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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.

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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Innovation Park receives Brooksie Way $30K grant


A section of the trail at Innovation Hills Park in Rochester Hills will now be known as the Brooksie Way. The city recently received a $30,000 grant from the organization, which held its annual half-marathon and other racing events in Rochester Hills last weekend.

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Work begins on new upscale senior living community in West Bloomfield


Work has begun at the former Ealy Elementary School in West Bloomfield Township, to make room for a $23 million upscale assisted living and memory care senior community.

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Thousands of jobs, billions of investment headed for Pontiac, developers say


Pontiac's leaders say the city is on the verge of making major strides toward a comeback as a major economic hub in Metro Detroit.

The city's resurgence, however, won't be based on an over reliance on auto manufacturing this time, and instead supported by a series of developments and corporate moves diversifying its economy.

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Auburn Hills wins prestigious urban planning award


We’re thrilled to report that the City of Auburn Hills has been selected to receive the 2017 Planning Excellence Award for Best Practice by the Michigan Association of Planning for its work on its Age Friendly Action Plan.

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Troy proposal would create downtown center


Shedding its past as a rural outpost, Troy has become Oakland County’s most populated city, and a business and shopping destination in Metro Detroit.

But the suburb of shopping malls and subdivisions forgot one thing along the way, city leaders say: a downtown.

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Crowdfunding campaign launched for Red Pole Park

The city of Southfield and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) launched a new crowdfunding campaign through Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity. The campaign will create an interactive art installation along the new Northwestern Highway Pathway in Southfield’s City Centre. 

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Lake Orion and Rochester top winners as Main Street Oakland County honors area downtowns during gala

Lake Orion and Rochester and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) for each community received top honors Thursday night at the Main Street Oakland County “Main Event On Broadway” celebration at the Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts.

Awards in 13 categories were given out by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson during the celebration, which was a nod to the Flagstar Strand and its recent renovation and restoration as a live performance venue.

“Our downtowns add immeasurable value to the quality of life Oakland County residents find so attractive,” Patterson said. “Congratulations to the communities and the Main Street Oakland County team for the work they’ve done making these downtowns such economically vibrant and attractive destinations.”

Patterson was joined at the event by more than 150 guests, including many local and county officials. It was sponsored by ITC, A Fortis Company; SMART, Genisys Credit Union, the Oakland County Business Finance Corp.; The Dobrusin Law Firm and Michigan Glass Coatings.

The Lake Orion DDA received a $2,000 cash award from Genisys Credit Union for creating an amateur video illustrating the story of its downtown. The Rochester DDA and The Home Bakery split a $1,500 award from Michigan Glass Coatings for their display window on a Broadway theme.

MSOC created the awards program in 2004. It recognizes excellence in downtown revitalization in such areas as design, economic restructuring, organization and promotion. The judging panel was comprised of experts in historic preservation and economic development.

The award winners were:


  • Spirit of Main Street: Lake Orion DDA (Includes a $2,000 prize, sponsored by Genisys Credit Union)
  • Window on Main Street: Rochester DDA and The Home Bakery (Includes $750 to each, sponsored by Michigan Glass Coatings)


Stars of Main Street
  • Volunteer of the Year: Brian Golden, Farmington; and Scott Reynolds, Lake Orion
  • Local Leader of the Year: Jerry Walker, Holly
  • Board Member of the Year: Cassie Blascyk, Highland
  • Business Owner of the Year: Chris and Tiffany Best, The Rust Belt Market, Ferndale
  • Landmark Preservation: Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts, Pontiac
  • On a Shoestring: Putting the Art in SMART: Ferndale
  • Out in the Open: Canvas Pontiac, Pontiac
  • Telling Your Story: Grizz Night, Pontiac
  • Game Change: West Construction Services, Brent and Kyle Westberg, Pontiac


  • Program on the Rise - Promotion: Food Truck Fridays, Lathrup Village
  • Program on the Rise - Organization: Bobbi Lovins, Lathrup Village
Since 2001, MSOC downtowns have generated about $741 million in new public and private investment, created 7,378 jobs, established 1,020 new businesses, the construction of 3.3 million square feet of floor space and benefited from more than 382,000 volunteer hours.

In 2016, public and private investment totaled $34.2 million and resulted in 293 net new jobs; 49 net new businesses; the construction of more than 176,000 square feet of floor space and volunteer contributions of more than 43,000 hours of volunteer time equating to a value of more than $1 million.

Main Street is a trademarked program of the National Main Street Center in Chicago. Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Franklin, Highland Township, Holly, Lake Orion, Ortonville, Oxford, Pontiac and Rochester are MSOC “Select Level” communities. Birmingham, Wixom and Lathrup Village are communities in the “Associate Level.” Auburn Hills, Clarkston, Groveland Township, Hazel Park, Holly Township, Leonard, Oak Park, South Lyon, Walled Lake and Waterford Township are “Affiliate Level” communities.

Oakland County is the first and still only county in the United States to operate a full-service county-wide Main Street program. It is available to the county’s 32 historic downtowns, heritage corridors and mixed-use urban centers.

Moceri partners with Beaumont Health on education, active living community


A new partnership between home builder Moceri Co. and Beaumont Health will bring wellness education, health programming, and on-site health clinics to those living in Blossom Collection communities, a portfolio of active adult communities for residents 55 and older. The partnership provides for Beaumont Health physician-staffed clinics on-site at the communities, as well as classes on heart and brain heath, balance, disease prevention, screening, and vaccination programs.

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Downtown Pontiac's Riker Building celebrates first major tenant: MadDog Technology

The redevelopment team of the historic Riker Building in downtown Pontiac is taking a top-down approach. The ten-story building, opened in 1928, welcomed prominent Michigan public officials and business leaders this past Wednesday, March 22 for a luncheon and open house celebrating the building's first major tenant, MadDog Technology.

From the top floor of the Riker, a group that included the building's developer Tim Shepard, MadDog Technology co-founders Pete Karmanos, Jr. and Mark Hillman, Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman, and Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley, among many others, gathered for the grand opening of MadDog Technology.

The venture capital firm MadDog has moved four technology startups into the 6,000 sq. ft. space on the building's tenth floor. Redevelopment of the building is happening one floor at a time, from the tenth floor on down to the first.

The overall theme of the celebration was one of rejuvenation, not just of the prominent downtown office tower but of the city as a whole. Speakers forecasted a pending technology boom for the city, encouraging the audience to invest in Pontiac.

Mark Adams, Senior Business Development Representative for Oakland County's Economic Development & Community Affairs department says that Michigan nearly lost MadDog to another state, but work at the city and state levels, including a state grant, helped convince MadDog to stay in Michigan.

Adams says he expects 100 IT workers to be hired over the next few years, and that MadDog's move to the Riker, "will be a catalyst for more businesses coming to the city of Pontiac."

Mayor Waterman believes MadDog will help establish Pontiac as a technology hub, saying that the city has the largest unused fiber optic network east of the Mississippi River.

"We want to change the narrative of what Pontiac is," says the mayor. "We're at the center of Oakland County."

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

Royal Oak approves redevelopment plan for closed Northwood Shopping Center


Beaumont Health has received final approval from the Royal Oak City Commission on a zoning change that clears the way for redevelopment of the former Northwood Shopping Center at the southwest corner of Woodward Avenue and 13 Mile Road.

Groundbreaking for a new 183,000-square-foot commercial retail development on the 15-acre property is expected to take place this summer. Demolition, abatement, and soil remediation of the former shopping center buildings and townhouses on the property is currently underway. The plan is expected to be complete by the end of 2018.

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Four Lyon Township projects will add over 300 homes


When it comes to single-family home construction, Lyon Township topped the list for growth in 2015 and saw permits issued for a similar number of houses in 2016.

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MEDC approves business expansions and other projects totaling $40.8M


Four business expansions and one community revitalization project that are projected to generate more than $40.8 million in total investment and create 272 jobs today were approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. announced.

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New mixed-use development underway in downtown Auburn Hills


Recently, construction fencing went up along the perimeter of the property at the southwest corner of S. Squirrel and Auburn.  This fencing represents the first phases of construction for the new mixed-use, multifamily development “The Residences at Thirty Two 50”.

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125 Community Building Articles | Page: | Show All
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