City, planning firm discuss guidelines for Northland redevelopment

By: Kayla Dimick, | Southfield Sun | Published February 14, 2017

SOUTHFIELD — Members of the City Council, Planning Department and OHM Advisors, the firm selected to develop a conceptual, market-driven master redevelopment plan for Northland Center, met recently to discuss the guidelines for the property.

At the Feb. 6 City Council meeting, City Planner Terry Croad and Aaron Domini, senior planner and partner at OHM, discussed the codes and standards that will be implemented for developers of the mall property, located at 21500 Northwestern Highway.

“The whole goal of the vision plan is to regulate and guide the future development of the Northland site,” Croad said at the meeting. “When a developer comes and says, ‘I want to build a 30,000-square-foot building,’ we want to know what it’ll look like and what the requirements are, so that is why we’re developing this.”

In September, Domini unveiled the final redevelopment plan for the site. Over a series of public meetings last year, residents were asked for their input on their desires for the property through surveys and several public input sessions.

The massive plan includes a wheel concept — a radiating pattern of five districts stemming from a central green space and utilizing the underground tunnels that run beneath the mall.

The five districts — dubbed shopping, lifestyle, Central Park, innovation and green space — are part of a larger concept of mixed-use development at the site. Major plans for the districts include walkable and safe apartments, student and senior housing, a hotel, medical offices, green space, public space, miscellaneous offices, and retail space.

Plans also include salvaging the J.L. Hudson building, more recently known as Macy’s.

Croad said the purpose of laying out specific standards for the site is so that builders and developers will be able to clearly understand what the city expects of them.

“Through these standards, they know they’ll get approval from the city, and that’s worth a lot to these developers. Time is money, and knowing what the regulations are upfront can streamline the process,” Croad said.

Domini said that although the guidelines are meant to make the development process go smoothly, they are subjective.

“These are not your standards that are codified. These are intended to be a guide and really speak toward the intending character of the development,” Domini said. “What is the essence we’re trying to create in here?”

Guidelines will differ for each of the districts, Domini said. Each district will have its own standards as far as signage, public art, green space and the buildings themselves.

“We’ve talked a lot about the Central Park district really being the anchor of this development. It will have a mix of uses with neighborhood focus,” Domini said. “One of the things you’ll see in there when we talk about the Central Park district and the green space is some flexibility and temporary uses. This is the place where you might see a popcorn cart or an ice cream cart — things that you may not typically allow in a normal district  we’d allow in this space because we want the activity and the vibrancy.”

The guidelines will also help regulate the type of activity within the Northland development, Domini said.

“We want to address balconies on the street, but at the same time it can be really hard to regulate what happens on the balconies when you have towels hanging out and grills, and it can start to look unsightly,” Domini said. “So from public roads, we’re not allowing those balconies to project out. It’s kind of important to point out because that’s something a lot of communities struggle with. You want the outdoor activity, you want the balconies, but from the public realm they can start to get out of control, and regulation is difficult.”

Detailed plans for the development can be viewed at imaginenorthland.com.