Residents push back on plans to develop Troy Civic Center
By Terry Oparka
Former Troy Mayor Jeanne Stine, left, solicits a signature from Troy resident Tom Grant at the Troy Public Library July 8 for a petition that, if successful, would put a question on the ballot asking voters to not allow the city to develop public land of more than 2 acres without a vote of the people. Also in the photo is Troy resident Cynthia Wilsher.
Posted July 12, 2017
TROY — A group of residents is seeking a voice in how city land would or would not be developed and is collecting signatures to put a charter amendment before voters in response to proposed plans to develop the 127-acre Troy Civic Center complex.
Troy City Manager Brian Kischnick, Gibbs Planning Group President Robert Gibbs and Matt Farrell, of the real estate consulting company Core Partners, attended the New York National Deal Making Conference in New York City Dec. 5 and 6 to glean interest in the project.
The city hired Gibbs to present options to redevelop the 127-acre city complex at Interstate 75 and Big Beaver Road and look at mixed uses on the site. The study cost $200,000. After getting feedback at a community forum last summer, Gibbs developed a Troy Town Center master plan draft.
The current plan proposes 180,000 square feet of retail development, including a 40,000-square-foot “high-quality market,” restaurants, up to 1,000 homes — a mix of apartments, condos and townhomes — plus a 300-room hotel.
“We think there should be one signature high-rise identifiable from I-75,” Gibbs said at a meeting with the Troy Planning Commission and City Council March 6. The plan also calls for a new two-lane bridge across I-75.
Gibbs said the development should feature restaurants, which he said are in high demand.
Gibbs said there should be a public square modeled on Cranbrook House and Gardens, and a small lake — needed for stormwater retention — would abut residential homes. The development would feature parkland, a playground and a creek turned into a water feature, with a fountain and a pond.
The plan keeps all public buildings on the site, but moves the Troy Family Aquatic Center and the city’s tennis courts to different spots within the development. It proposes a possible addition to the library and a parking deck to serve City Hall and the library.
Kischnick told C & G Newspapers July 8 that the next step is to determine interest and then present recommendations to the City Council. To that end, he said the city will solicit requests for qualifications from master developers who will provide their credentials.
The city will then interview developers to see if they have the ability to do the project.
He said the council will select a developer by vote.
“Five master developers from around the country have expressed interest, and a few have come up to take a look,” Kischnick added.
Residents weigh in
“It’s a massive development,” said Troy resident Frank Howrylak, who is helping to spearhead the petition drive. “It changes the face of Troy. Development of the center comes up every so often. We fight it every time.”
He noted that there was a convention center proposed on the site in 2004, which voters blocked.
In an April 4, 2004, election, Troy voters were asked if they would approve 7 acres of the Troy Civic Center site for the development of conference center/hotel facilities. The vote was not close: 2,514 voters said yes and 9,941 voters said no.
The proposed ballot language on the current petition being circulated states: “The City shall not enter into an agreement for the transfer, sale, lease, or use for more than 90 days, of any parcel of public land the whole of which is greater than two (2) acres, except by the affirmative vote of a majority of city electors voting on the question at a general election.”
Residents must gather a minimum of 2,920 valid signatures by Aug. 1 in order for the matter to be considered on the ballot for the Nov. 7 general election.
Troy City Clerk Aileen Dickson explained that a minimum of 5 percent of the 58,391 registered Troy voters, 2,920, are needed to place a charter amendment on the November ballot.
Brian Wattles, who is also spearheading the current petition drive, noted that he was chairman of the appointed 12-member Troy Civic Center Priority Task Force in 2004, which presented a report to the City Council outlining their ideas for development of the Troy Civic Center. This included an amphitheater, an ice rink, a fountain plaza, a hedge maze, gardens, programming and pathways.
Former Troy Mayor and Councilwoman Jeanne Stine, who also is spearheading the petition drive, said the intent is for “500 petitions to be signed so we can place an amendment to the charter, so registered voters can vote yes or no on the proposed Troy center urban plan. I would personally like to leave the Civic Center as is so we can leave a legacy for future residents.”
According to preliminary estimates, developers’ construction costs for the proposed town center would be $338 million. City infrastructure costs for the first phase would be $18 million, and renovation and construction of civic buildings would cost $21 million.
At the March 6 joint meeting with the council and Planning Commission, Mark Miller, director of economic and community development, said the city would have time to pay for the infrastructure over 15 to 20 years.
At the same meeting, Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg-Bluhm said there are no legal restrictions to prevent the proposed project from moving forward, and it could happen without a vote of the people.
She explained to C & G Newspapers July 7 that the difference since 2004 is the Troy master plan has been amended, and the Troy Civic Center is classified as a community facility, which does not require a vote of the people to develop. Before the master plan was amended, the Civic Center was listed as a park, which, according to state statute, required a vote of the people to develop, Grigg-Bluhm said.
The council amended the master plan in 2008 and last August.
Developer and Troy resident Kamal Shouhayib told the council and Planning Commission March 6 that the proposed development for the Civic Center complex is a good project for the city and he’d like to see a “downtown.”
Public engagement sessions for the proposed plans for the Troy Town Center master plan will be held at the Troy Public Library, 510 W. Big Beaver Road, noon-2 p.m. July 15, 1:30-3:30 p.m. July 18, and 1:30-3:30 p.m. July 25.
Sessions also will be held at the Troy Community Center, 3179 Livernois Road, from 6 to 7 p.m. July 19, from 10 a.m. to noon July 22 and from 6 to 7 p.m. July 26.
About the author
Staff Writer Terry Oparka covers Troy and the Troy School District for the Troy Times. Oparka has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2000 and attended Oakland University and Macomb Community College. Oparka has won an award from the Michigan Press Association and four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Detroit Chapter.
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