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Farmington-area mayors, superintendent make inaugural State of the Cities address

Leaders touch on past successes and future projects

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published February 17, 2020

 Farmington Mayor Sara Bowman smiles as she prepares to make her inaugural State of the Cities address to the public Feb. 12.

Farmington Mayor Sara Bowman smiles as she prepares to make her inaugural State of the Cities address to the public Feb. 12.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Key business stakeholders, community members, and city and civic leaders listen as Bowman speaks.

Key business stakeholders, community members, and city and civic leaders listen as Bowman speaks.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — Community members gathered in the early morning Feb. 12 to hear the inaugural State of the Cities addresses from Farmington Mayor Sara Bowman, Farmington Hills Mayor Vicki Barnett and Farmington Public Schools Superintendent Robert Herrera. The event was hosted by the Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce. 

Leaders detailed many of the past successes each city and the school district saw last year, as well as primary projects to come.

 

Farmington
Bowman began her address saying the state of Farmington “is good, very good.”

“It is sound. In fact, as far as I can see into the future, the next few years, our community will continue on that trajectory,” she said.

Bowman praised the work done in 2019 by the city’s public safety officials — which included record-low crime rates, a sixth safest city trade ranking and grants that purchased surveillance cameras and upgraded the jail’s efficiency — as well as by the public works, finance and city clerk’s offices.

She provided a snapshot of the community’s economic and business development, which included the announcement of a new store — Five Below — moving into the old Dressbarn facility.

“It adds to the blend of 100-plus nationally and locally owned businesses and services shoppers can walk to in our downtown,” she said of Five Below.

She touted residential development, referencing the single-family homes being built at the old 47th District Courthouse, as well as commercial redevelopment throughout the city, including new tenants at the 10 Mile shopping center, The Rolling Stove restaurant, the opening of Freedom Plaza, and the selling and redevelopment of the historical Farmington State Savings Bank.

The Masonic Lodge is in the “process of being reactivated for the first time in decades,” she said; the Farmington Road streetscape is continuing to progress; and the city is still completing due diligence tests at Maxfield Training Center site.

“We look forward to robust growth and continued investment in the city in 2020,” Bowman said.

 

Farmington Hills
Barnett remarked that the city’s greatest accomplishment in 2019 was the acquisition of The Hawk — the former Harrison High School building that is being transitioned into a community center.

“The Hawk represents our commitment to the physical and emotional education, and the well-being of every resident, visitor and business who comes to our city. This project underscores the commitment of renewal and answers the needs of our growing community,” she said.

Barnett also detailed the accomplishments of the city’s Police Department — which included record-low crime rates, helping to track a missing child, and a drug bust that confiscated more than 497 grams of heroin.

Barnett touted the city’s 36 consecutive years of AAA bond ratings and a fully funded retirement system.

New residential housing developments will help the city remain an attractive place to live, Barnett said. Among those are 44 new homes at the corner of 10 Mile and Orchard Lake roads; 10 homes at the former Kendallwood Swim Club; 19 homes on Farmington Road, between Stocker and Colfax streets; and 32 homes at the southeast corner of Eldon and Middlebelt roads.

In the commercial development sector, Nissan Farmington Hill, Mercedes Benz and Karmanos Cancer Institute all have made major investments in the community, leading to the addition or retention of thousands of jobs combined.

“Take an art class, voice your opinion at City Council meetings, and take a walk in our safe neighborhoods. We value all that Farmington Hills has to offer, and each other, and it shows in how we conduct ourselves in this city,” she said.

 

Farmington Public Schools
Herrera used his address to outline a two-year plan to provide better educational outcomes in the face of what he called innovative changes as the district moves forward.

Herrera said there are five drivers of change that need to be considered: automating choices, civic superpowers, accelerating brains and the tools at students’ disposal, toxic narratives that may affect mental health and perceptions of success, and remaking geographies.

In the first year, starting in April-May, the district will focus on developing a shared vision with the community to create what he calls the “portrait of a lifelong learner.” He said the vision for student outcomes should be created by the community, followed by the district implementing the appropriate curriculum and actions to make that vision possible.

“Don’t be surprised if we offer you an invitation to sit at the table,” he said.

That process will include training for district personnel to help them think differently about leading the district toward success.

The second year of strategic implementation, which Herrera said will begin in the 2020-2021 school year, will include an overall assessment of what’s working and what isn’t in order to align every aspect of the district to move forward with the same goals.

During year two, the district will be working to create a student-focused culture that provides students with more agency in their academic trajectory and more transparency to district staff responsible for implementing the new vision.

“Over the next two years, we will be very much engaged in more of a transformational plan with the district and, hopefully, much more engaged with the community to talk about what we want out of our schools and for our students,” he said.

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