Preservation group against redevelopment of houses near Maxfield Training Center

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published December 9, 2015

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FARMINGTON — The potential redevelopment of the Maxfield Training Center, and century-old houses near it, sparked members of one local group to launch a petition to save buildings they consider historic.

Preservation Farmington, a nascent history advocacy group, was co-founded by locals Maria Taylor, Jena Stacey and Marilyn Weimar, who were originally members of the Farmington Historical Commission. 

“We started the group not just as a means to educate the community about what is happening with these particular buildings, but as an effort for preserving all of our historical homes and structures in Farmington,” Stacey said. “It just really seemed to gain momentum.”

A request for proposals was issued for the acquisition and development of the Maxfield Training Center, 33000 Thomas St., and other property — comprising a total of about 3 acres — by Farmington Public Schools and the city of Farmington, according to
downtownfarmington.org. Proposals are due by 1 p.m. Dec. 16.

The Maxfield Training Center, a 58,675-square-foot building located east of Farmington Road and north of Grand River, is in the central business district of downtown Farmington. The Maxfield Training Center site is next to an additional area of property owned by the city, on

Grand River Avenue and Thomas Street, of approximately 9,148 square feet. Included on the property are several vacant Queen Anne-style homes.

The Maxfield Training Center is Farmington Public Schools-owned property.

A representative from the school district could not be reached for comment by press time.

The RFP includes that Farmington would like to see the site developed into a high-density multifamily product, or a combination of multifamily residential, office and retail.

The Maxfield Training Center and additional city-owned houses cost $460,000 in total.

According to the RFP, more than likely, the project will include the removal and/or demolition of the existing buildings.

The potential redevelopment of a row of Queen Anne houses-turned-businesses in downtown Farmington, near the Maxfield Training Center, is at the center of the discussion.

Redevelopment of the Maxfield Training Center, under the Farmington Downtown Area Plan, includes incorporating the adjoining area on Grand River — the Queen Anne houses at Grand River and Grove Street, across from the Sundquist Pavilion and directly in front of the Maxfield Training Center.

Taylor said that Preservation Farmington is not against the development of the Maxfield Training Center, because it is the right time.

“We just want them to take into consideration the older houses and not get rid of them when they are getting rid of the Maxfield Training Center,” she said. “Maybe if we get enough people interested in keeping older buildings in the downtown, we can effect some change in the (Farmington) City Council.

“If Farmington is going to remain a historic downtown, and that is a central part of our identity, then older historic buildings need to be preserved and incorporated into future development,” she said.

Taylor said that although the Queen Anne houses are not in the historic district, and not significant enough to be considered historic by the city’s criteria, they do add to the overall “look and feel of the historic downtown.”

Preservation Farmington has an online petition on change.org to support the preservation of the Queen Anne houses at Grand River and Grove Street, and redevelop the area behind them.

The group had garnered more than 230 signatures between an online and print petition as of press time.

“Our goal with the petition is to demonstrate to City Council that Farmington residents value these houses and what they represent in the community,” Taylor said.

Asistant City Manager and DDA Executive Director Annette Knowles said it was determined through an evaluation that the property is not historic, and that sometimes development in a historic city is challenged when “historic preservation and economic development merge.”

“In the past, we have done some research as to whether or not the specific properties fit the specific criteria to be identified as historic,” she said.

The Farmington Downtown Development Authority board met with Main Street Oakland County Dec. 2 for Farmington’s annual performance review. DDA board of directors President Tom Buck said he is not opposed to having more conversation with Preservation Farmington about the Maxfield Training Center’s future.

“I would love to see them (Preservation Farmington) put some energy into how to relocate the structure if the developer decides that they want to be able to use that land,” he said. “I would love to sit down and brainstorm with them about what could happen with the structure (and) with the Historical Commission.”

Buck added that there should be more open forums to discuss the city properties that have historical significance and how to improve and protect them.

“Also, if we think there are some other areas (where) some development may occur, let’s take a look,” he said, adding that the Historical Commission should be at the “forefront” of those discussions.

The next step will be to evaluate the RFPs and have a dialogue with those who submitted proposals.

Buck said he is not sure how soon one of the proposals will be chosen.

“It’s an exciting development for downtown Farmington,” he said. “Ideally, it’s going to have quite a number of high-end townhomes or apartments that will be in a great location right here in our downtown.”

For more information on Preservation Farmington, go to www.facebook.com/PreservationFarmington or email preservationfarmington@gmail.com.

For more information on the Maxfield Training Center RFP, go to www.farmington.k12.mi.us.

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