Advisory board examines uses for Halfman property

Public input needed as board looks at all options

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published July 26, 2015

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MADISON HEIGHTS — Madison District Public Schools owns two acres at Halfman Elementary. The city owns another three acres nearby. Now that Halfman is vacant, the district wants to use all five acres to build up to 30 homes. But it’s not the only possible use for the space, and City Council wants to consider all of its options.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is examining the five acres, located on Couzens, north of 10 Mile and I-696 and west of Dequindre. The district wants to build homes with green space mixed throughout, teaming up with the city, Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County, Lawrence Tech University, and students from the building trades program at Madison High.

Habitat Oakland would privately fundraise each home and guarantee occupants. The district believes this would enhance the south end of town, with new homeowners bringing in new tax dollars and patronizing local businesses. It may also bring new kids to the district.

But many questions remain. For example, water and sewer lines would have to be installed if they build homes, but who would handle this, and at what cost? How much green space is necessary, and how much is ideal in that neighborhood? And what other uses are there aside from new houses?

The advisory board has held several public meetings so far, with another one scheduled for Aug. 13. The Aug. 13 meeting will finalize the language of a survey that will be mailed out to every resident in the neighborhood around Halfman. Others can pick up the survey at City Hall, the library and the Senior Center, as well as on the city’s social media channels and website.

And in September, on a night yet to be decided, there will be a public forum at Halfman. The forum will go over possible uses in detail — guests can even see the land plotted out so they can better visualize the space. The forum will feature experts from all involved, including Habitat Oakland.

Once the board has solicited enough feedback, it will hold one more meeting, at the end of September or in early October, and then make its recommendation to City Council. The council will continue the dialogue, focusing on the concept of housing development, as well as any other ideas for the site.

City Councilman Mark Bliss, the council liaison for the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said the community’s input is needed during this process.

“Like one possibility is a splash-pad, which was our No. 1 most requested feature in our park system when we did our (Parks and Recreation) master plan survey a year ago. This might give us an opportunity to put that there. Or you might have more play structures similar to those in the (Red Oaks) Youth Soccer Complex. There could be outside-the-box ideas, too, like an outdoor theater, or a tool rental library,” Bliss said. “The forum, at Halfman in September, will allow us to engage the public. It’s such a large idea that we want everyone to have a say and to voice their opinion.”

Albert Morrison, president of the Madison Board of Education, said there has been no major neighborhood growth in Madison Heights since the late ’60s/early ’70s. He said many young families and professionals are looking for something more modern than the homes in the south end of the city, which were built in the ’40s and ’50s. Building new homes could attract new people, he said, and is needed for the city to grow. 

“Halfman has been there for as long as I can remember. At one point, it was utilized greatly, but now it’s not being used. It’s not a green space — it’s a dead space,” Morrison said.

“Our plan would offer opportunity for affordable housing and for people to move into the neighborhood. I think if we do not move in that direction … we would be cheating ourselves and the future generations who live in this city.”

Bliss emphasized that no decision has been made yet, and stressed that everyone should share their opinion on what they want for the Halfman site and the parks system in general.

“Anyone who has any opinion on the school concept or parks in general, we need them to share their feedback,” Bliss said. “I’m really proud of the way we’ve pushed the dialogue so far. We’ve enabled residents to get involved and make themselves heard. I see that as a net positive, regardless of the final decision, because it’s a great example of how open government should be, taking advantage of our citizen advisory board’s experience, and holding public meetings for residents to learn and engage with the board.”

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