Taylor’s Tax Increment Finance Authority on Tuesday, September 8, unanimously approved the “Gateway” portion of the Eureka Road Corridor Improvement Plan, beginning Phase One of the joint effort between the City of Taylor, TIFA and Wayne County to vastly renovate and improve the area between Telegraph and Allen roads.
Tuesday’s vote approved the $1.2M bid by Warner Contractors & Development to construct state-of-the-art “Gateway” signage at the intersection of Telegraph and Eureka and in the median west of Allen Road, near the Canadian National Railroad viaduct. At Telegraph, the unique signage will be on both the north and south sides of the median.
This portion of the project is just a part of a $17M joint effort by TIFA and the county, which is a result of a court settlement between the two parties resulting from a decades-old and heavily litigated dispute of the Northline Road Agreement. TIFA funds are restricted to certain usages, can only be used within the designated district’s boundaries, and are commonly used for economic development enhancements.
“The Tax Increment Finance Authority board is pleased that the Eureka Road Gateway project is finally getting started,” TIFA Chairman Ron Moran said. “After a number of years of planning and design, the much needed improvements to the storm drainage, traffic control along with landscaping and signage will be underway shortly. This project will improve a major commercial corridor in Taylor that should enhance the economic viability of the businesses along Eureka and demonstrate that the City is committed to doing its part in making the area attractive to the shopping public, the existing businesses as well as prospective business owners looking for a place to locate.”
The “Gateway” signage idea mimics the City’s “Gateway Bridge” at Telegraph Road and I-75. Also known as the “blue bridge,” the Gateway Bridge was developed by the Detroit Regional Gateway Advisory Council in preparation for Super Bowl XL in Detroit in February 2006. It was one of several improvements made in the mid-2000s along 18 miles of I-94. The bridge cost $14M and was part of an approximately $520M in overall I-94 improvements. Inspiration for the bridge came from a 1987 article by Frank Peters in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about a tied-arch bridge over the Mississippi River.
TIFA and the country will each fund half of the costs of the overall Eureka Road project, which focuses on the two-mile stretch of Eureka between Telegraph and Allen. The three-tiered process plans for improved safety for both motorists and pedestrians; enhanced “gateways” at Telegraph and Allen roads; trees, plantings and walkway improvements; litter receptacles, benches and bus shelters; way-finding signage; non-motorized traffic connections; and, above all, enhanced design of storm water management, transforming the existing Frank & Poet Drain into a more enclosed, effective and aesthetically pleasing system.
The Frank & Poet Drain, which runs along Eureka Road from just east of Telegraph through the Southland Center property and on toward Southgate, is both an eyesore and a flood-control problem. In some areas of the improvement plan, the open drain will be enclosed, which will lead to easier and better maintenance. In other portions, like directly in front of Southland Center, it will be stay open, but will be refurbished and enhanced. These types of steps will not only help in flood-control issues, but will make the corridor much more attractive to walkers and non-motorized activity. Earlier this year, a man walking down Eureka Road actually fell into the drain and firefighters had to help him out.
“The drain is a big key to this entire plan,” Mayor Rick Sollars said. “Having an open county drain running through Taylor’s retail and entertainment district is a large problem. The aesthetics are horrible, it’s dangerous and unfortunately we have people throwing things into it – even grocery carts. The wind blows debris into it. At some points, heavy vegetation growing in the creek – especially near West Point – prevents proper drainage flow.
“All of these factors combine to cause heavy Eureka Road flooding under the viaducts east of Southland Mall. The underpasses at the railroad viaducts flood, as does the underpass at I-75. So do some streets and parking lots east of Racho. Given that we have Southland Mall and Trader’s Point in those areas, enclosing and improving the Frank & Poet Drain is imperative.”
Wayne County has already made many improvements along Eureka Road, especially between Racho and Allen. It repaved Eureka Road and improved its infrastructure in preparation for Menards, BJ Wholesale Club and Trader’s Pointe. New traffic lights, including timing, and sidewalk improvements have been done there and elsewhere. Racho Road, between Eureka and Pennsylvania, is scheduled to be repaved. DTE is currently upgrading street lights along Eureka Road, both to the east and west of Telegraph.
“Taylor is a growing community,” said George Sutherland, the City’s director of Economic Development and Sports Entertainment. “There has been major investment in Southland Mall. Cinemark theater moved in. Restaurants and other retail stores soon followed. Trader’s Point was created, with Menards super store as the anchor. The development strategy for the Eureka Road Corridor is all about placemaking. We want to showcase it is a place where people gather and all Downriver communities can share in the excitement. They are going to shop here, they are going to eat here and they are going to enjoy the community.”
The construction of the “Gateway” signage should begin next spring. The enclosure and other improvements to the Frank & Poet Drain will also begin next year, and are projected to last approximately two years.
“Ideally, we want to be done with the gateway signs before we get into the (drain) enclosures,” Kelly Robb-Ackland, project manager for Wade Trim, told the TIFA board. “These are going to be two different contractors working and we would prefer that they did not overlap.”
The Eureka Road Corridor Improvement Plan meshes well with the new Fletcher Discovery Trail. The trail connects the Midtown Goddard district to Heritage Park, Wayne County Community College District’s Downriver Campus, the new park being created near Pardee and Superior, and finally the Eureka Road and Telegraph Road areas.
“While the Eureka Road business district has been very attractive to overall development, it lags in other important areas that would truly make it a ‘world class’ type of area,” Mayor Sollars said. “Frankly, at times it is not friendly for motorized vehicles, much less pedestrian traffic. In our day and age, we must improve our overall non-motorized connectivity. People love to walk and ride bicycles. We must accommodate them, and make the district friendlier.”