A rendering of a residential street in Macomb Township’s town center plan per the original 1990s proposal.

A rendering of a residential street in Macomb Township’s town center plan per the original 1990s proposal.

Image taken from Macomb Township website

Macomb Township Center plan takes shape

By: Dean Vaglia | Macomb Chronicle | Published July 1, 2024


MACOMB TOWNSHIP — A project over two decades in the making is finally coming to fruition.

Due north of the geographic center of Macomb Township, the twisting Broughton Road terminates at the grid-like beginnings of the soon-to-be Macomb Township Center, a plan to manufacture a downtown in the heart of Macomb Township.

“Macomb Township is very much subdivision-heavy, very suburbia, and it was decided decades ago that we really needed that town center or downtown to really give us that sense of place,” said Macomb Township Planning Director Josh Bocks. “If you’re driving from Chesterfield into Macomb Township or Shelby into Macomb Township, you don’t even know when you’ve crossed the border for the most part. So, to give us some sort of identity, that they know where downtown Macomb is, the town center concept was created.”

The “New Urban” development was  planned by Robert J. Gibbs in 1998. Plans called for a return to a Victorian Era-style of residential development with smaller lots with a focus on front yard space.

“The style of development is with turrets and large front porches,” Bocks said. “It encourages more activity in the front yard than in the rear yard. Most subdivisions these days, people think of the backyard as the play space for the kids or the hangout space, but in more traditional downtowns that used to be the front yard. People would hang out on the front porch or the front stoop. That was the place you would hang out and that was the concept of the town center, bringing that look and feel back to the front yard so everybody knows their neighbors a little better and it has that real community feel.”

Progress on the town center continued into the 2000s with the construction of the Township Hall in the area, but the financial crash of 2008 and the recession that followed stopped any real progress from occurring into the 2010s. Bocks says by the time he joined the township in 2020, plans for the township center were at a standstill.

“When I got here in 2020, the Pheasant Run subdivision had just started in the town center, and we took a really big look at what was happening, why nothing was happening here,” Bocks said. “We met with a lot of landowners, developers, residents and came up with some plans to change the way it was developed but still keep the same look and feel, but maybe make it more enticing for development to take shape so this town center would actually take shape.”

The key change made involved revising the residential ordinance to allow garages to be more toward the front of the home and require front porches as per the original concept. Lots are expected to range around 50-75 feet. Updates to the township’s various master plans have also anticipated the load an increased number of residents would put on infrastructure.

Grant funding has also helped accelerate the town center concept in recent years. Macomb Township secured $5 million with the help of state Sen. Veronica Klinefelt to fund the extension of Broughton Road as a boulevard-style street similar to Auburn Road in eastern Rochester Hills.

“We’re hoping that with Broughton Road going though (the town center) it creates a sense of a place that people will want to hang out in,” Macomb Township Land Development Director Jim Van Tiflin said.

Events like art fairs and civic events like the annual tree lighting would be used to bring people into the area, supporting commercial business that would have space along the road. Wide sidewalks would make Broughton Road and its surrounding areas walkable while also providing space for businesses to set up outdoor components, such as al fresco dining.

“The whole idea of the town center is to have public space within a walkable distance, so people don’t have to get in their car,” Van Tiflin said. “That was the concept that was made in the ’90s and that’s what we’re really trying to adhere to today, with the understanding certain things won’t work.”

Alleys between homes and businesses, for one, are an aspect of a dense, urban-like environment that won’t be featured in the town center.

Though much of the town center has not been developed beyond its current state, Bocks believes recent progress on the planning side will help spur development in the coming years.

“We have grant funding for Broughton Road to be extended; it has to be spent by 2028,” Bocks said. “Our goal is to have it constructed by 2027. Once that’s in it, I think that’s the impetus for a lot of the commercial (development) to take shape. I guess I would say, for a full build-out of town center, you could still be talking 15-20 years from now, but I think the core of what we’re going to see, and my goal personally, would be to see that take shape in the next decade.”