Farmers, vendors show concern with proposed City Hall location

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published March 8, 2017


ROYAL OAK — A group of vendors and farmers gathered last week to show their concern with proposed plans for a new City Hall.

Nearly a dozen people came from throughout the area to speak before City Commission members during the regular Feb. 27 meeting regarding plans showing a newly constructed City Hall just south of the Royal Oak Farmers Market at Troy and Third streets, and the ramifications the building could have on parking.

“I’ve been associated with the famers market for nearly 20 years, and I do know and understand that a City Hall is needed,” said Wixom resident Kelly Pincombe. “But we need to take into effect the impact that this will have on the parking, as well as with the customers.”

Pincombe said she worries that eliminating nearby parking with placement of the new City Hall on an existing parking lot would create a lack of nearby access to the market — especially for elderly and disabled customers.

“There is a strong likelihood they will make one trip and be gone,” she said. “This will impact the vendors and the farmers who make their living on the customers that come to the market.”

Commissioners in January approved moving forward with design plans for the Royal Oak city center development, including a $10 million stand-alone City Hall structure. During the past 18 months, commissioners had been looking at building a City Hall as a condominium in a private-public, mixed-use office building.

City officials are quick to caution that nothing is finalized and they will work with market stakeholders throughout the process.

“Nothing has been inked,” said Mayor Michael Fournier.

Fournier has been asking residents and visitors to let the commission know of questions and concerns throughout development talks so that the issues could be addressed early in the process.

The next step in the proposed project is for city officials and members of the Royal Oak city center committee to develop more detailed plans while continuing talks with the Central Park Development Group.

Other aspects of the existing plans are the same as what had been shown throughout last year, including a multi-story parking deck; a 190,000-square-foot, seven-story city center office building; a new $18.75-million Police Department to the north of the courthouse with an adjoined walkway; and a central park.

The construction of a multi-story parking deck along 11 Mile Road inside the Royal Oak city center development footprint would add about 475 parking spaces to the area.

Don Vanhoutte, from Armada Township, is worried that parking will not be convenient enough for market shoppers.

“I just can’t see them having to walk far with produce in their hands,” he said.

Vanhoutte said he has been with the farmers market since the 1960s, and it has been a great place for the farmers and the visitors.

“This market is my best market ever,” he said. “This is something that is really nice for Royal Oak.”

In addition to the weekly Saturday farmers market, the space is also home to a Sunday flea market and many special events.

Mike Fruitman, of Southfield, told commissioners that the market is much more than just a place where transactions are conducted. He said the market also draws people from throughout the state who then shop and dine in the downtown.

“It creates a meeting place at the center of the city that allows people from surrounding communities to come in and experience the beauty and warmth that Royal Oak offers them,” he said.