Farmington Hills leaders take early look at next 20 years

By: Zachary Manning | Farmington Press | Published July 1, 2021

 A June 14 City Council study session focused, in part, on the possibilities of transforming office buildings into mixed-use developments. Of note during the presentation was the fact that there are 44 office buildings on 12 Mile Road.

A June 14 City Council study session focused, in part, on the possibilities of transforming office buildings into mixed-use developments. Of note during the presentation was the fact that there are 44 office buildings on 12 Mile Road.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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FARMINGTON HILLS — During a June 14 study session, Farmington Hills City Council officials took an early look at some plans for the city.

At the meeting, things such as art inclusivity and sustainability efforts were discussed, among other goals. Over the next 20 years, Farmington Hills is aiming to take a little bit of a different form.

With these plans being part of a future vision, there is still significant community input that needs to take place, and many of the ideas are still in the beginning phases of discussion.


‘What can these land holders do with that remaining office space?’
No one exactly knows what a post-COVID-19 world will look like, but early indications show that many companies are sticking to having employees spend at least some time at home.

With an increasing number of people working from home, the use of office spaces could diminish, giving the city some room to develop these areas into something different.

As part of a “life enhancement” vision, turning unused or limited-use office buildings into mixed-use residential areas was brought up. Of note during the presentation was the fact that there are 44 office buildings on 12 Mile Road.

In addition to looking into adding some mixed-use residential areas, the city would like to continue encouraging developments and redevelopments that incorporate non-motorized mobility, such as bike trails and walkways.

“Our concern is, are people going to return to the office? Are companies going to require their staff to report back to a central location or office? Are they going to need the same square footage that they had pre-pandemic?” City Manager Gary Mekjian said. “We don’t know how that’s going to shake out yet, but if it’s a reduction in the amount of office space, then the question becomes, what can these land holders do with that remaining office space? What you saw with that reimagining living was the potential to take some of those office buildings and convert them to a mixed-use kind of a micro neighborhood.”


Eco-living and sustainable energy alternatives
As the world works to become more eco-friendly, Farmington Hills is as well.

The idea of the “Green City Initiative” is to promote green construction, renewable building products, rooftop/community gardens, and alternative energy and efficiency.

A more green approach to living would attract young people and increase residents’ connection to the natural environment, officials said.

In addition to green construction ideas, the city is also looking at what they call a “Sustainable Energy Initiative,” which will promote more sustainable forms of energy.

Over time, the goal is to promote the expansion of electric vehicle charging stations across the city in preparation for more electric vehicles. The city also is looking to promote sustainable energy by encouraging solar panels on new developments, especially office building redevelopment.

Along with that, Farmington Hills is also looking into an “Autonomous Vehicle Initiative,” which could lead to less traffic congestion and could attract new residents and businesses.

“I think what we’re looking for is to stay relevant in that area,” Assistant City Manager Joseph Valentine said of sustainability and energy ideas. “If you look at the trends and the projections for electric vehicles, as an example, in the next 10-20 years, there is projected to be a predominant shift into electric vehicles from the combustion engine vehicles. If that’s the shift, how, as a community, do you start preparing for that to ensure that your residents have the needs and capacity to utilize that new technology? How do your businesses have the ability to utilize that new technology? As a community, how do you implement that in a way where you can maximize the potential for benefit in your community? These are all parts of the conversation that still have to occur.”


Promoting art
Officials also discussed how the city can be more inclusive and diverse with the art around Farmington Hills.

Art is a great way to stimulate thought and creativity, so Farmington Hills is looking at some redevelopment that targets artists, along with art festivals, murals and sculptures.

Along with that, officials are looking to expand concerts, and they brought up the idea of having some interactive art exhibitions.

Officials say they want it done in an inclusive way.  

In addition to exhibits and murals, adding elements of projection mapping and interactive glass could be ideas for the future. Fountains could be used for different events and activities.

“We want to be very supportive of our artists and have artists move into our community and expand on those that we already have,” Mekjian said. “I think one of the things that we can improve upon as a community is to drive that effort. More public art, more ability to have creative things in our city that are thought provoking.”


Continuing to build a relationship with Farmington
One of the final talking points of the meeting was to continue building the relationship with Farmington to help both cities prosper.

The goal is to leverage the assets that both parties bring to the table. By having a strong relationship, the two cities have the opportunity to improve the services and programs that are offered and find ways to save money, among other things.

“I think the communities of Farmington and Farmington Hills are very fortunate to have the synergy that they have together,” Valentine said. “They’re, for the most part, linked with the success of one another. By working together and working cooperatively, they can only strengthen each other moving forward.”

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