Farmington Hills Mayor Theresa Rich addresses attendees at a State of the Cities Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce event earlier this month. Development and infrastructure were a couple of the subjects Rich touched on during her address.

Farmington Hills Mayor Theresa Rich addresses attendees at a State of the Cities Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce event earlier this month. Development and infrastructure were a couple of the subjects Rich touched on during her address.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Farmington Hills mayor shares highlights and aspirations at State of the Cities address

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published March 18, 2024


FARMINGTON HILLS — At a recent State of the Cities Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce event earlier this month, Farmington Hills Mayor Theresa Rich had an opportunity to advocate for her city.

The event took place March 6 in front of a crowd at The Hawk, a community center in Farmington Hills.

Rich and Farmington Mayor Joe LaRussa were each given a chance to address the audience about some of the highlights of their respective cities.

Rich said that her role as the mayor is to be the No. 1 cheerleader for the city.

“Tomorrow will mark 100 days since I was sworn in as mayor of Farmington Hills,” she said. “One of the things I promised is we would bring more voices into the conversation, and with this council, we’ve already approved appointment to boards and commissions of 26 people who had never served the city in a role before, and that brings intentionality to increasing the diversity of our boards and commissions to better reflect our community.”

A video presentation helped to highlight some of Farmington Hills’ accomplishments over the past year, including images of the city’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2023.

The points of emphasis included that the Fire Department, which also includes paramedic services, responded to more than 12,000 incidents, which was reportedly a department record, and the Police Department responded to more than 55,000 calls for service and collected over 600 pounds of unused prescription drugs.

“We are dedicated to maintaining our position as one of the safest cities of our size in the state,” Rich said following the video presentation. “The No. 1 role of government is to make sure people are safe, and the Farmington Hills Police Department has doubled down on training and technology for our officers, particularly after an independent analysis found the department was already operating above industry standards.”

According to Rich, the city is continually looking at how the community can be better served.

As an example, she pointed out that Fire Station 3, which is one of five fire stations in the city, is now a full-time operation.

The station, located at Grand River Avenue and Middlebelt Road, was previously staffed 7:30 a.m. to midnight daily. Like other stations, it now operates 24/7.

As part of her contention that the state of Farmington Hills is strong and the future is bright, Rich said that the city is continually improving its infrastructure.

Her prime example was the Farmington Area FiberCity project, something both Farmington and Farmington Hills are a part of, described in a press release as a “revolutionary fiber optic infrastructure investment that will bring a fast, affordable and reliable all-fiber internet network to every home, business, and institution in both cities.”

Construction of the network has commenced. The project is expected to be completed in two years.

LaRussa is part of the broadband committee that Farmington and Farmington Hills formed.

According to a release about the project, SiFi Networks, a privately owned telecom company in New Jersey that funds, builds and operates communitywide fiber optic networks, is privately funding the more than $70 million project.

“The SiFi Network collaboration is a game-changer, and it’s going to be a game-changer for generations to come, bringing some of the fastest possible connectivity to our residents and businesses,” Rich said. “Let’s give another shout-out to Mayor LaRussa, who was on the ground floor when it was the germ of an idea.”

Development was also on Rich’s mind during her speech.

One of the projects that she cited was the Hunter’s Square Shopping Center, located at 14 Mile and Orchard Lake roads.

At a Feb. 12 Farmington Hills City Council meeting, consideration of approval for the partial redevelopment of the center was unanimously approved.

According to the city, the portion of Hunter’s Square that was approved for redevelopment is 186,634 square feet.

The shopping center property was recently acquired by Kimco Realty, which is North America’s largest publicly traded real estate investment trust, specializing in grocery-anchored, open-air shopping centers and mixed-use assets, according to its website.

At the City Council meeting, a 70,000-square-foot Meijer grocery store was discussed as one of the new tenants that will be moving into that location.

“We recently approved the Hunter’s Square redevelopment project that will transform the gateway to our city, and it’ll provide outdoor dining, pedestrian-friendly assets and something that’s dear to the hearts of many of us on council — public art,” Rich said.

Rich also said that “national and international businesses remain interested in Farmington Hills.”

Aside from matters pertaining to business and development, deer roaming the region has gotten the attention of local governments, and it is one that has  residents divided, in regard to the best solution for handling it.

Rich said that a meeting of regional mayors about a community-coordinated approach for how to deal with the issue safely and humanely is scheduled for next month.

Mental health is both a regional and national conversation, and it is a topic that Rich also addressed during her speech.

“I recognize that we have community members who are hurting, and it’s my priority to connect them with resources they need, and in particular, the mental wellness resources that are already available here in our city,” she said. “Our residents, our employees, our businesses, need to not just survive their day, but to thrive, and we’re going to be looking at an overarching mental wellness strategy for the city that will provide connection with a lot (of) community stakeholders.”

From Rich’s perspective, Farmington Hills is aiming to deliver “top-notch” services while staying within the city’s financial means.

She cited a close collaboration with Farmington, the Farmington Public Schools and Oakland Community College.

“This is an exceptional community that’s being recognized for its regional impact and its ongoing and growing regional partners,” Rich said. “Farmington Hills is a connector of all of metro Detroit. We’re a place where business and leisure converge, and I am so thrilled to be working closely with leaders throughout all of the region to make us better still. … Truly excited about the work we are doing to make Farmington Hills a destination city for our current and future residents, businesses, employees and visitors.”