Baker College is hoping to build a college campus and mixed-use parking deck in Ferndale, which residents have reservations about. Concept art for the project already has changed, according to the college.

Baker College is hoping to build a college campus and mixed-use parking deck in Ferndale, which residents have reservations about. Concept art for the project already has changed, according to the college.

File rendering provided by city of Ferndale


Ferndale residents voice concerns about proposed Baker College campus

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published March 5, 2019

 Ferndale residents have been voicing their concerns over a proposed project by Baker College to build a downtown campus. According to the college, the renderings, which are not final, already are being changed based on community feedback.

Ferndale residents have been voicing their concerns over a proposed project by Baker College to build a downtown campus. According to the college, the renderings, which are not final, already are being changed based on community feedback.

File rendering provided by city of Ferndale

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FERNDALE — A project to build a downtown Ferndale Baker College campus has left residents feeling concerned about the possible development. 

At a Planning Commission meeting Feb. 20 and a City Council meeting Feb. 25, many residents voiced their concerns to the city about the project, which would be located at the northwest corner of East Nine Mile Road and Bermuda Street and a parking lot near Como’s Restaurant.

Baker also hopes to construct a mixed-use parking deck with hundreds of parking spaces in the city-owned parking lot between City Hall and the Ferndale Area District Library.

Over the course of the two meetings, residents expressed concerns and reservations with the proposal and Baker College itself. One of the more common concerns heard was about the project’s timeline and that residents felt it was being rushed to get an approval and to start construction in the summer.

According to the exclusive negotiating rights agreement, or ENRA, between the city and Baker, they have a 100 day due-diligence and exploratory period to discuss the project and possibly approve it at its end, which is April 30. The latest council meeting before then is scheduled for April 22. The ENRA does state that there is an option to extend under certain circumstances if Ferndale deems it necessary.

Resident Eric Klein was one of several people at the Feb. 25 meeting who discussed this timeline and felt that not enough people in the community were aware of it. He said that if the ENRA expires at the end of April, then they have to assume that a decision needs to be made by then, and not everyone is educated on a project that “could potentially have a profound effect on their daily lives.”

“Is this enough time to first educate the community on the effects of this project?” he said. 

Klein also commented that the project could raise property values and taxes, and possibly increase rent that could affect residents.

“It’s going to change the character of town to some extent, because that’s going to price out a certain percentage of working class people and the creative class,” he said.

Both Baker College Chief Operating Officer Jacqui Spicer and Community and Economic Development Director Jordan Twardy said the timeline is a result of the ENRA, with Twardy saying it’s all tentative and based on whether or not Baker College moves through various phases of the planning process.

“Those timeline dates are put out there to give folks an idea of what those milestones look like,” Twardy said. “That’s actually pretty standard when any project comes to Ferndale, whether it’s on city land or private land, that’s something common our department will do, is sort of lay out the steps and the expectations. The hurdles are really up to (Baker) to lay down their cards and go through the process. If they don’t advance through those steps, those dates don’t happen.”

Spicer said they have had conversations about extending the ENRA, which City Council would need to approve. 

“We’ve had conversations about extending it, if necessary, but again, I think for us, that’s the ENRA period and that’s what we’re trying to ensure — that we can meet the various milestones that were laid out for us,” she said.

Another resident, Ben Buttolph, said the city already is going to be down a parking lot this year, referring to the Troy Street “dot” project, and to entertain an idea of a project that will remove approximately 160 parking spots is not a great idea.

Along with Klein, Buttolph said that since Baker is not-for-profit, there wouldn’t be any direct tax benefits with the project. Buttolph also was one of several people who said the college as an institution might not be the best fit for Ferndale.

“Baker College is not expanding their business because it’s booming. They’re consolidating,” he said. “They are closing four locations: Allen Park, Auburn Hills, Clinton Township and Flint, and they’re moving them here. I don’t see any benefit to this project.”

Spicer couldn’t be reached for further comment on Baker’s situation.

On fitting into the downtown, Spicer said the college’s renderings and layouts already have changed based on feedback from the community and that it will have something new to show to residents soon.

As far as concerns about changing the character of the city, Spicer said Baker selected Ferndale because the city was so inclusive, vibrant and had a great downtown, and that is something the college doesn’t want to change

“The things that we fell in love with about the city are the things that we want to continue to embrace, and we have no intention of changing any of that,” she said. “We do believe that we’re a good … Ferndale fit. I would say, when you look at our student population, they would be extremely excited about being a part of the city as well. We want to embrace Ferndale. We don’t want to change Ferndale, and we hope that Ferndale will embrace Baker.”

Twardy said there will be additional public meetings on the project starting in March, which also could drag the timeline out more.

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