A planning group has been consulted by Keego Harbor to help the city potentially redevelop its Cass Lake Road and Orchard Lake Road corridors.

A planning group has been consulted by Keego Harbor to help the city potentially redevelop its Cass Lake Road and Orchard Lake Road corridors.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Keego Harbor advances previous retail and housing market analysis study

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 20, 2021

 Keego Harbor Mayor Brian Lampl said a potential upcoming redevelopment is a way of “moving the city forward.”

Keego Harbor Mayor Brian Lampl said a potential upcoming redevelopment is a way of “moving the city forward.”

Photo by Deb Jacques

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KEEGO HARBOR — In upcoming years, Keego Harbor residents could see some changes to the look of their city.

“We looked at a residential and retail market analysis for the city back at the end of 2019, and what came of that was that we had a lot (of) opportunity in the city, more than I think some people felt,” said Keego Mayor Brian Lampl. “I think it showed us that there was a tremendous opportunity for things that we could do in the city, (in) terms of attracting development to the city.”

The Gibbs Planning Group in Birmingham, which is headed by Bob Gibbs, conducted the previous residential and retail market analysis, and the group has once again been brought in to help Keego move forward with a plan.

“We commissioned the Gibbs Group to do a master plan on the TIFA (Tax Increment Finance Authority) district, really looking at focusing on the Cass Lake corridor, and ultimately, probably the Orchard Lake corridor, focusing on what we could do there, in terms of development,” Lampl said. “As part of that, we put in place a steering committee.”

According to Keego Harbor City Councilman Rob Kalman, who preceded Lampl as mayor, the steering committee is made up of two City Council members, two Planning Commission members, two TIFA board members and a community representative.

Kalman described TIFA’s role.

“It’s a tax vehicle, where you capture the money in a certain district, and the money’s used for a very specific purpose,” he said. “The TIFA district is really Cass Lake Road (in) Keego Harbor.”

Kalman said there is “tremendous potential” for Keego.

Lampl discussed the city’s objective.

“A real effort towards making our community a walkable community that would be something where we would be able to attract businesses and look at form, factor and character in terms of how we look at redesigning certain areas and things,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a re-imagining, if you will, but while still staying true to our unique character in Keego Harbor.”

Lampl said the effort Keego is embarking on “can help to spur economic growth (and) also help to provide residents with a better quality of life within the community.”

Keego residents may have to exercise some patience to see possibility turn into reality.

“This may be a 20-year process for it to look the way that it’s envisioned in its totality, but the city can expect to see changes within the next two years,” Lampl said.

Gibbs previously said Keego is a “greatly under-served” area for restaurants and retail shops.

“People are driving a considerable distance to go there because of the charm and the lakes,” Gibbs said. “(We) found that people are driving maybe 15 to 30 minutes to get there, coming from Clarkston and West Bloomfield, Commerce. … We also found a really strong demand for upscale apartments and upscale homes, single family and condominium homes, especially from empty nesters who are living in the Bloomfields that we think would like to have a new place to move.”

Gibbs also discussed another advantage Keego could have going for it.

“It does have potential to tap into that fairly wealthy Bloomfield, West Bloomfield, Commerce crowd, and the lakes areas in the Waterfords,” he said. “Especially if it could morph itself into a walkable village, like a Franklin Village or Harbor Springs, or something like that. … It’s this interesting little pocket that’s surrounded by considerable wealth.”

Kalman said Keego is likely going to go with a “smaller town feel,” but added that, “the plans aren’t done yet.”

He expects to have a better idea within a month or two, with the Gibbs Group potentially concluding its study this spring.

The lofty aspirations for Keego are a challenge Lampl thinks the city council is up for.

“I think we see this as moving the city forward in a really great direction,” he said. “I think the benefits, from both quality of life (and) an economic standpoint, I think it’s the right thing for the city. … I think it’s what people want to happen, as well.”

According to Lampl, around $70,000 has been paid to the Gibbs Planning Group to date for the TIFA district master plan, with the money allocated from the city’s TIFA district budget and approved by the TIFA board and the City Council.

As for the cost of a potential redevelopment, in an email Lampl wrote, “It’s still a little too early to say.”

Lampl does not expect “moving the city forward” to include a tax increase.

“We’re exploring avenues, in terms of how we get there,” he said. “We are very cognizant of being fiscally responsible. We’re aware of what our citizens can afford and not afford. We’re not looking to burden them with additional taxes.”

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