OHM, city to host second Northland visioning session

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published August 16, 2016

 During the visioning session, OHM will present the latest master plan for redevelopment, which includes green space, a water feature and mixed use development.

During the visioning session, OHM will present the latest master plan for redevelopment, which includes green space, a water feature and mixed use development.

Photo by Deb Jacques

SOUTHFIELD — Following a public input session and a recent presentation in front of City Council, OHM Advisors — the firm selected to develop a conceptual, market-driven master redevelopment plan for Northland Center, 21500 Northwestern Highway — is again looking for Southfielders’ suggestions.

The city will host the public input session 6-8 p.m. Aug. 23 in the auditorium of the Southfield Public Library, 263000 Evergreen Road.

During the visioning session, OHM will present the latest master plan for redevelopment of the site and will look to gain input from attendees on what they would like to see there.

At the City Council’s Aug. 8 Committee of the Whole meeting, representatives of the firm gave a presentation on the latest updates to the project.

Aaron Domini, senior planner and partner at OHM, said the developers recently launched a website for the project, imaginenorthland.com.

There, interested parties can find news on the latest updates to the project, find out how to get involved and view past presentations made by OHM.

Domini said project planners are taking past suggestions and implementing them into their master plan, making it a destination where people will want to work, shop and play.

“The public was clear that (the site) should have a strong community focus and public element,” Domini said. “How do we make this thing not only socially sustainable and not only environmentally sustainable, but economically sustainable?”

Developers are working with local property owners, like Providence-Providence Park Hospital and Lawrence Technological University, to keep the community involved, Domini said.

At the Aug. 8 council meeting, OHM representatives discussed how they will transform the underground tunnels that run beneath the former mall into something more sustainable.

“At the center of the project you’ll see a large art space/green space — a central park. The way we’re managing the stormwater on the site is with a water feature. The tunnels and grades help us build that,” Domini said. “A lot of our challenges are grade issues. We’re thinking creatively on how to work that into the development with sustainable practices and create this destination for people.”

Although a name for the new site hasn’t yet been chosen, Councilman Donald Fracassi said the name Northland has a negative connotation today.

“When you say branding, when you talk about Northland, people say, ‘Oh, I used to remember Northland and what it was,’” Fracassi said at the meeting. “The 2020 brand of Northland is not the same. The 2016 brand is not the same. You can’t go back to what it was, because you set yourself (up) for failure. Northland has a bad name today.”

Council members and OHM representatives discussed the new branding slogan for the site, “The Heart of It All.” Domini said the slogan stems from the site formerly being a major part of the Southfield community.

“There is an emotional tie to the old Northland, but we want to move past the old Northland and repurpose it,” City Planner Terry Croad said at the meeting. “We want to respect the history, but create a new brand identity. ‘The Heart of It All’ is part of the branding of a new place.”

“Part of that message is that change is coming, and you begin do that in a very slow and adaptive fashion,” City Administrator Fred Zorn said at the meeting.

Earlier this summer, OHM hosted a tent at the Family Fun and Safety Night June 22 in front of the Southfield Public Library. The firm invited residents to “Imagine the Possibilities” for the future of the former mall site.

Residents were invited to view maps of the property, vote on amenities, fill out comment cards, and discuss the site with city officials and OHM representatives.

OHM, an architecture, engineering and planning firm, was founded in Detroit in 1962 and boasts a list of clients that includes Fortune 500 companies, cities, retailers and private developers.

At its regular meeting March 21, the Southfield City Council approved the $300,000 land development consultant services contract.

The city purchased the mall from the court-ordered receiver for $2.4 million and planned to demolish, remediate and sell the property to a qualified developer. Then-acting Mayor Donald Fracassi said in a previous news release that the city purchased the 114-acre property to protect, maintain and increase property values for the city’s homeowners and business owners.

The news release also said that the city planned to spend about $8 million-$10 million on the demolition and remediation, or removal of contaminants, of the property. Community Relations Director Michael Manion said there was a $31 million mortgage lien on the property, which was extinguished upon purchase.