Mayors focus on future in annual address

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published March 29, 2017

 Southfield Mayor Ken Siver speaks March 20 during the State of the City address at Best Western Premier Hotel, 26555 Telegraph.

Southfield Mayor Ken Siver speaks March 20 during the State of the City address at Best Western Premier Hotel, 26555 Telegraph.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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SOUTHFIELD/LATHRUP VILLAGE — It could have been demolished.

But it wasn’t.

During the annual State of the City address March 20 at Best Western Premier Hotel on Telegraph Road, Southfield Mayor Ken Siver reminded the elected officials and community members in attendance that the room they were sitting in could easily have been imploded if it wasn’t for a recent redevelopment effort.

“This property — we honestly thought it was going to be imploded,” Siver said. “No one is going to come here and save this property.”

Previously, the event had been held at the Westin Hotel-Southfield. The change in location highlights Southfield’s development efforts over the last few years, officials said.

In August 2015, the Southfield City Council unanimously approved a plan from a New Zealand investment group for a Commercial Exemption Certificate to rehabilitate the Best Western, formerly the Holiday Inn Hotel.

The State of the City address was hosted by the Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce, and audience members packed the large event space. Prior to the speech, networking and a luncheon were offered.

In his remarks, Siver focused on the countless redevelopment projects that have gotten underway in the last year.

He discussed the city’s 2015 purchase of the Northland Center property, 21500 Northwestern Highway.

“It’s a move that’s fraught with new things. The alternative was to let it sit,” Siver said.

Massive environmental testing, asbestos abatement and bids for the development are all next on the docket for the site, he said.

“We’re still debating about what we’re going to do with the tunnels, but one of our engineers suggested that perhaps we daylight some of them and turn them into creative, walkable spaces,” Siver said.

Siver said officials are also working on creating a downtown in the City Centre area.

“We really want to create a walkable sort of sense of a downtown. Southfield was a community developed around the automobile. We want to lessen that,” Siver said. “We’ll never get away from the automobile — at least not in the foreseeable future — but we do want to lessen that and make it more of a walkable community.”

Siver discussed the state of the city’s neighborhoods. He said city officials are working on several community-strengthening programs, such as the Habitat for Humanity Rock the Block program, neighborhood enterprise zones and public spaces.

Another way to enrich neighborhoods, Siver said, is through public art. He discussed the city’s 2016 obtainment of the Northland art collection, funded by a $500,000 loan. Recently, Siver announced that the city had paid back the loan through donations.

“The caveat was, how can you justify buying art when you have potholes, when you have vacancies in the Police and Fire departments and other needs in the city?” Siver said. “So I turned to the community and asked them and took out a $500,000 loan.”

Southfield’s schools, businesses and public safety departments have all also had a successful year, Siver said.

Lathrup Village Mayor Frank Brock said Lathrup Village is also focusing on redevelopment, with projects in the works for walkability, green space and a sense of community.

Brock said city officials are working with the Road Commission for Oakland County on a study of how best to improve conditions along the Southfield Road corridor.

The corridor stretches from Mount Vernon Road to approximately 1,200 feet north of 13 Mile Road.

“Southfield Road has been a headache for Lathrup Village for years. It splits our city right down the middle. I look longingly at the picture that is in the City Administrator’s Office that shows when it was a dirt road,” Brock said. “Not only Southfield, but (Lathrup Village) have been working together with the Road Commission for Oakland County to try and come up with a solution for the road that meets each of our city’s needs.”

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