OHM, city host Northland visioning session

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published July 5, 2016

 A resident writes a desire to see more community areas at the new Northland Center site.

A resident writes a desire to see more community areas at the new Northland Center site.

Photo by Donna Agusti

SOUTHFIELD — A microbrewery, a dog park, an art space, a Costco and an amusement park were all on the list of residents’ suggestions on what they would like to see at the former Northland Center site.

Representatives from OHM Advisors — the firm selected to develop a conceptual, market-driven master redevelopment plan for the site, 21500 Northwestern Highway — hosted a tent at the Family Fun and Safety Night June 22 in front of the Southfield Public Library. The firm invited residents to “imagine the possibilities” for the future of the former mall site.

Residents were invited to view maps of the property, vote on amenities, fill out comment cards, and discuss the site with city officials and OHM representatives.

OHM, an architecture, engineering and planning firm, was founded in Detroit in 1962 and boasts a list of clients that includes Fortune 500 companies, cities, retailers and private developers.

At its regular meeting March 21, the Southfield City Council approved the $300,000 land development consultant services contract.

Aaron Domini, senior planner and partner at OHM, said the firm decided to host the meeting outside at the event to break away from traditional meeting styles.

“Today is what we’re calling an on-the-street public meeting. A lot of public meetings happen in city halls, where the same four walls, too formal of an environment, and you get the same people that come to public meetings over and over,” Domini said.

Residents had the opportunity to vote on amenities they would like to see at the site, including water features, trails, a stage, active recreation, passive space, children’s areas, natural areas, vendor spaces and multipurpose spaces.

“The thing we’re trying to get a handle on is, what do people want to see there?” Domini said.

Domini said the firm is also working on technical analysis of the site, looking at environmental factors, utilities and the surrounding market. The firm is also meeting with local stakeholders and city officials.

OHM is working with a mall development expert, Domini said, who is ensuring that the firm will use best practices when it comes to redeveloping the mall.

“We look at what works and what doesn’t work. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel and make the same mistakes other communities have made when they’ve tried to do this,” he said.

Resident Cassandra Murff said she hopes to see a sense of community in the new space.

“I want to see more things for children so our youth cannot necessarily be in the streets, but have something to do, as well as just a family area with some type of eatery and dining,” Murff said. “Like what it used to be, but just a little more and a little better.”

City Administrator Fred Zorn said he is glad to see residents giving their two cents.

“We’re happy to have people letting us know their input and what they’d like to see,” Zorn said. “Part of it is we’re listening to people, getting input — this is important to our growth.”

Domini said the city is currently stockpiling materials, and developers are working on filling in the giant tunnel that used to run under the mall.

The city purchased the mall from the court-ordered receiver for $2.4 million and plans to demolish, remediate and sell the property to a qualified developer, according to a news release from Community Relations Director Michael Manion.

Then-acting Mayor Donald Fracassi said in a previous news release that the city purchased the 114-acre property to protect, maintain and increase property values for the city’s homeowners and business owners. Fracassi said previously that the city is planning on demolishing and cleaning up the mall so it can be sold to a qualified property developer to build a mixed-use development containing office, retail and residential space.

The news release also said that the city plans to spend about $8 million to $10 million on the demolition and remediation, or removal of contaminants, of the property. Manion said there was a $31 million mortgage lien on the property, which was extinguished upon purchase.

The next community meeting will be held this month, officials said.