Local officials discussed the future of the Northland Center site among their plans for 2022.

Local officials discussed the future of the Northland Center site among their plans for 2022.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Leaders in Lathrup, Southfield reflect on 2021, goals for 2022

By: Andy Kozlowski | Southfield Sun | Published January 26, 2022

LATHRUP VILLAGE/SOUTHFIELD — Southfield and Lathrup Village hope the new year will bring a return to normalcy.

Reflecting on the past year, city officials much was accomplished in 2021 — and despite the ongoing double whammy of omicron and rampant inflation, they’re optimistic that progress will be made in 2022 as well.

 

Lathrup Village focuses on infrastructure, community
Reflecting on the previous year, Lathrup Village Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Kantor said 2021 was a busy time for Lathrup Village.

“While there were many great accomplishments in 2021, I would have to say that this was the year of infrastructure,” Kantor said. “The city began its three-year road improvement program that will ultimately resurface about 7.1 miles of residential city roadway. In 2021, a little over two miles of road was repaired. In addition, our water infrastructure improvements also got underway. The city replaced about 1,900 feet of water main, replaced/refurbished 57 water main gate valves and 90 fire hydrants, replaced 15 lead water service lines, and conducted 135 excavations to verify water service lines were not made out of lead. Lastly, the three-year sidewalk replacement program also got underway. It was definitely a busy year!”

He said 2021 was challenging due to the ongoing pandemic, but that the community managed to stay strong.

“Lathrup Village residents are resilient, and found ways to work around the pandemic by adhering to social distancing protocols and CDC recommendations. It was great to see our residents come together for food giveaways, Wednesday night concerts, Breakfast with Santa, etc. As 2022 starts off with high COVID numbers, I know our residents will be diligent and continue to find safe ways to socialize as a community, and celebrate all the great things in Lathrup Village,” Kantor said.

He said the residents can look forward to steady progress as the city continues its work.

“In 2022, the city will continue its infrastructure momentum by continuing with projects to repave roads, replace gate valves and fire hydrants, replace water mains, repair our sidewalks, verify water service line materials, and replace lead pipes. In addition, infrastructure projects will also begin to repair our sanitary retention tank, replace our water meters and inspect sanitary sewer lines,” Kantor said. “The city is also working to continue fostering the economic development of the DDA district, and hopes to have some exciting projects on Southfield Road come to fruition in 2022.”

Council members Barbara Kenez and Karen Miller — among the newest additions to the Lathrup Village City Council — said they’re encouraged by the residents they met during their campaigns.

“2021 brought Lathrup Village a new set of opportunities,” Kenez said. “The challenges of the past few years actually united residents, and voices were heard once again. Lathrup residents became engaged and enlightened, and three new council members were voted in.”

In the Nov. 2, 2021, election Kenez was the clear winner in a two-way race for a partial term on the City Council ending Nov. 13, 2023, prevailing over write-in candidate Greg Ruvolo. The same day, incumbent Kantor and newcomer Jalen Jennings each won four-year terms, while newcomer Miller won a two-year term.

“We’ve accomplished much already: new representation, new hope, a change of direction and the anticipation of new leadership. As we step into 2022 with a fresh set of goals and opportunities, I have immense hope for our city,” Kenez said. “It will be a year dedicated to improving the quality of life for our residents with a focus on community. I believe residents will stay engaged and continue to make their voices heard.”

In particular, “I hope to see events, clubs, organizations and activities reappear in full force,” Kenez said. “I recently met with residents who plan to restart the tree planting program — a win-win for our community and for the environment. We need more of this — inclusive and thoughtful events that unite our community. Celebrating and focusing on the things we have in common will move Lathrup Village forward in the best possible way.”

Miller said she previously served on the Southfield Public Schools Board of Education for 14 years, saying she “learned what good government looks like and what it means to be a public servant.”

She said she hopes 2022 will be a huge improvement over 2021. She echoed Kenez in saying that government needs to get the residents involved.

“We have a lot of challenges that need to be faced, and residents need to be invited to the table so we can solve our problems together,” Miller said. “In 2022, I hope to have the opportunity to fulfill my campaign promises and make the residents of Lathrup Village my top priority.”

Miller said this includes holding more town hall meetings where the ideas and concerns of residents can be heard at length. She also wants to create a Community Steering Committee to better support residents.

“I would make sure that all stakeholder groups are invited to the table,” Miller said. “I envision the Steering Committee as a conduit for communication — resident-to-council communication, as well as resident-to-resident communication.”

She described a model called “program-based budgeting,” a process where programs and policies are determined by community feedback, and budgeted accordingly.

“Residents would have input in determining how their tax dollars are spent,” Miller said.

She also hopes to adjust the hours at City Hall to better meet the needs of residents, and she wants to create a “resident liaison” position that would help communicate the needs of residents to officials.

“In 2022, I hope to build upon the strengths of Lathrup Village to bring the community back together,” Miller said.

 

‘Despite the pandemic … Southfield remained in positive forward motion’
Kenson Siver, the mayor of Southfield, said last year featured a number of major road and infrastructure projects that were completed, and some that started then will be finished this spring.

He points to the July sale of the former Northland Shopping Center, and the October groundbreaking for a massive redevelopment project there that will transform the property into a mixed-use retail, residential and office space known as the Northland City Center.

Siver also noted how Marelli — a global tier-one auto supplier based in Italy and Japan — moved its North American headquarters to the former Federal-Mogul Building at Northwestern Highway and Lahser Road, relocating from Auburn Hills. And the Centrepolis Business Accelerator — a joint venture between the city and Lawrence Technological University — had another successful year helping businesses grow.

“Despite the pandemic, the city of Southfield remained in positive forward motion,” Siver said.

2021 also saw the city dedicating a new pathway that extends from Civic Center Drive to Nine Mile Road along the southbound service drive of Northwestern Highway, and the installation of three new pieces of public art, including the Hubert Massey ceramic panels depicting Southfield history, and three graphic murals painted on the pedestrian safety barrier, both near LTU.

These place-making attractions were complemented by cultural events, including a weekslong celebration of Juneteenth featuring concerts, a walk and a history series, and the return of the Kimmie Horne Jazz Festival on the front lawn of City Hall after a yearlong hiatus, with attendance at an all-time high. The city was also honored as a national finalist in the 2021 All-America City Awards.

“Southfield’s housing, diversity and inclusion, culture and public safety scored well with judges,” Siver said.

But the year was not without its challenges. In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, the city also dealt with severe storms and power outages. The mayor and council worked with Ascension Health to operate a vaccination clinic in the Southfield Pavilion, and when a series of storms battered the town from June through September, damaging homes and businesses and uprooting trees, Southfield Public Works worked around the clock to clean up. The repeated power outages led the mayor to arrange a series of meetings with DTE officials, and the utility company pledged to upgrade equipment in the city and perform more extensive tree trimming.

Siver said that this year, Southfield will have to continue to work around COVID-19, but the city will continue to provide assistance to residents and businesses impacted by the pandemic.

“We will continue working with the Oakland County Health Division to provide testing and vaccination clinics at the Civic Center. We also believe in climate change, and are preparing for more severe weather events with the purchase of additional equipment and extra staff,” Siver said.

Work will continue on the Northland redevelopment, with two new five-story mixed-use buildings appearing on Greenfield Road, while the original mall is transformed into a “live, work and play space” with Hudson City Market as its centerpiece. Construction is also set to begin on the EverCentre mixed-use project on vacant land across from City Hall.

“More infrastructure projects are also slated for this year. Chief among them will be rebuilding streets in the Tanglewood neighborhood, and resurfacing of Berg and Shiawassee roads,” Siver said. “A number of other commercial and business projects are on the drawing boards.”

The mayor said residents can expect new investments in Simms and Miller parks, bolstering the recreational offerings there. New housing projects are scheduled as well, with the Southfield Non-Profit Housing Corporation advancing work on two closed schools, and applications being submitted to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to fund affordable senior housing at the former John Grace School. Work is set to begin converting the McKinley School into market-rate condominiums, and major renovations are set at The Park Trowbridge and Gardenview apartment complexes.

To top it all off, the city will be working on additional sidewalk installation along Inkster Road and on the southbound Northwestern Highway service lane from Lahser to Civic Center Drive, and two new hotels are expected to be completed in the area, as well.

“Business retention and attraction efforts will continue,” Siver said. “Additionally, we are hoping to add more streetlights to the city, and replace those that have been damaged. And we will continue to work with DTE to improve service delivery in Southfield.”

Southfield City Councilman Jason Hoskins said 2021 was a busy year for his city.

“I think our community went through a lot last year, as it did the year before, but even with everything happening we were able to get many things accomplished in Southfield, including the groundbreaking on the Northland Mall project,” Hoskins said.

“I think for Southfield, (2022) will be the beginning of a transformative time for us. We are working on the city master plan, the parks and recreation master plan, as well as discussing how we will be spending the influx of federal dollars in our community,” he said. “These are all things that will help guide the city for years to come.”

As for particular priorities, “I want to continue to make headway on Northland, as well as other housing and economic development projects throughout the city,” Hoskins said. “I’m also hoping this is the year we can put the pandemic behind us.”