Here's why Wayne County sold the old Eloise complex for just a dollar

Eloise hospital complex in Westland

WESTLAND, Mich.Wayne County has sold off the former Eloise Psychiatric Hospital complex in Westland to developers for just one dollar.

The former hospital complex, spanning 28-acres, will be redeveloped into affordable senior housing and emergency housing.

The agreement was passed unanimously by the Wayne County Commission, which transfers ownership of the Kay Beard Building and other blighted properties to a Southfield-based development team.

Why just a dollar?

The county had been shopping the land for a couple of years prior to the agreement this week.

The complex needs about $4 to $5 million in environmental rehabilitation. 

According to Assistant County Executive Khalil Rahal, Wayne County will save about $375K per year with this agreement, with most of the costs stemming from maintenance and security.

The agreement also locks in a $20 million investment, which includes a plan to demolish dilapidated buildings the county would have had to pay for.

Basically, the county sees this as a bargain. 

"We're following through on a plan we began when we took office," said Rahal, referring to the county's plan to reduce its real estate portfolio by finding productive uses for excess assets. 

The plan is also in line with the county's vision for a Michigan Avenue corridor. 

"We really believe Michigan Avenue, from Downtown, Corktown to Dearborn, Westland to Ann Arbor -- is one of the keys to the area and our recovery plan," said Rahal.

What's happening with the existing property?

The county said most of the properties will likely be demolished, including the power and former Wayne County prosecutor building.

The cemetery at Eloise will not be removed and will be preserved.

The Kay Beard building will not be demolished and the historic markers will remain on the property. 

Previous coverage: 

History of Eloise

The Eloise began as the Wayne County Poorhouse, which opened in 1839 in the now defunct Nankin Township.

Nankin was a part of Wayne County, originally named Bucklin Township, and it included what are now the cities of Livonia, Inkster, Dearborn, Redford, Wayne and Westland.

The complex had its own police and fire department, bakery and railroad.

Eloise was one of the first hospitals to use x-rays for diagnosis. It was also home to the first kidney dialysis unit in Michigan.

The complex eventually expanded - spanning 902 acres, with more than 70 buildings.

The facility had a radium treatment for cancer patients, and the sanitarium was one of the first to use "open air" treatment for tuberculosis patients.

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Psychiatric patients underwent electroshock and insulin shock therapy.

After the Great Depression, the population of the complex started to decrease, as reports of violence, questionable conditions, misconduct and overall neglect surfaced.

Farm operations ceased in 1958, and the psychiatric division began to close in 1977 when the state took over.

The main hospital closed in 1984.

Related: Northville Downs horse racing track to be sold, redeveloped into apartments, homes

Today, the hospital complex is only made up of about eight buildings, while the vast land around it has been converted to strip malls, golf courses and condos.

Read more about Eloise here.


About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.