Development, city strength highlight State of the City address

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published June 5, 2024

 Rochester Mayor Stuart Bikson delivers his 2024 State of the City address May 20 in the  calf barn at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm.

Rochester Mayor Stuart Bikson delivers his 2024 State of the City address May 20 in the calf barn at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


ROCHESTER — A packed room of community members gathered at The Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm May 20 to hear Mayor Stuart Bikson share a positive outlook for the city in his State of the City address.

Bikson has been serving on the Rochester City Council since 1999 and is currently serving his 10th term as mayor.

“In his day job, he is a teacher at Waterford Mott. He teaches economics and government, so I think, since 1999, we have probably been providing case studies for his students,” joked Nancy Salvia as she introduced him to the crowd.

Bikson said that this past year has brought “great economic growth” to the city.

“By everybody working together, we can create great things in our city,” he said.

Over the past year, Bikson said, the community has “come together in very impressive ways” and he cited defeating a ballot proposal on marijuana dispensaries in downtown last fall, and most recently, handling a propane tank explosion.    

Downtown, he said, is “successful,” neighborhoods are “thriving,” and the city’s government is “strong.”

A recent study rated Rochester as the second safest city in Michigan, Bikson said.

“Our crime rate is virtually nonexistent, and we are working hard to keep it that way, and our percentage of police to the number of residents is one of the highest in the state,” he explained.  “Strong policing leads to a safe city, and we are committing our city resources to keep our city safe.”

The Rochester Fire Department, which Bikson said has state-of-the art advanced life support services, gives the city “world-class emergency services.”

“Our response times are some of the shortest in Michigan,” he said.

Downtown Rochester is “thriving and has never been busier,” according to Bikson, who boasted its 97% occupancy rate. Rochester has been consistently voted one of the top downtowns in America and has received its 19th consecutive accreditation from Main Street Oakland County for its Main Street programs.

“We are committed, as a City Council, to making our downtown safe, attractive and a great place to have a business,” he said.

Bikson announced a new addition to the downtown, Market + The Graham — which will transform the farmer’s market parking lot and the former Animal Emergency Center at 265 E. Second St. into a year-round market and event space. The city plans to add 2,000 square feet of space to the already 5,000-square-foot building, which will include a year-round market and event space, restrooms, a small market office, storage, outdoor seating, and a covered stage area for entertainment and public display.

“This project required the city and the DDA to work together to create a unique space,” he said.

Bikson also touted the city’s financial strength — noting that the city has had a balanced budget every year he has been on council, maintains an “excellent” fund balance, has “well-funded” its retirement investments, maintained its AAA bond rating through some difficult economic years, and has “a balanced and strong” three-year budget.

“I believe our strong fiscal management of the city has allowed us to navigate difficult times with very little disruption in city services or in our long range planning,” he said.

There is also economic growth and prosperity in the town, Bikson shared, with new apartment and condo complexes coming to the city, as well as many new investments in single family homes and existing businesses and properties.

He said residential real estate is booming, with record high sales prices. Many new houses are being built, and many more are being renovated. The recent average median sales price of a home in Rochester is almost $580,000, according to Bikson, who also said that next year, the city’s taxable value for all of its real estate will be over $1 billion. This year, he said, the city already has almost $30 million in renovations of homes and businesses.

Rochester, he said, will spend millions to continue to improve its infrastructure — including $8 million to improve the city’s drinking water system and millions more to maintain the city’s roads.

“Improving and maintaining our infrastructure remains a core goal of our City Council,” he said.

He also highlighted a few “exciting” upcoming projects and new businesses — including the upcoming renovation of The Community House; a new skateboard park by the DPW building; The Granary apartments on the site of the Rochester Elevator; The Preserves and 210 Diversion Street, which will bring apartments to the south part of the city; the expansion of St. John Lutheran School and Church; two new all-abilities playgrounds in Rochester Municipal Park; and others.

“I believe the coming year will be an excellent year for the great city of Rochester,” he said.