Ken and  Denise  Prielipp,  of Hilltop  Greenhouse and Farms,  display produce at the Royal Oak Farmers Market  Dec. 3. The City Commission unanimously authorized a historical designation study for the farmers  market Nov. 26.

Ken and Denise Prielipp, of Hilltop Greenhouse and Farms, display produce at the Royal Oak Farmers Market Dec. 3. The City Commission unanimously authorized a historical designation study for the farmers market Nov. 26.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

Royal Oak authorizes historical designation study for farmers market

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published December 4, 2018


ROYAL OAK — On Nov. 26, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously requested the Historic District Study Committee to conduct a study for the potential historical designation of the Royal Oak Farmers Market after discussing the matter at a Nov. 14 strategic planning meeting.

Members of the HDSC estimated the study — to determine whether or not the building meets the criteria to be designated a historical site — would take approximately six months to a year to complete.

James Krizan, assistant to the city manager, said the City Commission would ultimately approve or deny the designation, should it be deemed appropriate by the HDSC.

“The process is pretty straightforward and simple,” Krizan said at the Nov. 26 meeting.

Rob Duchene, a committee member, said the standard for historical designation is if more than 50 percent of the property is considered historical and generally involves the exterior of a building.

“I don’t think it’s going to be hard at all establishing it as a designation,” Duchene said. “I think it’s been at that site since the 1920s. I feel confident, having seen photos of Models Ts on precisely that site when the structure went up. From the photos I’ve seen, it seems like it’s fairly close to the original.”

Commissioner Pat Paruch said she thought researching the farmers market’s background would be easier than a private property because it has been government-owned, first by Oakland County and then by the city of Royal Oak “for almost its entire life.”

Duchene agreed, noting that most of the work with designating private property as historical involves researching genealogies and connecting them with a figure in Royal Oak or Michigan history.

Commissioner Kim Gibbs said she felt that with the wealth of information at the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum, the study would take less than a year.

“In my seven years now at the table, long before the civic center project, the specter of rumors about the fate of the farmers market persist in spite of this commission, previous commissions and commissions decades ago dedicating themselves to the perseverance of the market,” Commissioner Kyle DuBuc said. “We intend for that building to stand for generations to come.”

Commissioner Randy LeVasseur said he was in favor of the motion, but that designating the farmers market as a historical site might be “window dressing” and not “getting to the heart of the matter.”

“There are a lot of people who are concerned because of the changes in the parking around the market here, and we can give it any designation we want, but if we’re depriving the market of the lifeblood that helps it thrive, I don’t know that simply giving it a designation is going to be sufficient,” LeVasseur said.

DuBuc said he thought the “fear-mongering around the parking issue is unjustified.” He said the new deck, set to open next summer, is the same distance from the last row of spaces in the southern lot, and that city staff would no longer park in the lot to free up more spaces.

Mayor Michael Fournier said that cementing a historic designation for the farmers market would protect the market from future city leadership opting for a different use for the building, such as selling it for condos.

“This is really important, and I think we all appreciate the farmers market here,” Fournier said. “We go to it, we support it, and with some of the new stuff taking place there, hopefully it will be a positive experience for years to come.”

According to a press release from Franco, the public relations firm the city hired to address the civic center project, the south lot of the farmers market is set to close Dec. 5 or 6 due to construction of the new City Hall.

During market hours, free parking will be available for market patrons at the former Superior Fish and the P4 parking lot between City Hall and the library. The city also recently widened Third Street, east of Troy Street, to allow for 23 additional on-street parking spaces.

The market now offers free valet with pickup in the west lot, shopping baskets, and volunteers to assist with curbside loading on the west porch, according to the press release.

Linda Tuomaala, a Royal Oak resident, addressed the City Commission at its Nov. 26 meeting regarding the farmers market. She said it was “exciting” to see the city request the study for the historical designation of the farmers market.

“This building and the market have been prominent fixtures and part of the culture of our community for many years that serves Royal Oak and many surrounding communities, with people coming from as far away as Shelby Township,” Tuomaala said. “We also need close and available parking.”

She called it “unfortunate” that the city did not try out some of the new services the market offers to determine how people felt about them and if they would use them.

Debbie Campbell, a past market vendor who was formerly involved with farmers market and historic district committees, said the designation of the structure alone without the parking to support it is a “hoax.”

“Parking is always near capacity,” she said at the Nov. 26 meeting. “Even if the farmers market received historic designation, the city can still demolish it … if it says it will deter a major improvement project of significant benefit to the city.”

Denise Prielipp, who owns Hilltop Greenhouse and Farms near Ann Arbor with her husband, Ken, a third-generation farmer, said they only sell at the Royal Oak Farmers Market and have seen a decrease in customers due to construction.

“(Our issue) has nothing to do with the fact that the city shouldn’t get city offices or a new police station. It’s about the lack of mindfulness about the parking situation — the lack of foresight and diligent planning,” Prielipp said. “Whether or not the building becomes historical doesn’t alleviate (parking) questions.”

The farmers market is open 7 a.m.-1 p.m. on Fridays in May through December; 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays year-round; and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays year-round.

It is located at 316 E. 11 Mile Road, east of North Troy Street.

For more information about the civic center project and parking, visit