Within the next three to five years, Keego Harbor residents could see changes to the city as a result of an approved master plan.

Within the next three to five years, Keego Harbor residents could see changes to the city as a result of an approved master plan.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Master plan to transform a section of Keego Harbor approved

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published July 28, 2021

 A recently approved master plan could help turn a section of Keego Harbor into a walkable, traditional, small-scaled village.

A recently approved master plan could help turn a section of Keego Harbor into a walkable, traditional, small-scaled village.

Image provided by Brian Lampl


KEEGO HARBOR — A major step forward has been taken in a potential “re-imagining of Keego Harbor for the next generation.”

A proposed master plan to transform a section of Keego Harbor along Cass Lake Road into a walkable, traditional, small-scaled village was approved by the city’s Tax Incremental Finance Authority June 7, which preceded approval at a Keego Harbor City Council meeting July 15.

According to a press release, the plan calls for a “new, traditional” village along a half-mile stretch of Cass Lake Road, north of Orchard Lake Road.

Highlights of the TIFA district master plan, also known as “The Village Plan,” include expanding existing city parks and the creation of a new town square on the city’s vacant property at the northeast corner of Cass Lake Road and Orchard Lake Road.

The new square is expected to be lined with approximately 20 to 30 small shops and cafes at street level, with widened walkways and outside dining patios.

Also proposed as part of the plan is a small, specialty grocery store to serve surrounding neighborhoods with a “needed” shopping option, as well as 200 new residential dwellings designed to appeal to a diverse range of ages, incomes and demographic groups.

Lofts, town homes, cottages and condominiums priced from modest to upscale levels could be among the homes.

The plan was proposed by the Gibbs Planning Group, which is based in Birmingham and, according to a press release, is one of the leading urban planning consulting firms in the United States.

“This master plan will provide a beautiful, pedestrian-friendly community for residents and business owners in Keego Harbor,” Gibbs Planning Group Founder and President Robert Gibbs stated in the release. “As walkable communities become increasingly more popular and provide a safer, healthier environment to live and work post-pandemic, this is the complete package, as well as an ideal location in Oakland County.”

The Gibbs Planning Group was retained by Keego Harbor in 2019 to complete residential and retail market analysis studies and concluded that there was a “pent-up” market demand for additional residential and retail shops in the Keego Harbor area, especially if built as a walkable village.

Mayor Brian Lampl said these are “exciting times” for Keego Harbor.

“What’s nice about this master plan, and one of the things that attracted us to the Gibbs Planning Group, is that this isn’t just an aspirational plan. This is a doable plan,” Lampl said. “He’s proposing 200-plus ordinance changes that will help usher in the look and feel of this master plan. … There is a sense of a roadmap in order to enact this plan.”

Lampl provided an idea as to when residents can expect to see changes.

“Normally, this is a much longer-term vision,” he said. “This is something, let’s say, like a 20-year plan. But I think that residents will start to see, in the next three to five years, real change being implemented.”

Engaging with the community is something Lampl cited as a key factor in helping decide on a chosen plan.

In a survey that was posted on plankeegoharbor.com, more than 75% of respondents agreed that the master plan should create a village and include more cafes and restaurants, plus outdoor dining.

More than 70% agreed that the plan should include more street trees along Cass Lake Road, with over 80% being in favor of the city making Cass Lake Road more walkable.

Lampl is not yet certain as to what the overall cost might be to implement the plan.

Between the master plan and the market analysis, he estimated that the work done by the Gibbs Planning Group cost about $75,000. However, Lampl said that money has already been approved and spent in previous budgets.

“We could spend $75,000 and come away with a plan that eventually yields us an additional $150 million in taxable value base,” Lampl said. “That would more than double our revenue that we bring into the city. So that’s certainly a good return on investment, if that’s the case.”

According to the release, when completed, the village plan will generate over $200 million in new real estate investment by the private sector in Keego’s TIFA district and more than $2 million in new tax revenue for the city.

“Responding to strong resident sentiment, the village will be built as a small scale, with one- to three-story buildings,” Gibbs stated. “To maintain the small scale to blend in with the surrounding neighborhoods, all new buildings will be required to appear as two floors from the sidewalk, with their upper floors tucked into attics or recessed from the ground-level view.”

Lampl isn’t expecting any tax increases as a result of the plan, saying, “this doesn’t impact that at all.”

Lampl provided more details that can help shed further light on what it is the city is aiming to accomplish.

“One of the things about making a more walkable community is having more things to walk to, having more things to engage with,” he said. “So that’s what this endeavor is about. It’s about the utilization of the existing common areas that we have. It’s about improving those common areas and tying it together with responsible, strategic business development.”

Lampl added that the overall idea is to improve the quality of life for residents and people who come to visit.

He also said that one of the things Gibbs has envisioned is “like a village square.”

“So, it’d be one of the focal points when you come into Keego Harbor that you’d be able to see,” Lampl said. “And then, of course, if you’re able to grab something to eat, walk through the park — hanging out there kind of thing.”

Lampl referred to it as a kind of “engaging common area.”

He expanded on what having a village square could do for Keego Harbor.

“I think that would change the look and feel of the community quite a bit but still maintain our uniqueness and what we like about the community, being our small, kind of close-knit community,” Lampl said. “I think it accentuates those things that we already have going on and provides a little bit of a re-imagination of what you’ll see when you come there.”

According to Lampl, there wasn’t a lot of opposition to the plan.

“The general consensus is, from speaking with people who have been longtime residents and who had been involved in seeing this (plan), is that it’s probably the single most exciting thing, in terms of a real redevelopment plan that is actionable,” he said. “It’s a pretty historic thing. … It wasn’t about becoming another city. It was about what our city could become, in terms of the way that we envision it, the things that we hold true to us, as a city.”