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Venue to change for City Center development town hall meeting

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published May 16, 2016

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ROYAL OAK — Members of the City Commission were expected to approve Monday night a location change for an upcoming town hall meeting regarding the proposed $100 million Central Park development.

Commissioners were expected to meet after the Review’s press time and change the venue for a May 24 special meeting from Royal Oak Middle School to the Churchill Community Education Center, located at 707 Girard Ave. The change would be due to a scheduling conflict with the school site.

The meeting is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. May 24 and will offer city stakeholders another opportunity to learn more about the Royal Oak City Center development project, which is proposed for the expanse of property stretching from Main Street east to Knowles Street with southern and northern borders of Third Street and 11 Mile Road, respectively. The plans incorporate the existing 44th District Court, the Royal Oak Public Library, the Royal Oak Farmers Market, the Starr Dream Fountain and the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial.

Real Estate professional Ron Boji first revealed plans for the development during an April 18 special meeting, which lasted more than three hours, where he described the plans for the center of the downtown that would include a new City Hall, Police Department, promenade, parking structure and park. The park would include a splash pad, amphitheater, green space and seating.

Hallmarks of the plan include a six-story parking deck with 550 parking spaces along 11 Mile Road behind the alleyway of Main Street businesses; a 190,000-square-foot, seven-story City Center office building abutting the Main Street alleyway and Third Street, which  would include a new City Hall; a new $18.75 million, state-of-the art and secure Police Department to the north of the courthouse with an adjoined walkway; and a Central Park that would be located behind the new City Center office building stretching east to Troy Street.

The plans also include a tunnel under Second Street stretching from the basement of the parking deck into the office building and City Hall, and a gourmet restaurant and market. Boji said the 30,000-square-foot City Hall inside the development would have its own entrance with one counter and clearly defined, secure service areas.

Since the initial meeting, city officials have said community input would be an integral part of designing the park and stressed that the project is not a “done deal.”

City Commissioner Jeremy Mahrle said the upcoming town hall meeting is another opportunity for discussion and he reiterated that a final decision has not yet been made by the commission.

“This is our open and transparent process,” he said, adding that a handful of opportunities for public input have existed, including the April 18 meeting. “This is the next step in that open and transparent process. It’s very similar to how we approached the idea of closing Normandy Oaks Golf Course and turning it into a park.

“We welcome public feedback and this commission meeting was one venue, (and) this is another venue for us, for the developer, to take in that precious community feedback and think about ways the project can be improved. ... But this is what an open and transparent process looks like.”

City Manager Don Johnson said the meeting room at Churchill Community Education Center can accommodate about 250 people.

Johnson said the meeting would include the Central Park development presentation, followed by a question-and-answer period.

“We propose to use the town hall format pretty much exactly as we did for the discussion we had about Normandy Oaks about a year and a half ago,” he said. “That is a presentation, followed by a question-and-answer session, which will probably be done using cards.”

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