Luxury apartments planned for old landfill site

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published February 13, 2018

ROCHESTER HILLS — Developers are planning an extensive cleanup of a former illegal dump to make way for luxury apartments on the northeast corner of Hamlin and Adams roads.

The residential development plan is the newest for the vacant property. A previous plan proposed a commercial complex, but that failed to materialize due to economic downturns.

“Many times over the years, we have heard the possibility of development, but nothing has ever actually materialized,” Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said. “Frankly, it is a beautiful piece of property that we enjoy as an extension of Innovation Hills (Park).”

Prospective owners Goldberg Cos. aims to build a 368-unit apartment complex — named Legacy Rochester Hills — on the 28-acre site, which is zoned one-family residential.     

The luxury apartment community would feature a resort-style pool and community gathering places for a new category of apartment dwellers.

“It used to be apartments were places where transient people lived. Usually, they couldn’t afford to buy a home,” said Eric Bell, Goldberg owner.

“What has changed since the Great Recession is that people are renters by choice, and they want all the benefits of a high-end residential community without having to buy a home,” Bell said. “The finishes in our apartments are (often) nicer than many of the single-family homes around us.”

Barnett said the residential development plan is a marked improvement over former commercial plans — ultimately delivering a much larger environmental cleanup effort and less motorized traffic for the area.

The property was used as a commercial landfill in the 1960s and 1970s. Environmental testing found soil and groundwater contamination, including metals, volatile organic compounds and more.

In 2006, in the face of significant residential opposition, city officials denied a request to rezone the former landfill property to allow for commercial development. The action resulted in a lawsuit that was eventually settled with a consent judgment permitting the commercial plan.

The state declared the property a brownfield site and began cleaning up the land, spending approximately $5 million before running out of funds.

Due to financing difficulties, the owner did not proceed with the commercial project. The property has remained vacant and undeveloped, and the ownership has changed.

In 2016, retail developer DBB Adams LLC, of Warren, purchased the land with the intent to build retail and commercial buildings. According to Rochester Hills Director of Planning and Economic Development Sara Roediger, Goldberg Cos. approached DBB Adams about selling the land if the apartment complex is approved, and DBB Adams agreed.

Bell estimates that their cleanup plan will cost $12.6 million. They aim to attract well-educated millenials, professors at nearby universities and current residents of the area who are seeking to downsize while keeping many housing luxuries.

By a unanimous vote Feb. 5, the Rochester Hills City Council approved an amended consent judgment as one of the first steps toward approving the residential development.

“This is not the last time you will see this plan,” Roediger said. Next, an amended plan, a site plan and a brownfield plan will come before the City Council.

“This seems like a pretty good deal for Rochester Hills,” City Councilwoman Jenny McCardell said. “It looks like it would be a really great thing for our residents.”

Resident Scot Beaton disagrees.

“There once was a majority of City Council members that wanted all landfill sites to go green,” Beaton said in an email. “Upscale bedroom communities turn defunct landfill sites into things like golf courses and parkland.”

Beaton said the city’s plans to transform the site into a strip mall or an apartment complex are “a bad idea for our area.”  

“If this is coming sometime this spring, they have put together a package that is attractive for consideration,” Barnett said.