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Authority seeks residents’ opinions on vision for Grand River corridor

FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — The Grand River Corridor Improvement Authority and the cities of Farmington and Farmington Hills are seeking residents’ feedback as the process of drafting a vision plan for the corridor begins.

Residents from both cities are invited to attend the Grand River Visioning Summit Jan. 23, where residents will have the opportunity to learn more about the Grand River improvement project and work in small groups to generate ideas for the corridor and identify potential challenges to its redevelopment.

“The two boards working together collectively decided that we want to work with area stakeholders in the two communities to decide what types of visions we want to work toward for Grand River, what potentials are there and what challenges are there and what type of projects do we want to drive our plans around to achieve that vision,” said Nate Geinzer, the assistant to the city manager in Farmington Hills.

Community feedback will help the authority to create a vision plan for the corridor and outline projects that work toward that vision or goal.

“The goal there is to bring interested residents, property owners and stakeholders together to share ideas, big and small, to discuss the ideas they have, to discuss the ideas others — who have already been working on this project — have, so that we can get all the ideas together and discuss them and decide where the Grand River corridor should go moving forward,” said Kevin Christiansen, the economic and community development director for the city of Farmington.

Farmington Hills resident Spencer Brown will be at the summit. He jumped on board the project as soon as he heard about it, and he’s been an authority board member since last year.

“Anybody that knows Grand River nowadays can see there is a need for some improvements and changes,” Brown said. “Grand River has sort of been in a long, slow, downward slide for a number of years, and I would like to reverse it and make it a destination where people come to have their shopping, cultural, entertainment and activity or sporting needs met.”

While specific projects for improvements along the corridor haven’t been established yet, authority members, like Brown, are already hard at work coming up with long-term goals and lists of issues that need to be addressed in order for the improvement project to succeed, which they will share, and hope to hear feedback on, during the summit.

“It’s a corridor that is kind of a mix of time periods of development,” Christiansen said. “There are uses that are very strong uses, and there are uses that have been turned over, time and time again, creating a lot of vacancy. We’d like to link it all together and make it more pedestrian-friendly through its whole length in both cities.”

The almost three-mile corridor runs from downtown Farmington to Eight Mile Road, and officials say that because of the corridor’s size and the impact the economy has had on the area, the process of identifying and meeting improvement goals will be a long-term project that requires many small steps in a period of years.

“The long-term part of the project will be implementation of the plan on a use-by-use, business-by-business, project-by-project basis, and all these little changes and projects, over time, will hopefully bring about the complete plan in accordance with the vision that is the goal of this whole project,” Christiansen said.

Geinzer is working to establish the area as a tax increment finance district, similar to a downtown development authority, where the cities can capture tax growth on developments to help fund the project.

“Essentially we would be capturing the growth on the value increases in properties,” Geinzer said. “So if a property is worth $100,000 this year and next year it is worth $110,000, we would be able to capture the taxes on that $10,000 to reinvest within the district.”

Funding issues are still a ways off though. The authorities first must come up with a vision and master plan for what they hope to accomplish in the area before they can begin to tackle projects that would require funding.

“The goal right now is just to assess and evaluate existing conditions and to make a vision and then to develop a plan for the corridor — for today and for the future,” Christiansen said.

And for that, they need the support and ideas of residents in both communities.

The Grand River Visioning Summit will be 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23 at the Costick Center, located at 28600 11 Mile Road, in Farmington Hills. For more information, contact Kevin Christiansen at (248) 474-5500, ext. 2226, Nate Geinzer at (248) 871-2507 or visit www.fhgov.com/grandriver.