City extends agreement with firm vetting civic center proposal

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published June 29, 2016

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ROYAL OAK — Members of the City Commission unanimously approved a contract extension with Plante Moran CRESA to continue vetting the $100 million Royal Oak Civic Center development proposal.

The unanimous June 13 vote extends the engagement agreement at a cost not to exceed $50,000 for capital planning services.

Royal Oak Economic Development Manager Todd Fenton said the Royal Oak Civic Center Development project is being led by a partnership between the Surnow Company and the Boji Group on the private side. He said that on the public side, Plante Moran CRESA has been assisting the city with its due diligence.

Fenton said that during the first phase of Plante Moran CRESA’s work, it reviewed the possibility of renovating the existing City Hall and police station.

“And (they) concluded definitely that these structures were functionally obsolete and (it) would not be cost-effective to move forward with any renovations with them,” he said.

Fenton said Plante Moran CRESA also evaluated the proposal by reviewing its site plans, space programming, cost estimates and phasing schedules before determining that the estimated costs of the proposal and the square footage allotted for the new City Hall offices and a new police station are within industry standards.

“At this point, we would like to continue to move forward with Plante & Moran to continue to get to the point where we can present a development agreement for the City Commission, which would probably take months and months of work, but this is the first crucial step to getting to that point,” he said.

Fenton said the next phase of work to be completed by the consulting firm would be to assist and advise the city in the development of a final project program, culminating with an executed development agreement that clearly identifies the size, scope, cost, delivery method, and other important aspects of the proposed facilities.

The contract extension came with a message from commissioners that their approval does not mean the decision has been made to move forward with the proposed $100 million project, which includes a six-story parking deck with 550 parking spaces; a 190,000-square-foot, seven-story city center office building including a new City Hall; a new $18.75 million Police Department to the north of the courthouse with an adjoined walkway; and a central park.

“This is us doing our due diligence,” said City Commissioner Jeremy Mahrle. “Plante & Moran CRESA has been a great partner up to this point.”

Mahrle said this is still a conceptual plan.

“Nothing is locked in stone; no deal is done,” he said. “This is just us making sure that dollars and cents work for the city of Royal Oak, and we don’t have an answer to that yet, but Plante Moran CRESA is going to help us do that.”

City Commissioner Sharlan Douglas said her sense of Plante Moran CRESA is that the firm is very conservative in its recommendations.

“Just to reassure the public, we are not by any stretch of the imagination rushing pell-mell into any decision,” she said. “We’re using their expertise in order to slowly walk us through the process, dot the i’s and cross the t’s, and at every juncture, at every decision-making point, know that we have the power to say no and pull the plug on this.”

Mayor Jim Ellison expressed frustration during the June 13 meeting regarding what he said is false information circulating about the proposed Royal Oak Civic Center development, including that it was a done deal from the start and that the city is moving too fast.

“There is so much false information out there about this project,” he said.

“Suffice it to say we are crawling into this project,” he said.

Ellison said all meetings and information regarding the proposed project, including independent reports created by Plante Moran CRESA, are available on the city’s website at www.romi.gov.

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