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  Auburn Road has officially reopened to the public  with a new pedestrian-friendly design, including crosswalks and center medians designed to slow traffic.

Auburn Road has officially reopened to the public with a new pedestrian-friendly design, including crosswalks and center medians designed to slow traffic.

Photo by Deb Jacques

City reopens redesigned Auburn Road

New plaza, with splash pad, slated to open in summer of 2020

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 11, 2019

 The Auburn Road corridor also features two new roundabouts.

The Auburn Road corridor also features two new roundabouts.

Photo by Deb Jacques


ROCHESTER HILLS — After three months of construction, a fully redesigned Auburn Road officially reopened to the public Nov. 27.

The majority of the $12 million Auburn Road corridor project, which city officials say improves safety while creating a downtown district atmosphere, is now complete.

Residents are encountering a completely reconstructed Auburn Road, with a center median and two roundabouts, on-street parking, improved pedestrian facilities, sidewalks, streetscape enhancements, landscaping and lighting, as well as new rain gardens, improved parallel alleyways north and south of Auburn Road, and the city’s first public parking lot.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said he’s thrilled with how the project has turned out.

“I know it’s going to take a while to really germinate and become what our dream is down there, but the seeds have been planted, the investment made, and we’ve already heard from residents down there saying, ‘We’ve checked on the value of our house, and guess what? We’ve had some people interested. People are talking about how the value of our home is going up because of the investment that’s been made and what they see coming in the future,’” he said. “We’re really excited about that.”

The city plans to add branding and placemaking along Auburn Road next spring, including the addition of artwork features, and entry and road signage within the medians and the roundabout islands, as well as the development of the Emmons Plaza, a splash pad and a restroom building adjacent to the new streetscape. Crews will also install permanent fencing around the rain gardens.

“The finishing touches will really make it a unique place,” said Sara Roediger, the city’s planning and economic development director.

Roediger noted that the Rochester Hills City Council recently adopted a zoning code amendment to replace the CI-commercial improvement district with a BD-Brooklands district to allow for a mixture of uses to help incentivize development in that area.

“Going hand in hand with the physical change to Auburn Road, we wanted to make sure that the property owners along the Auburn Road corridor have a good framework to redevelop or improve their property,” she said.

Officials said the overall project — which will be complete by summer 2020 — will strengthen the district as a unique destination, and it will calm traffic and improve safety, create a more walkable environment, encourage development opportunities, and improve accessibility.

“The project started as a safety improvement, but as part of that, we really wanted to develop a true, desirable place in the Brooklands area, recognizing that a lot of the same businesses have been there for decades. There hasn’t been much investment in the corridor,” Roediger said. “We wanted to put our money where our mouth was and have the city put the money up first, with the hope that now the private properties will follow and improve their buildings or sell to others who want to put some more desirable uses in the corridor.”

Rochester Hills City Council Vice President Susan Bowyer used to live in the Brooklands area in the 1980s.

“To realize after all this time nothing had ever changed there, it was exactly the same, and to have been able to be a part of that process to change that (was amazing),” she said.

Jim Tocarski, a longtime resident in the Brooklands area, appeared before the council Dec. 2 to express his gratitude to the city for making all the improvements.

“Let me be the first to say thank you to the city of Rochester Hills for the effort, the work and the planning, and everything that went into finally recognize that part of the city. I can’t tell you how many years, over the last 27 years, that my wife and I have lived in our home in that subdivision … that we have seen all the other progress the city was making (and wondered) why can’t they do better with us,” he said. “It was a smooth project all the way, and now that Auburn Road is open, it’s fantastic — and I know there are more things to come. We’re really looking forward to it,” he said.

Rochester Hills City Council President Ryan Deel said he has driven through the area every day since the road reopened.

“What’s so exciting about it is seeing how the city making an investment can fundamentally reinvigorate an area within the city,” said Deel. “I knew that this would thoroughly change the area for the better, but I did not know how much better it would look. Even though we have more things coming in … what we’ve done so far has been a massive transformation. That’s what’s really shocked me — how modern and inviting it looks.”
Roediger agreed that the corridor has gone through quite a transformation.

“It’s not every day that cities get the opportunity — or have the ability — to truly transform a road and an area. The road design forces you to drive slower, and it’s just a much more pleasant place to be and drive through. I hope that the residents and businesses see that, and I’m excited to see what new opportunities develop along the corridor on the private side,” she said.

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