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WESTLAND, MI-A Southfield-based developer is moving forward with plans to redevelop the abandoned Cooper School site which has stood vacant since the 1990s. Developer Frank Jonna would like to take the 35-acre property and build a senior citizen multifamily rental complex, medical office building and golf driving range, provided the Livonia public school system is game to sell the site.

The Cooper school was built on a landfill that was operated by Detroit until the 1950s, when it was closed and capped with a layer of clay. The school opened in 1966.

But in 1991, a woman reported finding a substance leaking from the landfill. The building was closed, and soil tests showed that it contained common household waste and toxins such as mercury and cadmium.

Previous plans for the property included condominiums and a golf driving range. However, officials say the new plans allow for better use of the property because there are no similar facilities in Westland’s north end for senior residents. Nearby Livonia has nearly 17,000 residents who are over age 65 who could benefit from the apartment, officials note.

Momentum to revitalize the property began this year, when the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality gave Livonia schools a $1.4 million grant to clean up the property. Westland will receive a $1 million loan, also to be used for cleanup. The loan can be repaid interest-free in five years.

“We’re excited about the prospect of having this go forward,” Westland Mayor Sandra Cicirelli says. “Our residents’ safety is going to be the foremost issue, and we’re going to make sure (the project) gets done appropriately.”

The developer and officials from Livonia public schools, the city of Westland and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will meet Friday to discuss a work plan for the property. DEQ officialswill have to approve the plan before developers can move forward.

If approved, the Cooper building could be demolished as early as this winter, Cicirelli says.

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