The city of Farmington is working collaboratively with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to help market Castle Dental Lab, located on Farmington Road, to potential developers.

The city of Farmington is working collaboratively with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to help market Castle Dental Lab, located on Farmington Road, to potential developers.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Farmington promotes potential downtown redevelopment

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published September 21, 2022


FARMINGTON — The city of Farmington is hoping that a business currently for sale in its downtown district turns into a potential redevelopment opportunity for the city.

When the city learned that the owners of Castle Dental Lab, located at 23333 Farmington Road, were interested in selling the property, a decision was made to approach them to find out if they would be interested in coordinating with the city to market the property.

Last year, Farmington was certified by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation as being a Redevelopment Ready Community.

With that certification come some perks, including assistance from the MEDC’s Redevelopment Services team.

“So in conjunction with the support services provided by the MEDC and their RS team, we engaged the property owners of Castle Dental and shared this opportunity with them, to see if they had any interest in coordinating with the city, and with the support of the MEDC in assessing and evaluating their property, in helping them to move forward with marketing their property. … for sale and redevelopment,” said city of Farmington Planning and Building Department Director Kevin Christiansen. “After meeting with them and having this discussion, they were very interested.”

The property is located on a 0.36-acre site. It is a single-story commercial building that is approximately 4,000 square feet.

The site is located across from the Downtown Farmington Center, which is home to Fresh Thyme Market and numerous other retail tenants.

The site has been home to Castle Dental, which is family-owned, for more than 40 years.

According to a press release from the city of Farmington, the MEDC is “the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy.”

The MEDC released a request for developer qualifications, or RFQ, in the city of Farmington to assist in the community’s “revitalization” through housing development.

RFQ proposals are due Oct. 17. That is expected to be followed by an evaluation period Oct. 18-Nov. 18.

Finalist teams are set to be notified Nov. 21, with a finalist teams’ presentation to an evaluation committee scheduled to take place sometime in December.

The aspiration is to finalize terms of a development and purchase agreement in January.

The asking price for the property is $625,000.

According to Christiansen, the owners of the property do not have to pay a share of any profits earned from the sale of the property to Farmington.

He shared what’s in it for the city, in regard to the assistance it has offered.

“I think two things; one, it is coordinated redevelopment of an existing, available property in the city, in this case downtown, that then has the opportunity and interest in following the city’s long-term goals and objectives, and its redevelopment focus in the city master plan and the downtown master plan,” Christiansen said. “Redevelopment of this site is a focus of the city, with respect to one of the focus areas in the 2019 master plan — this is the downtown-focus area. … We in Farmington, as a built-up community, only have opportunity to take existing circumstances and make them better and to redevelop existing properties for future use. We hope that, in our redevelopment focus, that we are optimizing those opportunities and following what the vision of the community is.”

Christiansen said that Castle Dental’s location is “right in the heart and the core of the central business district on Farmington Road.”

Despite Farmington’s attempt to help get the property sold, its role only extends so far.

“Private interest is private interest,” Christiansen said. “If somebody looks to acquire the property, they work (out) their terms and conditions. The city’s not involved in the sale of that property; that would be between the seller … and the purchaser. … If they (the purchasers) have an interest in repurposing the site and redeveloping the property, we certainly will be at the ready and available to help them.”

Christiansen discussed how potential redevelopment of the site could align with Farmington’s master plan.

“The concept in the focus area for this sub-area … is mixed-use development; integrated development that contains a combination of commercial and residential uses. That’s the concepts of the RFQ,” he said.

Christiansen provided further details of the master plan, with respect to the focus area where Castle Dental is currently located.

“If you scroll through this, what you’ll see is the vision for this area is development goals (and) concepts that include the development of mixed-use buildings that include retail or office space on the ground floor (and) an office space or residential dwelling units on the upper floors,” he said. “The RFQ and its contents are based upon the city’s long-range plans, in part, with respect to the overall development goals. Our real goal here with redevelopment in downtown, and the community as a whole, is to promote development, to encourage investment in existing infrastructure, and to interconnect to improve pedestrian connections — to have a mix and array of uses that is complementary to the used space currently downtown, and in the community.”

Farmington Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kate Knight shared her perspective as to the city’s primary goal for the site.

“The highest-density use is up to 14,000 square feet, and that would be three to four stories, incorporating a few stories of residential, as well as a mixed-use first floor,” she said. “That’s our dream description. … Commercial and residential, definitely a mixed-use, would be our first priority.”

If things go the way the city wants, Farmington could have a different look in upcoming years.

“We’re looking to take what typically has been one-story buildings and promote mid-rise, multi-story structures — whether it’s two, three, four stories; certainly mixed-use — commercial, retail, office space — is very important with this redevelopment,” Christiansen said.

In the case of the site where Castle Dental is located, in order to move closer toward its goal, Farmington is hoping that whoever potentially purchases the property shares its vision.

“Our hope, our focus, our vision, our desire, is to have an interest that wants to work together with the city after acquiring the property, in implementing the city’s long-range plans, and our goals and objectives, as it pertains to redevelopment,” Christiansen said. “If somebody comes in with something that’s not gonna follow the city’s long-range plans, there might be some resistance, hesitation, some aversion to what that might be — and also, if something doesn’t comply with the city’s codes and ordinances … that would certainly be challenging to have that realized. But working in a cooperative, collaborative way is what we intend to do with interests, property owners and business interests in the city of Farmington. That’s why we lay all this out upfront, so that anybody that is looking at this opportunity sees what the city’s put in place to guide this property — the downtown, and the city as a whole, in its redevelopment efforts.”

Christiansen shared his perspective as to the best possible outcome, in relation to the potential sale of Castle Dental.

“I think the best thing that could happen would be that the (owners) realize the sale of their property as they desire and that it works out in their interest, in terms of how the property is sold and what they realize from that,” he said. “And what we the city are hopeful for, in addition to that, is that the purchaser of this property has an interest and a willingness to work with the city to implement the city’s plans, goals and objectives, and follow the concepts laid out in the RFQ and in the city’s plans. … The concepts in the RFQ are for mixed-use — commercial, office, retail and residential; and it’s a multi-story concept. … mid-rise with on-site parking.”

Christiansen added: “That’s not to say that somebody couldn’t come in, buy the property, put the key in the lock, open it, and (want to) use the building and the site as-is.”

Knight shared details of a benefit that could await a potential developer.

“What’s really unique about this offering from (the) MEDC and their redevelopment-ready target-site program is that they’re offering (a) $100,000 … incentive toward architecture and engineering for the chosen developer, and that’s really something.”

Knight is also of the opinion that another perk comes with the potential purchase of the property.

“Not only is it within our walkable downtown district, but that location there on the Farmington Road corridor … we have a complete streetscape happening,” she said. “It’s a $3 million ripout and reconstruction of Farmington Road, and so the timing of this. … We are in the throes of that major corridor overhaul, and we’re seeing investment of the sort we like to see come about as a result of that infrastructural improvement. … We’re seeing it happen concurrently. … There’s a lot of momentum in downtown, and whoever wants to come in and jump into this buildout process will reap an immediate benefit with that brand new corridor.”

In regard to the potential redevelopment opportunity at the Castle Dental site, the Farmington Road streetscape was also on the mind of Farmington Mayor Sara Bowman.

“This project, on the heels of the Farmington Road Streetscape, is an incredible opportunity for Farmington,” Bowman stated via email.

The possibility of Farmington making progress with its redevelopment plan is an exciting notion, from Christiansen’s perspective.

“(The) master plan and its downtown master plan are what we as a city look to see realized, and that’s very exciting, to see this opportunity is following the city’s long-range plans,” he said. “We’re very hopeful that will be realized for this property and for other properties and opportunities throughout the city.”

Knight also likes the prospect of what a potential sale, followed by redevelopment, could mean for Farmington.

“I think this is a great opportunity,” she said. “The benefit to the property owner, the developer, and the community as a result, are just tremendous.”

A representative of Castle Dental said it is too early in the process for them to comment on the plans currently.

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