Metromode Looks Forward to 2019’s Big Developments in The ‘Burbs

As the City of Detroit continues to dominate the lion’s share of development headlines in southeastern Michigan, the region’s surrounding communities contain powerful centers of economic development of their own right. Area colleges, universities, and hospitals have transformative plans for their own campuses and communities. And there’s no shortage of developers working on their own commercial, residential, and mixed-use projects, too.

Let’s take a look into 2019 and beyond–and even take a look back at last year–to try and gauge the development landscape for Metro Detroit.

Anchor-driven development: Higher learning

A prevailing theory exists that anchor institutions drive development. Those institutions, namely colleges, universities, and hospitals, can employ thousands at each hub and spur economic development deep into the neighborhoods and commercial corridors that surround them, from complementary businesses to restaurants, retail, and a range of services.

The past year saw a number of Metro Detroit’s anchor institutions announce developments that could change the neighborhoods surrounding them. Just last month, Baker College announced plans to consolidate four college campuses into one central campus in downtown Ferndale.

This could no doubt be a huge boon for the city of Ferndale, adding jobs and drawing hundreds of commuting students to its downtown each day. But while Ferndale stands to benefit from this announcement, the cities of Allen Park, Auburn Hills, Clinton Township, and Flint Township would presumably mourn the loss of their own Baker campuses and associated benefits.

As an example of the power of anchor institutions, Ferndale restauranteur Dean Bach cited the Baker College news as one of the reasons he’s pulled his M-Brew and Dino’s Lounge businesses off the market, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.

Ferndale officials are currently going over the specifics, which include the construction of a campus on Nine Mile Road, east of Woodward Avenue. It will be interesting to follow the development over the course of the year, as it could significantly alter the direction of downtown Ferndale.

Meanwhile, in Rochester Hills, Oakland University has announced two major development projects for its central campus, furthering that institution’s impact on the community there. South Foundation Hall will receive a $40 million facelift, including the renovation of its original 55,000 sq. ft. building and the construction of a 25,000 sq. ft. expansion.

Wilson Hall, home to Meadow Brook Theatre, Meadow Brook Art Gallery, student classrooms, and more, will itself receive a $20.5 million investment, including a 54,000 sq. ft. renovation and 40,000 sq. ft. addition.

Anchor-driven development: Hospitals

The region’s hospitals are also making big development splashes around town. And the City of Royal Oak comes out perhaps the biggest winner of them all.

Beaumont Health System continues work on its development of a 16-acre plot of land adjacent to its Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak campus at 13 Mile and Woodward. Like many a major development announced before and after it–more on that later–the mixed-use redevelopment of the old Northwood Shopping Center is about a year behind schedule. A late 2019 opening date has now been given for the development, which could include a hotel, restaurants, and retail.

Beaumont is also currently constructing a new mental health hospital in the City of Dearborn, though that’s not expected to open until 2021.

It was also announced that downtown Royal Oak will be home to a Henry Ford Health System six-story outpatient facility, the sole tenant of that city’s new Royal Oak City Center in its civic center redevelopment.

Patience, patience, patience

As hinted at before, major development projects–nay, any development project–can often hit unforeseen snags that delay completion dates from what was originally announced. Construction challenges, tie-ups in city permit processes, funding difficulties, workforce shortages; all of these and more can push a much-anticipated project back months, if not years.

In fact, in taking just a peek at our article from last year, Top development stories to watch in Metro Detroit in 2018, we can find a number of major developments that have been delayed for one reason or another.

The website for the mixed-use FerndaleHaus Apartments development at Nine Mile and Planavon now says that move-ins are anticipated for May 2019. The downtown loft and apartment building features 100 residential units.

The Iron Ridge District, a 13-acre redevelopment site also in Ferndale, has already moved in a handful of businesses and more are expected to come online as 2019 progresses, including an as-yet-to-be-announced brewery.

The mixed-use The DOT–or Development on Troy–will now break ground in downtown Ferndale this year, featuring four floors of parking and one for office and retail space.

With the Wagner Place development complete in Dearborn, Ford Motor Company continues to focus on its ten-year plan for transforming the campus of its main headquarters into a more attractive destination for the next generation workforce.

Also interesting to watch will be the fates of former shopping malls Summit Place in Waterford and Northland Center in Southfield, which include plans for a business park and mixed-use city center, respectively.

Downtowns, old and new

One of the most interesting trends in Metro Detroit is how its suburban communities are vying to make their downtowns walkable, viable destinations. And perhaps even more so, the trend to transform suburban communities without downtowns into walkable, viable destinations–and even to create new downtowns where there weren’t ones before.

As detailed in a number of articles from Metromode’s stable of contributing writers, many Metro Detroit communities are devising new ways–and old ways–for reinvigorating city centers.

Oak Park is planning on road diets and bike lanes. Southfield hopes to transform the vast Northland Center site into a dense mixed-use destination. And Warren Mayor Jim Fouts seems adamant about redeveloping the land around that town’s city hall into a new, more traditional-style downtown.

Oak Park incorporated as a city after World War II.

Meanwhile, cities already with traditional downtowns like Berkley, Farmington, and Wixom continue to search for ways to draw people to their city sidewalks.

2019 will no doubt be a year to monitor these efforts and more.