Royal Oak approves downtown park budget, contracts

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published March 22, 2021

 Temporary fencing blocks off the area slated to become Centennial Park in downtown Royal Oak March 21.

Temporary fencing blocks off the area slated to become Centennial Park in downtown Royal Oak March 21.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

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ROYAL OAK — On March 8, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously approved two agenda items that greenlighted the budget and construction contracts for the new downtown park, the last element of the expansive civic center project.

Christened Centennial Commons because the city of Royal Oak is celebrating its 100th year in 2021, the park budget is $5,413,611. The seven trade bid packages include earth work, concrete, monument relocation, landscaping, general trades, metal fabrications and concrete.

The 2-acre park will be located where the former City Hall and Police Department building now stands. As soon as crews finish abatement work inside the connected building, they will demolish it.

City staff have already moved into the newly constructed City Hall and Police Department buildings located nearby. The civic center project also includes an 11 Mile Road parking structure and a six-story Henry Ford Health Services medical outpatient center.

The park budget includes an additional amount of $632,291 for a splash pad water feature to be mostly funded — $529,180 — by the Downtown Development Authority. The DDA’s contribution is conditional that the water feature be included; that the city hires a public relations firm to explain the value of the park; that the city value engineers where possible; and that the DDA have input on the use of maintenance funds, which Henry Ford Health System agreed to sponsor in January 2020.

While the construction will include underground infrastructure to build a restroom facility in the future, the first phase of the project does not include a restroom.

“The cost appeared to be prohibitive. We’re looking at an additional $288,000 for one unisex bathroom,” City Manager Paul Brake said. “We suggest continuing the conversation to figure out the proper configuration of the restroom and the proper size, then add that in.”

Brake explained that the project incurred costs above the initial $4.5 million placeholder budget from delays due to litigation; associated cost escalations; and the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the project by about six months.

Economic Development Manager Todd Fenton said all of the bids were awarded to the lowest qualified bidders.

Chris Becker, of the city’s real estate adviser, Plante Moran CRESA, said he worked with the city to “value engineer” all elements of the park that could help shave off some of the costs, but the placeholder budget did not take into account the increased local labor costs.

He said the city reduced the size of the canopy near the library, nixed the bathroom, narrowed some walkways and reduced the amount of colored concrete, although the DDA was adamant about including the water feature.

“We couldn’t cut anything else,” Becker said. “We cut some fat, we cut some muscle, but if we had to get lower than $1 million, we’d cut bone and cut things you didn’t want out of the park.”

Commissioner Brandon Kolo said he was heavily in favor of adding a restroom to the park and hoped the city looks “very aggressively into how to add that in the near future.”

“As a mom of three kids, it’s problematic if there’s a water feature and nowhere to put kids except the library,” Commissioner Melanie Macey said. “The library board has talked at length about the concern that there’s going to be a stream of wet kids coming in and out of the library because it’s family friendly and it’s right there.”

Fenton said the city is allocating a $50,000 budgetary item to provide the utilities necessary to hook up to a future bathroom in the park.

The monument relocation 40 feet to the east has been a topic of controversy among local veterans organizations and community members who feel the move would be disrespectful to the service members that the monument honors and would also diminish its visibility. They contend that the memorial cannot be moved out of the plaza in which it currently stands, and that the city did not reach out to veterans.

Former City Attorney David Gillam maintained that the memorial would still be within the boundaries of Barbara A. Hallman Memorial Plaza, which includes the area between City Hall, the library, Troy Street and the monument.

According to a press release dated March 22, those opposed to the move plan to file a ballot petition, including the first 300-plus signatures, with the city clerk at 9:45 a.m. March 23 in an effort to place an ordinance to preserve and protect the current memorial location on the November 2021 ballot.

For more information, visit romi.gov or call Royal Oak City Hall at (248) 246-3000.

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