The beginning of a construction project for a Police Department expansion and a new Department of Public Works facility was one of the major highlights for Orchard Lake last year.

The beginning of a construction project for a Police Department expansion and a new Department of Public Works facility was one of the major highlights for Orchard Lake last year.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Orchard Lake officials highlight capital improvement plan

Plans include new PD, DPW facilities, plus Starbucks and multi-unit housing

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 20, 2023


ORCHARD LAKE — Last year saw the beginning of a project that had been long anticipated by officials in Orchard Lake.

More than five years ago, Orchard Lake’s Planning Commission put together a capital improvement plan that included adding space to the Orchard Lake Police Department and constructing a new Department of Public Works facility.

Funding was the major obstacle standing in the way of seeing that aspiration come to fruition, but after voters approved a $4.5 million bond proposal to pay for the Police Department expansion and new DPW facility, last August the city held a groundbreaking ceremony for both of those projects. From the perspective of Orchard Lake Mayor Norm Finkelstein, it was last year’s biggest highlight.

“The biggest thing was the construction we began on our Police Department expansion and our new DPW garage — long-needed expansions, and that’s the biggest thing we’ve done in a long time,” Finkelstein said. “It’s gonna really help our operations, both from the DPW and the Police Department side. So that’s a big goal. We hope that’ll be done by summer, and we’ll be able to furnish it, get everything up and running.”

Finkelstein provided an update on how the project is going.

“All the exteriors are up,” he said. “They’re just finishing the main entrance section in the front. So all the interior work is yet to be done, but the structures are up.”

According to Gerry McCallum, who is the director of city services for Orchard Lake, the additions for the Police Department will include additional office space, a couple of holding cells and a garage to house police vehicles, to go along with a new DPW facility.

He estimated that the project is about 60% complete.

“We’re excited like no tomorrow,” McCallum said. “The DPW staff are itching to get into their building; it’s gonna be a brand-new facility for them — much more space, much more storage space, much easier to service vehicles and equipment. From the Police Department’s standpoint, from a safety standpoint, they’re excited as well in the fact that the garage is a big bonus for them as well. (They can) park their patrol vehicles inside a facility and not have to worry about snow or rain or inclement weather going in and out of the station.”

When asked about what he is most pleased with, in regard to the project, Finkelstein reflected on the residents’ approval of the bond proposal in 2021.

“That was a big discussion in the city, and we ended up with a two-thirds vote in favor of it, which was great,” he said. “So we do have the backing of our citizens, and that’s the biggest, most gratifying thing for me, is that they support what we’re doing; they support our Police Department a hundred percent. They want to have good, modernized policing, and of course our DPW, which is responsible for snow removal and maintenance of our roadsides and so forth. Everybody is very pleased, I think, with what they’re doing.”

Aside from completing construction for the Police Department and DPW facility, Finkelstein shared some of his other goals for 2023.

“We’re gonna finish some very large home construction projects in the city,” he said. “We did significant paving projects last year that ran till the end of the year, and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to do some more this year. We totally repaved Orchard Lake Woodlands, the Woodlands subdivision.”

Other development projects could also be in store in Orchard Lake.

“We have a lot of new building that began last year around the city — homes — and we have a lot of plans in the works for some new restaurants and a little shopping center in our commercial districts, which are very small, but very important to us,” Finkelstein said. “So that all started last year.”

There are also some potential redevelopment opportunities at the site of the former Village Palace, a family restaurant on Orchard Lake Road that has been permanently closed, as well as at the site of a former Walgreens on Orchard Lake Road that has also been permanently closed.

“We’re working on some really exciting changes for the Village Palace site; that’s gonna be an upscale restaurant,” Finkelstein said. “We’re looking for a redevelopment of the Walgreens site as well; we’ve got some proposals for that. I think we’re going to have a new drive-thru Starbucks. … We don’t have the Starbucks officially yet, but we’re thinking that it could end up in the Walgreens site, which is on Orchard Lake and Pontiac Trail. It’s been vacant for a few years now.”

McCallum is pleased with the status quo of Orchard Lake.

“Far as goals go, let’s maintain what we got; we got a good system working here,” he said.

As for the fiscal condition of Orchard Lake, Finkelstein said that the city is in good shape.

With the fiscal year ending in June, he anticipates that in the next month or two, the city will begin looking at an upcoming budget.

“Things are tight, there’s no question that they are at the moment, but we expect to have significant increase in our tax base,” Finkelstein said. “Now, our millage rate hasn’t changed in several years; we’re at 8.05 mills. I do not anticipate any change for the following year. We’re gonna manage to get everything done within our current budget.”

Finkelstein said that Orchard Lake is the best place to live in the United States, but he has an idea about what can make it even better.

“There’s one big thing that we are missing in Orchard Lake, and that is housing for our aging population,” he said. “I’m just talking about some sort of multi-family, perhaps, or condominium-type projects. We have none of that, and so our residents, as they age, if they don’t feel that they want to continue with a large house that they’ve had, but they’d like to stay in our city because they love it here.”

Finkelstein said that there is no place for residents who prefer that kind of housing option to go right now in Orchard Lake.

“So I’m thinking that sometime over the next 10 years, maybe sooner, I hope, we’ll have some kind of housing like that available,” he said. “Where it will be I don’t know, but there are some possibilities that we’re gonna be looking at.”