Late last fall, the Maxfield Training Center went on the market as its owner, Farmington Public Schools, sought a developer for the long-vacant surplus property.
The 58,675-square-foot building stands on about three acres of land and is located on Thomas Street, a few blocks northeast of the Grand River/Farmington Road intersection.
It’s a project not without controversy. The redevelopment strategy is based on the relatively new Farmington Downtown Area Plan, which calls for the eventual removal of four hundred-year-old houses at Grand River and Grove Street, in front of the Maxfield Training Center–an action which some of Farmington’s history-minded citizens feel would undermine the city’s image as a historic downtown.
One of these four houses–33104 Grand River–was included as an add-on in the sale, giving the developer the option of purchasing the property, removing the house, and incorporating the land.
The request for proposals garnered a grand total two bids. Both developers plan to demolish the outdated school building (not historic) and replace it with housing.
Here’s a look at their conceptual site plans.
Illustrations are taken from proposals submitted to the Farmington Public Schools.
Robertson Brothers Homes, based out of Bloomfield Hills, submitted a $637,500 bid and plans to construct 51 upscale two- and three-bedroom townhouses on the site of the current school building and surrounding property.
Some of the units would face Thomas Street and include on-street parking, while others would face Shiawassee Park.
The units would average 1,500 square feet.
Also included in the conceptual site plan is space for a “potential future parking garage,” although its construction is not included in the proposal.
In addition, the purchase offer includes a strategy for demolition of the vacant Maxfield Training Center building, as well as a list of third-party consultants and contractors who would take part in the project.
Livonia-based Blueduck Holdings, LLC submitted a $1.2 million purchase price and plans for a mixed-use development. It would include:
- A three- or four-story building containing 150 luxury apartments, plus retail/office space
- Up to eight single-family townhouses along Warner Street
- A three-level, 250-car parking deck, with one level underground, for both apartment residents and additional downtown parking
This proposal also includes acquiring two back-to-back residential properties, available for joint redevelopment at a price of $460,000, to create a public pedestrian pathway connecting Grand River to Shiawassee Park.
One of those properties is a 1904 Queen Anne house at 33104 Grand River, included in a recent petition circulated by Preservation Farmington and signed by some 450 residents of Farmington and the surrounding area.
PRELIMINARY CITY FEEDBACK
Which of the bids gets accepted–if either–is up to Farmington Public Schools leadership. However, the school board would not agree to a deal that could not gain the approval of City of Farmington officials, according to a statement in the Oakland Press by Jon Riebe, Farmington Public Schools director of facilities.
Farmington City Council is considering offering incentives to the winner, the topic of discussion at a meeting on Saturday, January 9.
Of the two proposals, Blueduck’s is more consistent with redevelopment visions outlined in the Farmington Downtown Area Plan, but its lack of specific details left some council members wondering about the company’s financial commitment. “There’s no beef behind what he’s saying,” said council member Jeff Scott, adding that without any concrete information, “it’s just somebody’s pipe dream.”
Scott felt that the Robertson Brothers proposal, although “pretty generic,” was more realistic and ready to go, although he was hoping for higher density use and was concerned over the lack of a passageway to Shiawassee Park.
Council member Greg Cowley felt that “apartments are not in our best interest, long-term,” due to a large number of police calls that he said occur in apartment areas. At the same time, he said that Blueduck’s proposal was the “only one that really addresses a parking solution.”
Mayor Bill Galvin shared the concerns over funding, noting that Farmington officials had recently turned down Blueduck’s proposal for the vacant 47th District Courthouse property on 10 Mile Road when the developer backed out of the deal. Galvin’s impression of Robertson Brothers was that they build “high-end projects” that would attract the type of citizens Farmington is seeking. As noted in their proposal, the group has implemented similar projects in Troy and Royal Oak.
Council member Sara Bowman was concerned over the fact the only two proposals were received for such a prominent project. According to Economic and Community Development Director Kevin Christiansen, the property is still on the market. If neither project is accepted, city leadership will likely work with the schools to issue another request for proposals.
Council member Steve Schneemann, due to his professional involvement with Blueduck Holdings, was recused from the discussion.
–by Maria Taylor