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November 26, 2013

Apartments planned on old paper mill site

Development would move, lower Clinton River Trail

By Linda Shepard
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
A Rochester Paper Mill historical marker sits at the site of the proposed Mill Town apartment complex near where the Clinton River and Paint Creek meet.

ROCHESTER — Abutting the Clinton River and Paint Creek trails, an abandoned paper mill site is slated for redevelopment as a residential apartment complex.

Soave Real Estate Group aims to build River Place at Mill Town Apartments, 131 units in 18 buildings off of Mill Street, on the south side of the city.

“I think this is a win for the city of Rochester,” Rochester Mayor Stuart Bikson said at a Rochester Planning Commission public hearing Nov. 18. “These kind of developments raise property values throughout the city.”

However, some residents and trail users objected to the Mill Town development plans, which include relocating the Clinton River Trail and lowering it. Objections centered on possible flooding of the trail by the Clinton River and the loss of views and green space. 

“I’m a trail guy. I am out there every single day,” said Ross Lee, a resident who lives near the development site. “(This) changes our green space and access to the trail.” 

Gary Tressel, senior associate with Hubbell, Roth & Clark Inc. — an engineering firm working on the project — said  the relocated trail would maintain access for everyone and would be a foot above the 100-year flood plain level.

“The trail itself will be lower than the rail bed that is there today but above the 100-year stage,” Tressel said. “In the event it is submerged, there is a walkway that goes through the complex — an alternate (route) if it is flooded for a very unusual event.”

Tressel said plans include lowering the Clinton River Trail by three or four feet at various sites in the development. Additional plans include lush landscaping, lighting, a rain garden and historical markers near the trail.

The Clinton River Trail is a recreational trail following 16 miles of abandoned rail line once known as the Michigan Airline through Oakland County and the cities of Sylvan Lake, Pontiac, Auburn Hills, Rochester Hills and Rochester.

“I don’t think anything we are doing poses an additional flood problem,” said Richard Lewiston, of Soave Real Estate. “It improves and cleans up what is now a bad situation. The new trail will be more picturesque and just as convenient — far more beautiful than the present trail. It is a very difficult and expensive site. Nothing we are doing will be adverse to the appearance of the community.”

The project has met with support from the Friends of the Clinton River Trail, the Clinton River Watershed Council and the Clinton River Trail Alliance. “All the groups that support the trail are in favor of this,” Bikson said.

Next, Mill Town requires special project approval by the Rochester City Council, which is slated to address the matter 7 p.m. Nov. 25 at Rochester City Hall, located at 400 Sixth St.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Linda Shepard at lshepard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1065.