The city of Farmington bought the Maxfield Training Center from Farmington Public Schools for $690,000 in May.

The city of Farmington bought the Maxfield Training Center from Farmington Public Schools for $690,000 in May.

File photo by Jonathan Shead

Farmington council members hear presentations from prospective MTC developers

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published January 13, 2021


FARMINGTON — In the first step on a long road toward transforming the current Maxfield Training Center site, Farmington City Council members heard from four prospective developers during a special meeting Jan. 8 about their preliminary ideas for development, as well as their qualifications to successfully implement the project they presented.

In early May 2020, the Farmington City Council decided 4-1, with Council member Maria Taylor opposing, and Farmington Public Schools Board Trustees decided 6-1, with Secretary Angie Smith dissenting, to ink a $690,000 purchase agreement for the property.

Four developers presented to the council Jan. 8: Robertson Brothers Homes, River Caddis Development, SDC Ventures, and PVL Farmington.

Council members reviewed a summary of each developer’s submitted request for qualifications on Dec. 21 prepared by the city’s planning consultant, Community Image Builders Planning, narrowing down the candidate pool to three out of the four — Robertson Brothers Homes, River Caddis Development and PVL Farmington.

However, council reconvened on Jan. 5 wanting more information for all four before moving to step two. They decided, through a unanimous vote, to call the special meeting Jan. 8 to hear presentations directly from the developers and have a chance to ask them pointed questions about their proposed projects.

Robertson Brothers Homes, which was presented first by Planning and Acquisition Director Tim Loughrin and company President James Clarke, proposed 59 attached single-family townhomes, at roughly 1,200 square feet per townhome. The company emphasized its over $25 million in equity, 75 years of experience, and its work with brownfield redevelopment sites in nearby Detroit, Ferndale and Hazel Park.

They felt their proposed development would lead to a lower density space, lower traffic concerns in the area, and a high revenue generation for the community from new occupants and additional investors. They said their development would include a landscaped walking path for residents along Thomas Street and the possibility for a tram system as an alternative to the stairs that currently offer access to Shiawassee Park.

River Caddis Development came to the table with a proposal for 124 multi-family apartment units that would include a mix of studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom options, as well as a pocket park suggested at the west end of the parcel. Director of Development John McGraw said his company’s focus was to create a sense of home and place in the community.

McGraw said his company’s strength came into the fold best when they were able to begin collaborating with community members, city stakeholders and the adjacent neighborhoods to determine the best product.

SDL Ventures co-owner Roger Sherr presented to council members three possible options for development, ranging from 39 to roughly 50 townhome units, possibly attached or detached, depending on the option. Sherr expressed his disbelief that multi-family apartments would be economically feasible for the parcel, and instead offered his picture of townhome owners who choose to own and stay in the community for longer, potentially increasing the economic revenue garnered by those new tenants.

Sherr’s development proposal didn’t expand upon ideas related to connectivity from Shiawassee Park or the city’s need for additional public parking, two big ticket accessories council asked for in the RFQ, though Sherr said he is open to discussing options for those down the road.

Cited as the most bold and transformative of the four proposals by Council member Steve Schneemann, PVL Farmington brought forth a proposal for a 185-unit multi-family apartment concept. While Partner Tom Buck acknowledged the development was above the 120-unit proposal requested by City Council, he believes that many units allows his project to bring in a vibrant, fresh living environment, add additional public parking, and create a direct connection between the city’s two parks.

PVL Partner Jeff Scott highlighted that the proposed development would bring in an additional 70 public parking spaces, as well as the potential to bring more revenue for the community and create a domino effect leading to other interested developers. The PVL team would be looking to secure a Housing and Urban Development grant to fund the project.

Buck and Scott agreed that while they are not stuck to the 185 units and are willing to work with the community, their concern is fewer units may start to strip away the ability to include all of their proposed amenities.

Farmington resident Chris Schroer, who spoke during public comment Jan. 8, said he is the closest neighbor on Warner Street to the parcel. He opposed PVL Farmington’s idea, saying he believes a development that big would bury the historic district.

As the presentations concluded, the council collectively decided to take time until their next scheduled meeting, Jan. 18, to digest the information presented before directing administrators on phase two and narrowing down the list of viable developers. Mayor Sara Bowman reminded those tuning into the meeting that moving a developer into phase two doesn’t lock them into the process, either. The city is still only in the financing stage, she said.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe LaRussa agreed the city is a long way from selecting a final developer to work with, adding that the next phase will expose which developers have the flexibility to compromise and collaborate best with the community’s and city’s needs. In the next phase, LaRussa would also like to see a more comprehensive economic assessment from each developer on their project’s impact on the city, beyond how it will impact taxable property values.

To view each presentation in full, visit