Extensive rebuild planned for Civic Center Campus, Fire Station No. 2

Town hall meeting set for Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. inside the Madison Heights Public Library

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published September 21, 2021

 The Civic Center Campus on 13 Mile Road west of John R Road will be undergoing dramatic changes next year, as City Hall is downsized, the library is renovated, and a new Active Adult Center is built between the two.

The Civic Center Campus on 13 Mile Road west of John R Road will be undergoing dramatic changes next year, as City Hall is downsized, the library is renovated, and a new Active Adult Center is built between the two.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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MADISON HEIGHTS — The city of Madison Heights is gearing up for what will be its largest capital improvement project in history, set to begin during the summer of 2022.

The project will relocate the Madison Heights Active Adult Center, currently on John R Road north of 12 Mile Road, to the Civic Center Campus at the corner of 13 Mile and John R roads. At the same campus, Madison Heights City Hall will be downsized, and the Madison Heights Public Library will be renovated. The project will also rebuild Fire Station No. 2, on John R Road near 11 Mile Road.

The city will also soon hold a town hall meeting on the project, set for Monday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. inside the library located at 240 W. 13 Mile Road.

The exact start date and order of construction is yet to be determined. The city is currently in the design phase. The overall cost is estimated to be between $11.6 million and $12 million. This is actually several million dollars cheaper than the estimated cost of repairing facilities as is.

Melissa Marsh, the city manager, said taxpayers will see no new tax increase. The project is to be paid for with a mix of funding sources, including funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (about $3.1 million), the city’s general fund (about $950,000), repairs already budgeted ($435,000), the estimated sale of the Active Adult Center’s parcel ($1.3 million), and debt issuance of $5.8 million.

Regarding the debt issuance: The current bond for the other fire station, Fire Station No. 1, was levied on a separate millage that expires in 2023. Once that millage expires, the city plans to increase the Proposal MH levied millage by the same amount to cover the new bond issuance. Thus, taxpayers will see no new increase.

Marsh said that the city anticipates selling the parcel for the current Active Adult Center with a competitive bid, which will help determine the parcel’s real value on the market. But it is anticipated it will be sold at a profit for the city — and since it will be sold for redevelopment, it will be a new addition to the city’s tax rolls.

The new Active Adult Center will be located between City Hall and the library, and will occupy a larger footprint than the current Active Adult Center, increasing from 11,554 square feet to 14,672. The new center will have more space for indoor programming, including an indoor walking path.

“Convenience and safety will be improved,” Marsh said of the new Active Adult Center location. “Not only will the Active Adult Center be closer to the police and emergency medical services, but all public building security will be enhanced with this project. There will also be overall operating cost savings to the city, through the consolidation of site and increased energy efficiency. And there will also be more dedicated space for programming, and enhanced cafeteria rental space.”

City Hall, meanwhile, will be downsized, from 17,467 square feet to 11,342, while the library will see a slight increase, from 16,190 square feet to 16,235.

The downsizing of City Hall is due to technology allowing the city to operate more efficiently with fewer staff members onsite.

“We will be repurposing parts of City Hall, such as the current council chambers — a larger section of the building that is currently used only two to three times a month,” Marsh said.

The library changes will include a dedicated space for teens and children, a possible drive-up window, new stack shelves and office layout changes that provide more lighting.

The library grounds are undergoing changes as well, thanks to a grant the city received earlier this year. Madison Heights was awarded a “Play Everywhere” grant from KABOOM!, a nonprofit dedicated to ending “play space inequity.” It was awarded in cooperation with the Built to Play initiative supported by the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation. The grand prize split up $1 million between projects across southeast Michigan and western New York.

Madison Heights’ project proposal was titled “Playful Tranquility.” It will span the north, west and south sides of the library. There will be swings, a bike rack, seating, art installations and music areas on the north side. The west side will feature a rain garden, play areas, more art and a “storybook path” leading into the library. The south side facing 13 Mile Road will feature art among the trees, another play area, and slogan art on the facade that says, “Where Stories Come to Life.”

An outdoor seating area called the Tranquility Center will feature Wi-Fi support that can be used for programming and events by members of the public, such as presentations, puppet shows, musical performances and more. The city is also working with the group Freenotes Harmony to incorporate musical instruments that follow a nature theme, such as flower-shaped instruments topped with butterfly sculptures that can play different notes.

Work has already begun on the “Playful Tranquility” project — the patio was recently poured, and other features are being installed in the coming weeks, with a ribbon cutting tentatively planned for sometime in October.

As part of the rebuild project, the parking lot at Civic Center Campus will be reconfigured to add additional handicap-accessible parking closer to the building, and to better facilitate traffic flow. The lighting in the plaza’s parking lot has already been updated to LED lights for energy savings.

Over at Fire Station No. 2, the plan is to redesign the equipment bays, allowing for setback from the sidewalk for increased safety. This will also increase the bay size to better accommodate new equipment. Decontamination support spaces are being added to protect employees, and living quarters are being improved to accommodate gender-specific needs.

Taken as a whole, the work at Civic Center Campus and Fire Station No. 2 represents the largest capital improvement in the city’s history. The previous record holder was the building of Fire Station No. 1 in 2004.

“We are very excited to be moving forward with this innovative project to enhance the quality of life of our residents,” Marsh said. “Being able to complete these much-needed repairs and renovations that we were unable to complete due to financial recession is the most significant capital investment the city has ever made. These projects will bring efficiency, cost savings and  service enhancement that will benefit residents of all ages.”

Madison Heights City Councilmember Robert Corbett said he was slow to come around on this project and still continues to monitor cost projections, but a combination of factors swayed him, including a strong real estate market that bodes well for the sale of the Active Adult Center parcel, the expiration of an existing tax levy, and continuing low interest rates for bonds.

“I’ll continue to critique construction and financing plans carefully, but for now the project strikes me as worthwhile and fiscally responsible moving into the future,” Corbett said in an email.

Madison Heights Mayor Roslyn Grafstein said the project is overdue.

“I appreciate the time and effort staff has taken to look at all our options for renovating the various city buildings, but it is no longer financially viable for us to continue repairs as we have been doing,” Grafstein said in an email. “Combining the improvements allows us to properly update the buildings while saving money and increasing efficiencies. We will also see a reduction of costs for snow removal and other expenses that can be combined once the Active Adult Center has been relocated to the main campus. I like that people can walk to the Active Adult Center after visiting the library or walking around the park, and that our senior population will have an updated central location for their activities that is closer to police and fire stations.”

Madison Heights City Councilmember Mark Bliss sees the project as a win for the city.

“Obviously, it will be nice to upgrade these buildings for our residents, but it’s also the fiscally responsible approach to take the money we would have otherwise budgeted towards the mounting repairs we need to do, and put it into a new building that will connect our existing City Hall and library buildings, consolidate staff and resources into more of a central campus to reduce utilities costs, and allow for easier access for our seniors to enjoy the library and more easily leverage the resources at City Hall,” Bliss said in an email. “It also repurposes dead space in our departmental offices, provides much-needed improvements to our library, and allows the city to sell the property on John R to a new business that will enhance our city.”

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