Planning Commission seeks to renovate, redevelop properties

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published October 27, 2021


MADISON HEIGHTS — The Madison Heights Planning Commission is aiming to bring new business and housing to the city. One approach has been to craft ordinance revisions that incentivize property owners of vacant or underutilized parcels to renovate or redevelop.

The citizen-led commission, which serves the City Council in an advisory capacity, has been suggesting updates and revisions that follow the city’s new master plan, and that clarify many of the city’s standards for development.

“For instance, we expanded the allowable industrial district uses, amended open storage for businesses, increased maximum building heights in business districts, and clarified the site plan review process,” said Melissa Marsh, the city manager, in an email. “In addition, we will be working on parking requirements and planned unit developing in the coming months.”

She said that vacant parcels continue to attract inquiries, such as the parcel at 11 Mile and John R roads south of the former Save-A-Lot store.

“The city of Madison Heights is ripe for housing growth and business development,” she said. “Although it is sometimes tough because we don’t have large tracts of vacant land for single-family houses, we are seeing innovative ideas from the development community that can capitalize on our ideal location and affordability.

“As a city manager, I am aware that businesses want to go where there is a vibrant and talented community to pull from. Therefore, we have been investing in quality of life, and continuing to be a place where people want to live and be,” Marsh said. “That makes it easier for companies and businesses to redevelop in Madison Heights.”

Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor of Madison Heights, said that there have been discussions about potential developments at the corner of 11 Mile and John R roads. She said the location is “the heart of the (Downtown Development Authority),” and one idea for the property is a structure with a retail portion on the ground level and affordable housing on the upper levels.

“I have also had discussions with other property owners about ways they can renovate their existing buildings to create a mixed-use development, but I am not at liberty to discuss those locations at this time,” the mayor said in an email. “It isn’t just large vacant properties that we are looking to repurpose — I have had several conversations with the owners of the empty lot next to Big Boy on John R about small-scale mixed-use options that fit in with the character of the area while bringing in new development and housing options.”

Grafstein said that Madison Heights, like most inner-ring suburban cities, is largely built out.

“But that means that we are in the perfect position to renovate and welcome in new businesses and housing options,” Grafstein said. “Not everyone wants the traditional single-family home, and not everyone can afford one. But a variety of options can provide people with affordable alternatives.”

She said that a number of properties being eyed for redevelopment are on lands that must first undergo environmental remediation, which complicates matters. But she said the commission sees potential there, and wishes to address the needs of ever-changing demographics, all of which are impacted by the challenges of finding housing.

“It could be an elderly resident on a fixed income who wants to downsize but cannot afford market rent, or a new family starting out who finds that they have been priced out of the traditional housing market,” Grafstein said. “Mixed use, small duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes are potential housing options we can look at, along with townhouse and semi-detached housing.”

Mark Bliss, a member of the Madison Heights City Council and Planning Commission liaison, said that all of the ideas being considered have kept the board “extremely busy” over the past year.

“We doubled the amount of meetings we have had in an effort to make a dozen ordinance changes that make it easier to do business in the city,” Bliss said via email. “Basically, through the work of our board, we provided council with strong language that helps to attract the kind of businesses we want in the city, while making it easier to grow for the businesses that are already here — from discussions on multi-story mixed-use properties, to simply removing the red tape and allowing a restaurant to set up an outdoor seating area if they have room.

“On council, we can’t wave a magic wand and put a business we like on a vacant corner, but we can create a policy that attracts them,” he said. “Through the detailed discussions on this board, we’ve been able to do that — spurring real economic development in the city.”