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Growing the 'burbs: Top development stories to watch in Metro Detroit in 2018

Ferndale's growing up and out. Ford's helping to transform downtown Dearborn. And metro Detroit's communities continue to embrace the concepts of placemaking in earnest. There is no shortage of developments coming online in southeastern Michigan in 2018. By no means a complete list, here are several of the grand openings we're most looking forward to attending in 2018.

Home of the hippest downtown north of Eight Mile, Ferndale will only cement its status as metro Detroit's most attractive suburb for area millennials in 2018. From single family homes to multi-level mixed-use loft buildings, Ferndale will see a number of development projects begin or conclude throughout the year.

According to its website, the Ferndale Haus Lofts development will be completed by May 2018. Construction is currently underway on the mixed-use building, which is being built on the old Sav-A-Lot site on Nine Mile Road in downtown Ferndale. Expect 90 residential units, more than 10,000 sq. ft. of retail and office space, and integrated parking at the Ferndale Haus Lofts.
A mix of 100 single family homes and townhomes will be built on the sites of two former schools, both of which should offer at least some move-in ready homes over the course of the year. The 72-unit Parkdale Townes townhouse development is going on the former site of the Taft Digital Learning Center and the 28-unit Wilson Park Village of single-family homes is being built on the old Wilson University High School site. Bloomfield Hills-based developer Robertson Brothers Co. is responsible for both projects.

Though it may not be ready for at least another year or two, it will be no less interesting to observe how the development of the Iron Ridge District shapes up over the course of 2018. Located on a 13-acre site that straddles the border of Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge, the Iron Ridge development will eventually include residential, commercial, and office space, as well as a marketplace, brewery, beer garden, and more.

And while it may not be the sexiest of developments, a multi-level parking deck in downtown Ferndale confirms the city's continued and expected growth. Dubbed "The Dot," the four-level and 397-space parking deck will also feature street-level commercial space and the potential for two additional floors of office space. Construction on the structure, located on W. Troy Street, breaks ground in the spring.


In addition to the Ford Motor Company's increased focus on autonomous vehicles and mobility technology, the Dearborn-based company made the headlines several times in 2017 as they announced a number of development plans that embrace the benefits of traditional downtowns. At least two of those plans should come to fruition in 2018.

Work is well underway in west downtown Dearborn, where Ford has purchased, demolished, and is in the process of rebuilding two blocks of that city's main drag, Michigan Avenue. Eschewing the mid-twentieth century idea of an office tower surrounded by landscaping and parking lots, Ford is rebuilding the streetwall on Michigan Avenue to supply offices for as many as 600 employees in a walkable urban environment that is decidedly more appealing to a new generation of office workers. They are also renovating the historic Wagner Hotel as part of the project. The development should be completed by mid-year
Ford is also moving more than 200 employees to a redeveloped building in Detroit's historic Corktown neighborhood, another building that is located on Michigan Avenue. That move should be completed in 2018, too.

Though it won't be completed by the end of 2018, Ford also announced that it is redesigning its Ford Dearborn campus into a high-tech and green campus as it transitions from an automobile company into an automobile and mobility company. The campus redevelopment is a 10-year project and construction is underway.

Pontiac/Bloomfield Hills

The specter of the abandoned Bloomfield Park development in Pontiac and Bloomfield Hills has haunted passers-by for nearly a decade now, but it was announced in 2017 that the arrested development-that-never-was would soon be scrapped and replaced with a re-invigorated plan for the nearly 90-acre site.

The new development, the Village at Bloomfield, will incorporate some of the partially-built buildings while demolishing others, resulting in a mixed-use campus that includes commercial, residential, and a hotel. Openings should roll out over the course of both 2018 and 2019, according to Southfield-based developer Redico.


We reported on several placemaking projects over the course of 2017, and a number of them are scheduled to come online in 2018.

Bike share programs. Bike lanes. Bike racks. Bicycles have become a key component of a number of metro Detroit communities' placemaking missions. In the community of Wayne, a 2017 crowdfunding campaign successfully raised enough money to install 20 custom bike racks throughout the city. In 2018, look for pop-up bike repair stations to continue throughout spring and summer of 2018.

In the downriver community of Trenton, a successful crowdfunding campaign has funded the construction of the Wildlife Refuge School Ship Dock and Fishing Pier at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. While construction on the dock and pier have been completed, they won't officially open until this spring. The pier offers free shore fishing access to area anglers while the dock will host Michigan Sea Grant’s Great Lakes school ship, providing metro Detroit schoolchildren a "living laboratory" field trip destination on the river and refuge.

Both the Wayne bike rack program and the Wildlife Refuge School Ship Dock and Fishing Pier were subjects of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's Public Spaces Community Places placemaking initiative. For successfully reaching their crowdfunding goals, each program received a corresponding matching grant.

Bonus developments to watch: 

It will be interesting to monitor what 2018 holds for three of metro Detroit's most notable sites, those of the vacant Northland Mall in Southfield, the shuttered Palace of Auburn Hills, and the partially demolished Pontiac Silverdome. Each site holds both cultural and nostalgic weight for metro Detroiters, but each is also uniquely situated to provide transformative development opportunities for their respective communities. No doubt that the cities of Southfield, Auburn Hills, and Pontiac are carefully weighing their options for each site.

Humanetics in Farmington Hills creates crash test dummies to increase senior safety


Humanities, a Farmington Hills-based designer, supplier, and manufacturer of crash test dummies and calibration equipment, announced that a dummy designed to address the needs and characteristics of senior drivers and passengers has entered advanced testing for vehicle safety systems. 

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Vitrine Gallery & Gifts opens in downtown Berkley


Vitrine Gallery & Gifts has opened in downtown Berkley, featuring work by local artists, global artisans, Michigan food products and fair trade products. Susan Rogal is the owner of the 1,500 sq. ft. shop. She also owns ArtWear Detroit, a functional art fashion, accessories and housewares company and has a studio at the shop.

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Auto supplier Hella breaks ground for new Northville Township HQ


Automobile industry supplier Hella is relocating its North American headquarters to Northville Township, where it is also planning to expand its work force.

The German company, which develops, builds and markets lighting and electronic components for auto manufacturers and suppliers, recently broke ground for a 115,000-square-foot office and technical center on Technology Drive near Beck Road.

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Martinrea International opens new Auburn Hills facility


Martinrea International Inc. announced the opening of its new state-of-the-art facility in Auburn Hills. The 108,000 sq. ft. structure includes office and lab space for research and development, and houses 160 employees, according to a press release from the supplier.

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Owner of Southfield salon to open Detroit studio and launch national brand


Dana White, the owner of Paralee Boyd Salon of Southfield, recently launched her national brand with the grand opening of her second Paralee Boyd salon. The new salon is at 3939 Woodward Avenue in Midtown, Detroit.

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Indiana-based AM General opens Technology and Engineering Center in Auburn Hills


South Bend, Indiana-based global mobility solutions provider AM General announced it has moved into a new Technology and Engineering Center in Auburn Hills. The facility houses engineering, product planning, and prototyping departments along with business development, U.S. defense, and strategic marketing functions.

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Holly schoolhouse to become boutique hotel and banquet center


Holly’s queen of re-purposing has another grand transformation in the works – the conversion of a 1913 schoolhouse into a boutique hotel and banquet center with a speak-easy.

Cari Cucksey, host of HGTV’s Cash & Cari and owner of RePurpose and The Holly Vault, announced at an Oakland County Planner’s Gathering that she and her husband Vince would be opening the hotel by the end of 2018.

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Auburn Hills-based Continental debuts fifth-generation radar sensors for autonomous driving


Auburn Hills-based automotive technology supplier Continental today announced the fifth generation of its short and long range radar sensors, which will enter series production in 2019. The sensors cater to vehicle manufacturers’ varying requirements and electrical-electronic architectures for emerging autonomous vehicle technologies.

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Denso in Southfield, Symbio collaborate on Finnish innovation center


Denso, an automotive component manufacturer with a North American headquarters in Southfield, today announced a plan to open a joint innovation center in Finland with software company Symbio.

The facility will be based in Symbio’s premises in Espoo and activities will begin this year following a letter of intent to establish the innovation center signed on Oct. 24.

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Hart Marx Advisors opens new office in Bloomfield Hills


Hart Marx Advisors, a consulting firm that assists buys and sellers in the automotive and heavy-duty industries, has opened a new office in Bloomfield Hills, next to its sister company, Marx Group, a full-service marketing communications agency specializing in the automotive and trucking industries.

The new 2,800 square-foot space will offer the company maximum exposure to automotive and commercial vehicle suppliers as the business continues to expand.

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Orion Twp. completes phase 1 of Clarkston Road Safety Path


Orion Township is a mile closer to connecting the Paint Creek and Polly Ann trails with the completion of a portion of the Clarkston Road safety path.

Bikers and pedestrians can now use the path, which consists of an elevated wooden boardwalk along the north side of Clarkston Road near Camp Agawam.

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Popularity of beards has metro Detroiters looking for relief with balm


It started with an itch and grew into an enterprise that sells products to make beards more bearable.

"When you start growing a beard, you get itchy and irritable," said Steve Henes, who this summer purchased Detroit Grooming, a Ferndale-based company, with a business partner, Victor Simon. "So the founders developed this oil, shared it with other people, and they said, 'You've got something that works!' "

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13 acres in Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge to be redeveloped into residential, retail, and office space

A large redevelopment project that straddles the cities of Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge is one step closer to reality, thanks to the recent approval of brownfield tax credits from the Michigan Strategic Fund.

In an area more recognizable for its industrial past, a 13-acre site anchored by the vacant building at 660 E. 10 Mile Rd. will be transformed into a mixed-use campus featuring a marketplace, brewery, beer garden, and more.

Five remaining buildings on-site will also be rehabilitated, featuring office space, retail space, fitness center, and, in keeping in the spirit of the site's past light industrial life, a fire suppression company.

The project will also feature the construction of 75 new residential units.

"Iron Ridge is an exciting project that transforms a contaminated, defunct site into a shared gathering place for two communities -- Ferndale and our neighbors in Pleasant Ridge," says Jordan Twardy, Ferndale's Community and Economic Development Director.

"The mix of uses creates a sense of place that connects residents with unique places to dine and shop, and given its location near I-696, it will function as a unique gateway destination to both communities."

The development team behind the mixed-use campus, Iron Ridge Holdings LLC, was able to secure $3,531,500 in local and school tax capture for the alleviation of brownfield conditions at the site. Announcement of the County of Oakland Brownfield Redevelopment Authority receiving MSF approval for the brownfield tax credit was announced Tuesday, Oct. 24.

According to officials from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Iron Ridge redevelopment will, "Reactivate a group of vacant or underutilized industrial and residential parcels into a vibrant mixed-use campus, bring new housing to the city of Ferndale and will increase density and economic activity in the area."

Officials expect the project to create 200 new jobs and generate a total capital investment of $32 million.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Autoliv breaks ground at new Southfield location


Autoliv has broken ground in Southfield for their new 180,000 square foot Electronics Technical Center.

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