Farmington Hills sees housing redevelopment as schools shutter

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published October 30, 2017

 Cathi Waun, owner of City Life Realty P.C., left; Windmill Homes LLC partner Sami Harb, middle; and Stuart Michaelson, partner of the Windmill Group, right, stand during the Windmill Homes ribbon cutting Oct. 13 on the site of the former Wooddale Elementary School, at 13 Mile and Farmington roads.

Cathi Waun, owner of City Life Realty P.C., left; Windmill Homes LLC partner Sami Harb, middle; and Stuart Michaelson, partner of the Windmill Group, right, stand during the Windmill Homes ribbon cutting Oct. 13 on the site of the former Wooddale Elementary School, at 13 Mile and Farmington roads.

Photo provided by Cathi Waun

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FARMINGTON HILLS — Windmill Homes LLC is a familiar name in the Farmington/Farmington Hills community, with housing units throughout both cities.  

The Farmington Hills-based home builder group celebrated the opening of its new community, Forest at Wooddale, 34275 Oak Forest Drive, with a ribbon cutting Oct. 13.

The new community of 18 homes is located on the site of the former Wooddale Elementary School, at 13 Mile and Farmington roads.

Cathi Waun, broker/owner of City Life Realty P.C., said that there is a lot of interest from the community.

Some families are looking for a bigger house, she said, while others are looking to downsize.

“They are not finding what they want in the … market.”

In 2016, the Farmington Hills City Council approved a development agreement with the developer.

The 18 homes feature three- to four-bedroom colonial and ranch homes, some with first-floor master bedrooms. The prices range from the mid-$400,000s to $569,900. There are seven housing floor plans ranging from 2,264 square feet to 3,470 square feet. 

Stuart Michaelson, one of the owners of the Windmill Group, said that his company is doing upscale-type housing.

He added that there has been good feedback from the community, and five deposits on the homes.

He said the homes have the latest technological energy efficiencies in heating and cooling.

“Homes today are much better built than homes built 30 years ago — people like to upgrade,” he said. “There is such a shortage of new home stock around; there is a big attraction for whenever we can find a spot to build, especially in Farmington Hills — such a great community. (We’ve been) building in Farmington Hills for many years.”

The expression “if you build it, they will come” might apply to the greater Farmington area now more than ever.

Farmington Public Schools spokesperson Diane Bauman said that in the last decade, eight schools/facilities have closed — Windmill Homes has purchased some of the school district’s properties, including Flanders Elementary School and Wooddale Elementary School. Windmill Homes also developed the Riverwalk development in Farmington, near the Flanders site.

Other school properties sold, repurposed or up for sale include the Maxfield Training Center in Farmington, Eagle Elementary School in West Bloomfield, Fairview Early Childhood Center in Farmington Hills, Highmeadow Common Campus, William Grace Elementary School, and Dunckel Middle School. The school district since has decreased in size by 307,335 square feet.

“Schools were closed due to declining enrollment following the pattern of most southeastern (Michigan) school districts as a result of the declining birth rate and the recession of 2009,” Bauman said via email. “The district at one point had more than 12,000 students, and we currently have approximately 9,500 students.”

She added that as schools were closed, the district had to redraw school boundaries and underwent a grade reconfiguration. 

Farmington Hills City Planner Mark Stec said that the city has a lot of traditional two-story colonial homes, which were very popular in the 1970s and 1980s.

“I know ranch homes are becoming more popular, especially for people looking to age in place,” he said.

Stec said that the trend is for homes with smaller lot sizes and open outdoor space.

“In trade-off, they provide dedicated open space … a common area for the whole neighborhood,” he said.

Stec added that new single-family homes — Halsted Hollow North, located just north of Eight Mile Road, between Halsted Road and Goldsmith Road — are coming to the city soon.

In 2016, the Farmington Hills City Council approved plans for the Hollows North subdivision 4-3; City Council members Michael Bridges, Valerie Knol and Samantha Steckloff opposed the plans. 

Steckloff stated during that meeting that she was very concerned with regard to the wetlands in that area, but understands there is no legal ability to deny development on a wetland. She was also concerned with the construction of a road in that area and questioned if it had been properly reviewed.

Bridges commented during the meeting that almost every resident mentioned the water table in that area. 

Knol said during the meeting that she is not opposed to the development of the property, but does not like the connection to Goldsmith Road — citing concerns about road maintenance costs and environmental concerns. 

Hollows North developer Paul Elkow could not be reached by press time.

For more information on Hollows North, go to www.thenewhomeexperts.com/property/halsted-hollow-north.

For more information on Forest at Wooddale, go to www.windmillhomes.com/our-communities/farmington-hills---forest-at-wooddale.html.

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