This rendering shows the proposed expansion of the Oakland Community College campus along Main Street, from Seventh Street to Lincoln Avenue, in downtown Royal Oak.

This rendering shows the proposed expansion of the Oakland Community College campus along Main Street, from Seventh Street to Lincoln Avenue, in downtown Royal Oak.

File rendering provided by Oakland Community College

Royal Oak greenlights OCC expansion

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published April 15, 2019


ROYAL OAK — On April 8, the Royal Oak City Commission voted 6-1 to approve an agreement of sale and license use with Oakland Community College for property located at the southwest corner of Main and Seventh streets.

In December, the commission voted 5-2 to prepare a purchase and development agreement with OCC for the school’s proposed expansion, including the sale of the city-owned, 55-space parking lot.

The expansion would bring OCC’s culinary arts and fine arts programs to the downtown Royal Oak campus. Both programs are currently housed at the college’s Orchard Ridge campus in Farmington Hills.

The deal includes a purchase price of $650,000 for the municipal lot, with the caveat that the development commence within three years of the date of closing. The first task is to move and improve the existing power plant, which will be needed to serve the new building.

The city will also have the right to reacquire the property for the purchase price if the college fails to commence development within three years, and the parking lot will continue to function as a public lot until it closes, according to the agreement.

Commissioner Randy LeVasseur cast the “nay” vote.

“Even though it looks like a wonderful proposal they have with what they want to develop there, I do have concerns with the protocol,” LeVasseur said. “We didn’t put this out for request for proposals. They came to us and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to buy this,’ and I think the proper process should have been to request proposals first to make sure we know the various options.”

He said he also wanted to see language in the contract allowing public use of the parking lot expansion planned for the north side of the property, which OCC representatives discussed during the initial Dec. 10 presentation.

Mayor Pro Tem Sharlan Douglas said the city regularly has offered the site to prospective developers for the past five years.

“The fact is, it’s really too small to build anything on,” Douglas said. “People have known it was there and haven’t done anything about it. I just don’t think there’s, like, this pent-up demand for this small lot to require an RFP.”

She added that the proposed use for the land is consistent with the city’s goals and the makeup of the downtown, and the city is getting market value for the property.

Commissioner Kyle DuBuc said he could understand the “rigid ideology” of not wanting to approve the purchase without going out for bid, but he did not think it should be applied in this situation.

“It isn’t just an aesthetic benefit to this city, but the programs they’re going to be running there are for the public. It’s a community college,” DuBuc said. “The idea that we want to squeeze a couple extra pennies out of this property and perhaps sacrifice what’s a tremendous partnership with a significant community partner that actually works in the public interest, I don’t see the value in that.”

Commissioner Patricia Paruch pointed out that the matter would come back before the City Commission for site plan approval, so the city could deal with specific parking concerns at that time.

“Oakland Community College is an exceptional institution. We’re blessed to have them in our town as a continuing education opportunity for all of our residents,” Mayor Michael Fournier said. “This plan makes absolute sense for the betterment of our community in every regard.”

During the Dec. 10 presentation, John Miller, an OCC architect, outlined the planned expansion of the downtown campus that would modernize and enhance the Main Street-facing facade from Seventh Street to Lincoln Avenue.

The current Main Street-facing part of campus includes a green mechanical and engineering building, the entrance to the loading dock and the back of the theater.

The proposed expansion would relocate the mechanical and engineering building and loading dock entrance to an inner portion of the campus and create a two-story, glass-enclosed art gallery, a long glass corridor, a dining room and a pedestrian plaza on the corner. It would also include green space outside the gallery.

OCC Chancellor Peter Provenzano said the expansion is an opportunity to make Royal Oak a “college town.”

“Main Street is really your front door to the city,” Provenzano said at the Dec. 10 meeting. “Unfortunately, when the campus was constructed, we put the boiler room and utilities along Main Street. We made it our back door, and we want to change that.”

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