With the help of a local artist, Wayne County looks to breathe new life into an old Ford mill

It's a modest looking structure - both in size and aesthetic.

Complete with a shuttered interior and worn-away exterior, an old Mill in Plymouth stands unassuming and inconspicuous. But make no mistake, its historic prominence can't be understated.

"It has a lot of historic significant value that quite honestly is just sitting in a dilapidated state," said Khalil Rahal, the assistant Wayne County executive.

Designed by Albert Kahn with Henry Ford and Thomas Edison's signature on it, the structure has gone through decades of neglect. While Wayne County may have found a solution of what to do with the building, it's sat alone and ignored for almost 70 years.

Because no former Wayne County commissioner has managed to acquire money to rescue it, the county is now looking at selling it. But the structure's conclusion won't end in a wire transfer. Rather, a proposal has been released to turn it into an art studio and park.

"Ultimately, it would be an arts and education campus," said Tony Roko, a local artist. "We will be having a lot of community benefit and public amenities for bikers, fisherman and ultimately for the kids."

Roko has been commissioned by Ford Motor Company in the past as a contracted artist. His work has caught the eyes of famous celebrities like Jay Leno and Lady Gaga. And now, he's taking his creative and whimsical style to the walls and space of the old Plymouth mill.

The proposal hasn't been completely welcome. Preservationists view the building as a county landmark that needs to be kept as original as possible. However, the County said it's not trying to close off the structure's legacy, opting to instead breathe new life into the mill.

"Anybody that invests in this property has to produce a park-like atmosphere that is open from dawn to dusk for children, for seniors and for everybody in between," said Rahal.

Combined with its legacy is the contemporary motivations to use the piece of history as a means to galvanize the community.

"That site can serve as a gateway to our community welcoming east siders," Roko said. "Make that a gathering place for the community and have a large impact on Wayne County youth."

More details on the proposal will be released at a Tuesday night meeting. 

"Not just anybody and we're not just selling, we're putting restrictions on a lot of it that run with the land forever," Rahal said. "So anybody that has to invest anything into this property has to do under historical standards."