City Council votes to purchase homes for MTC redevelopment

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published September 5, 2017

 The purchase of the 33104 Grand River Ave. house is also part of the MTC site redevelopment project.

The purchase of the 33104 Grand River Ave. house is also part of the MTC site redevelopment project.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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FARMINGTON — The Farmington City Council continued its redevelopment efforts for the Maxfield Training Center, 33000 Thomas St., by voting to purchase two homes in the area, officials said.

A press release states that the MTC redevelopment plans are still in the works and the purchase of the properties is to allow the city “maximum flexibility” for that area, which could include creating a corridor into the MTC site. 

At an Aug. 21 meeting, Farmington City Council members unanimously voted to purchase two houses — currently occupied and used as businesses. One is at 33104 Grand River Ave. and the other is at 33107 Thomas St.

The City Council’s move completed the purchase process for the two properties, which the city had under option, according to a press release. The City Council approved the signing of options to purchase the properties in 2015.

City Manager David Murphy sent a memo to City Council members about the price for the house on Grand River, which cost $259,000; the Thomas Street house cost $200,000.

City Councilwoman Sara Bowman said that the sellers were “very willing.”

“The city did approach them, and this was two years ago, and both properties were appraised, and good-faith money was put down at a fair market value,” she said. “The opportunity presented itself to purchase these houses.”

“The plans for that development are not yet complete, and the city right now has no specific plans for the parcels being acquired,” Murphy said in the memo.

The city will maintain the properties, and any change in their status will need to be decided by the City Council at a future date, the release states. 

Southfield-based AC Acquisitions has submitted a proposal for a $1.2 million, four-story, 189-unit apartment and townhome complex on the MTC site.

An original proposal, for about 163 apartments and seven townhomes, was approved unanimously during a Farmington Public Schools Board of Education meeting in 2016, after a request for proposals returned five proposals.

The MTC property comprises 10 acres divided into two parcels, and 3 acres were sold to the company.

Farmington Public Schools owns the adjacent 7-acre parcel in Shiawassee Park, which includes a stairwell between the parcels, according to school documents. 

The city will have the final say on the development.

From traffic issues  — including parking, noise, traffic flow and speeding — to density concerns — too many units and the number of occupants — some residents said in May that the plan does not fit in with the area’s historical nature. Some residents said renters have a different mindset and less commitment to the area than homeowners do.

Farmington Economic and Community Development Director Kevin Christiansen said that the purchase comes from the city’s 2013 Vision Plan for the city’s redevelopment and future economic development.

“In that Vision Plan, there were four focus areas. One of those focus areas … is the (MTC) site,” Christiansen said, adding that the Vision Plan was compiled by city officials and a cross-section of more than 300 residents and business stakeholders. 

He added that the city’s 2015 Downtown Area Plan has five development areas in it, including the MTC site and surrounding properties right behind it on School Street. Other areas include Shiawassee Park, the Farmington Public Schools administration bus garage and the old courthouse property.

“Those two planning documents (the Vision Plan and the Downtown Area Plan) laid out the city’s objectives for redevelopment throughout the community,” Christiansen said.

Bowman said the different city development plans helped her make her decision to vote yes on buying the homes.

Bowman said during a recent phone interview that the decision to purchase the two homes predates her by about 20 years — so to speak.

“The actual purchase of these, however, (is) all part of the much larger Vision Plan for downtown Farmington,” she said, adding that the current City Council members are making the decisions to move forward with redeveloping the MTC, but their predecessors helped.

“It’s a very controversial topic, and I appreciate that,” Bowman said.

“What we’re doing is looking at 20 years’ worth of councils and … (the) Planning Commission, (Downtown Development Authority) and downtown plans and vision plans and site plans, and really trying to … make the best decision to follow through … the wills and the wants of the people, as well as making sure we are doing our service to continue economy development and growth,” she said.

Christiansen said that the two homes the City Council purchased are not historical; the downtown is not designated as a historical district, but there are some historical buildings there, including the Farmington Masonic Lodge and the Farmington Civic Theatre.

Christiansen said that he has heard murmurings that some people don’t agree with the purchase of the homes, which some people feel are historical.

“I would certainly point out that there is a difference between age and historic contribution, historic designation,” he said.

Christiansen added that the city evaluated existing conditions throughout the downtown, “including these (two) properties.”

Longtime Farmington resident Maria Taylor, co-founder of Preservation Farmington — a local historical architecture advocacy group  — said that while the two houses are not historical by “the city’s standards,” she feels otherwise.

“I would call those buildings heritage (buildings),” she said, adding that they work in harmony with other structures across the city. “They weave together the historic background of the city that gives the city its character.”

Taylor added that if similar buildings were torn down in the city, it “would be pretty detrimental to the city’s historical identity.”

City Facebook page commenter and Farmington resident Melissa Buda Bristow said that she lived at 33107 Thomas St. for two years, and the home was remodeled and doesn’t have any historical integrity anymore, except maybe the basement. 

She said in a follow-up phone interview that she does not like the proposed housing idea for the MTC.

“I don’t think there is enough room in the city to house those people and accommodate the traffic,” she said, adding that she lives about three blocks away from the MTC site.

For more information, go to www.farmgov.com.

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