Normandy Oaks plans head to City Commission

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published September 16, 2015

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ROYAL OAK — The Royal Oak City Commission will hear next week from a select group of developers who will pitch their residential housing plans for a voter-approved 10-acre parcel at the site of the proposed Normandy Oaks Park.

Three teams were selected by the Normandy Oaks Task Force to appear before the commission during its Sept. 21 regular meeting. They have well-known names in the industry — Pulte Land Company, Robertson Brothers Homes and Burton-Katzman.

Five groups were invited to speak before the task force on the evening of Sept. 9. The others invited to present included Arbor Investments and Moceri, which withdrew its proposal during its presentation.

Presentations ranged from multifamily apartments to senior living to single-family homes.

After initially being asked to narrow the field to two finalists, the task force decided to add Burton-Katzman as an alternative for the commission because the firm offered rental units and a senior citizen nonassisted-living facility.

The Burton-Katzman plan included 120 suburban-style apartments with a 55-and-older component that featured 40 smaller, subsidized rental units and a clubhouse for all. The company has similar senior citizen developments in Oxford and Brownstown Township. Burton-Katzman builds, holds and manages its developments.

“It’s an affordable project so all of the seniors that would live there would have to be 60 percent or below the median income for the area,” said MHT Housing Chief Financial Officer Brian Gallaher.

MHT would be the developer for the senior housing component and was the developer of the Village of Royal Oak Senior Living Apartments.

Pulte’s plan included 122 for-sale, townhouse-style dwellings.

“We’re not in the rental market; we don’t operate there,” said Joe Skore, director of land acquisition for Pulte Homes Michigan.

The townhomes would range between 1,500 and 1,800 square feet with three bedrooms, two baths, two-car rear entry garages and balconies with some facing the proposed Normandy Oaks Park. The development itself would contain pocket parks, sidewalks, benches and lighting throughout.

“This product is what we call our life-tested product, and what that really means is that Pulte is constantly attempting to improve and refine its existing product to meet the needs of our homebuyers and consumers in general,” Skore said.

The development was touted as a low- to no-maintenance community for millennials and younger families.

“We think it is a way to provide new home construction that otherwise isn’t available in this area, which we think is a pretty compelling feature,” Skore said.

Robertson Brothers Homes showed a final plan with a multi-generational neighborhood, including housing for what the company said are the most in-demand buyer segments.

“We see three buyer segments that are not, in our opinion, adequately served in Royal Oak, and so we decided to combine all three into one wonderful, multi-generational neighborhood with varying price points,” said Jim Clarke, president of Robertson Brothers Homes.

The plan included single-family homes similar to Lexington on the Park, with prices beginning at $300,000; townhouses; and ranch-style condominiums with sunroom options for those looking for a downsized home purchase. The plan also included an interior pocket park for the townhomes and ranch-style condos.

“We find out what people want and we give it to them,” said CEO Paul Robertson Jr.

Robertson Brothers recently has developed parcels in Royal Oak, including Lexington on the Park on the former school administration building site by the high school and the homes on the former Whittier Elementary School site.

“We don’t have to go to a different community to show you in Royal Oak what we know how to do,” Robertson said to the task force. “We’re Royal Oak people: We started here, we’ve been here, we want to keep doing it here.”

Task force member Michael Ripinski said that when the task force began meeting, members thought of the 10 acres as a site for single-family homes.

“With discussions with our folks at Signature (Associates), we realized that there were other options that might prove more profitable, I guess, and it’s evolved into a combination maybe,” he said. “That’s the thought process where I’m at, and the rental market, the rental properties, are really not what would best serve our city.”

Ripinski said the plans and return on investment caused him to recommend Pulte and Robertson Brothers, with task force members Mayor Jim Ellison and City Commissioner Michael Fournier concurring.

“I’m not as reluctant as others to embrace rental housing,” said task force member and City Commissioner Sharlan Douglas, who referenced the leasing management that Burton-Katzman offers. “I think the idea of offering affordable housing to seniors is very attractive.”

Douglas said she would recommend Robertson Brothers and Burton-Katzman, which was a sentiment echoed by task force member Amanda Klein.

“I do see the need in Royal Oak for good quality apartment living,” Klein said.

The City Commission has the final say with the majority vote.

Factors under consideration include the actual development plan and the tax base provided to the city in perp
etuity.

As stated on the November 2014 ballot, money from the sale of the 10 acres would go toward funding development of the remaining 40 acres of Normandy Oaks Park and toward maintenance and improvements at all of the city’s 52 parks.

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