Baker College announced that it will not seek to construct a downtown college campus in the city of Ferndale, as seen in this rendering by TMP Architecture. The college had hopes to build the campus on the northwest corner of East Nine Mile Road and Bermuda Street, and on a parking lot near Como’s Restaurant.

Baker College announced that it will not seek to construct a downtown college campus in the city of Ferndale, as seen in this rendering by TMP Architecture. The college had hopes to build the campus on the northwest corner of East Nine Mile Road and Bermuda Street, and on a parking lot near Como’s Restaurant.

File rendering provided by city of Ferndale


Baker College ends negotiations for downtown Ferndale campus

College cites parking as main issue

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 19, 2019

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FERNDALE — A proposed downtown Baker College campus will not happen in the city of Ferndale.

According to a letter sent to the city by Acquest Realty Advisors Inc., both it and Baker College are backing out of negotiations to bring a college campus to the heart of downtown Ferndale, at the northwest corner of East Nine Mile Road and Bermuda Street, and on a parking lot near Como’s Restaurant.

The major issue Acquest cited in the letter was parking. The college had hoped to build a parking deck with 300-400 spaces as part of the project.

“We would like to thank the city staff and council members for the work that was put into this project over the past year,” Patrick G. Ong, a principal with Acquest, stated in the letter. “We believe that Baker and the City of Ferndale would have been a great partnership. However, the issue of parking during construction was one obstacle that could not be overcome. The only viable solution was to build the parking deck first and then begin construction on the college. This option would have delayed the project for a year and that is not consistent with our client’s master plan.

“Therefore, after much thought and deliberation, Baker College and Acquest Realty Advisors, Inc. have concluded that it is time to end our negotiations with the City of Ferndale.”

The letter was part of an item on the City Council’s April 22 meeting agenda. The meeting was the last one scheduled before the end of the 100-day exclusive negotiating rights agreement, or ENRA, between Ferndale and Baker College regarding the purchase of the city-owned land to build the campus.

It was at this meeting where the City Council would have had to decide whether to extend the ENRA so negotiations could continue, or let it expire, which would have effectively killed the project at that Nine Mile location.

Community and Economic Development Director Jordan Twardy stated in the memo attached to the agenda item that Baker representatives met with city staff to revisit options for the mixed-use parking deck, as it was the city’s preference to avoid further loss of public parking in the downtown while the Development on Troy, or “The dot,” was under construction.

“Baker made a good-faith effort to identify a suitable solution that would allow them to open their Metro Detroit campus in time for Winter 2021 classes, which would require the academic building to begin construction as soon as city approvals could be earned,” he stated. “Baker initially offered options such as securing clustered locations for parking construction crews, Baker staff/students, and the public, combined with dedicated and frequent shuttle, valet, bus passes and other services to provide parking relief.”

Twardy noted in the memo that it was the “strong preference by the city and business community” to maintain access to the existing public parking in the downtown, “given that the business community is already shouldering the loss of significant close-proximity parking while The dot is being built.”

“Much effort has gone into identifying this project’s potential opportunities and working through solutions to potential concerns,” he stated. “While that effort has made progress, the CED Department believes that the city and business community’s preference for preserving access to existing public parking, and Baker’s need to provide a Metro Detroit campus for their community by Winter 2021 are irreconcilable.”

The college had hoped to make downtown Ferndale its home for a metro Detroit campus after consolidating multiple other campuses in other cities.  

In a statement of her own, Baker College Chief Operating Officer Jacqui Spicer affirmed the end of the negotiations following an “extensive exploration and a thorough due diligence process.”

“Baker College has elected not to move forward with the City of Ferndale as the location for our new metro-Detroit campus,” she said. “Throughout the Ferndale negotiations, we maintained work on contingency plans and we remain steadfast and are committed to serving our students and supporting the communities of SE Michigan.”

Spicer declined to say what Baker College plans to do next.

The proposed Baker College campus was not without its detractors in Ferndale, as many residents voiced their displeasure at the prospect of the educational institution coming into the downtown after it was first announced in January.

Various concerns brought up during that time included the lack of parking during construction, increased traffic, potentially changing the character of the downtown, and worries about Baker College as an institution.

Mayor Dave Coulter said he learned of Baker College pulling out of the negotiations on April 18, but other than a written statement, declined to say more at this time on the project’s end.

"I appreciate all the efforts of our city staff and Baker College to explore the possibility of a consolidated Ferndale campus, including attempts to address the concerns expressed by residents, business owners and council,” he said. “I respect their decision to end negotiations and wish them all the best."

Coulter said that he wished to have a conversation with City Council at the April 22 meeting before speaking more on the end of negotiations.

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