A crane placed the final beam — signed by those  gathered for a “topping off” ceremony — atop the six-story medical building in downtown Royal Oak May 17. Construction on the inner portion of the building will now commence.

A crane placed the final beam — signed by those gathered for a “topping off” ceremony — atop the six-story medical building in downtown Royal Oak May 17. Construction on the inner portion of the building will now commence.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


Royal Oak celebrates completion of medical building framework

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published May 21, 2019

 A group gathers to protest the civic center project and the city’s partnership with Boji Group during a topping off ceremony for the six-story medical building May 17.

A group gathers to protest the civic center project and the city’s partnership with Boji Group during a topping off ceremony for the six-story medical building May 17.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

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ROYAL OAK — On May 17, developers, business leaders, city officials and ironworkers gathered for the “topping off” of the six-story Henry Ford Health System medical outpatient center on what used to be the Royal Oak City Hall parking lot.

All eyes were raised to the sky as a crane lifted the final beam — signed by ceremony participants and topped with a tree and an American flag — into place against a backdrop of applause.

Approximately 40 ironworkers, clad in neon vests, attended the event. Iron Workers Local 25 Vice President Jimmy Horvath II said the tree, the flag and displaying a union banner are a tradition that accompanies each topping off that the union completes.

The 145,000-square-foot outpatient medical center is expected to open in mid-2020; employ more than 200 people, including physicians, nurses and support staff; and attract thousands to the city.

“We’re excited to be celebrating this important milestone in the construction of the new Henry Ford Medical Center-Royal Oak,” Denise Brooks-Williams, senior vice president and CEO of the North Market for Henry Ford Health System, said in a statement. “Our team members are excited about working in this new building and bringing the same kind of exceptional care experience our patients have come to expect from us.”

Services will include women’s health, pediatrics, sports medicine, rehabilitation, radiology, primary care and outpatient surgery, and the first floor will house a walk-in clinic, retail eye care services, a retail pharmacy and a cafe, according to a press release.

John Truscott, CEO of public relations firm Truscott Rossman, said the cost of the building, including Henry Ford equipment and upgrades, is approximately $78 million.

The building is a part of the city of Royal Oak’s $110 million civic center project, which also includes a new City Hall, a new Police Department, a downtown park and a 581-space parking deck, which is set to open June 1. The city is financing the project through bonds.

On the outskirts of the ceremony, a group of protesters held signs advocating against the city’s partnership with Boji Group, the developer that owns the building.

Ron Boji, president of Boji Group, came onboard with the project several years ago after the Surnow Group, led by Jeffrey Surnow, had already partnered with the city.

“Jeffrey Surnow died tragically in an accident in Hawaii, and I was honored to be able to get together with his sons,” Boji said. “This is a culmination to that legacy. We’re all about private-public partnerships.”

The protest, organized by the Take Back Royal Oak Coalition, took issue that the city sold the surface lot to Boji Group for $1, awarded the contract without soliciting bids and gave the developer $5.5 million.

Royal Oak City Manager Don Johnson said it is “pretty common” to sell city property to developers for next to nothing.

“The thing that’s a little bit unusual is, instead of doing a tax incentive on the back end, the city actually gave the incentive up front,” Johnson said. “But it’s extremely unusual to have the guarantees that we have.”

The project is funded by a $5.5 million loan scheduled to be repaid to the city on an accelerated 15-year schedule, with the guaranteed return of $10 million in property tax revenue generating an annual rate of return of 7%, totaling a 60% investment return, according to a press release.

Johnson said the building is going to bring tax revenue to the city, despite claims that it is exempt because Henry Ford Health System is a nonprofit organization.

“This building has to pay taxes. It doesn’t matter that Henry Ford is occupying it. Henry Ford doesn’t own it, and even if they buy it, we’ve got a contract that requires that they have to pay taxes on it. There’s a fixed amount in the contract, a minimum that has to be paid, and Ron Boji and his partners have personally guaranteed that.”

He said he is excited for the outpatient medical center to bring jobs, traffic and customers to the downtown businesses and restaurants.

Stephen Miller, a retired accountant and former City Commissioner who served from 2005 to 2009, held a sign that read, “I want my $5.5M back.”

“They gave away arguably $4 million worth of land for a dollar to a private developer and then gave him in violation of the charter and in violation of state law $5.5 million cash,” Miller said. “I find this frustrating that they’re so blatantly giving away our tax dollars.”

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.

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