features, like a bike repair station, to match nearby Hines Park. DiOnofrio said they will do something similar with Hayden Ford’s property.
The banquet hall can accommodate more than 200 people, D’Onofrio said. The interior can be designed to be divided into smaller spaces.
They also see possibilities for outdoor events.
The RFP asked developers to include a price range. D’Onofrio and Cox offered $100,000 for the factory construction site with a $100,000 option for a nearby tennis court, Swallow said.
This isn’t the first contact they’ve had with the Hayden Ford plant. D’Onofrio explained that when Cox was restoring the valve plant in the 1990s and decided to make the waterwheel operable again, he met with Don Burke of Tecumseh, who provided him with the design of Hayden-Ford’s waterwheel bucket to help restore the valve plant’s waterwheel.
“We look at this as a symbol of the community, and the fact that (the Hayden-Ford Waterwheel) doesn’t spin is a symbol in itself as well,” D’Onofrio said. “…Our priority will actually be to get the wheel turning, first and foremost.”
D’Onofrio said he and Cox were engineers and admirers of Henry Ford and the automobile industry. Cox worked as an engineer at Ford Motor Co. before going into self-employment. They want to preserve the village’s industry part of Ford’s heritage. Ford established small industrial facilities in rural areas where farmers could work during the off-season.
D’Onofrio said they wanted to “restore, preserve and reuse.”
“Our vision is really to take this building, which has been relatively well-preserved by the Parks Department…,” Donofrio said.
“Better than anything we’ve seen,” Cox interrupted, prompting laughter from the audience.
“Better than anything we’ve seen for sure,” D’Onofrio said. “There are certainly some signs that the building needs an additional level of care and maintenance that comes with a different source of income. But our goal here, first and foremost, is to preserve this historic building.”
The key to successful building restoration and preservation is finding the right companies that will be successful and generate the revenue needed to maintain the building.
Baker said he appreciated their desire to restore and preserve the building rather than just using it for a commercial project.
He added: “This is very important from my point of view.” “…I’ve always been fascinated by this building, whether I was a teenager or now in my 70s, it’s still a part of Tecumseh. This is special to me.”
According to the request for proposals, the City Development Review Committee, made up of city staff and Tecumseh business leaders, will review the proposal and final recommendations will be presented to the City Council for consideration. Swallow said he expects to make a recommendation to the council at its scheduled meeting on Nov. 20 or Dec. 4, depending on review of the purchase and development agreement by both parties.