Development news: What's on Metro Detroit's agenda in 2017

The new year is shaping up to be an interesting year for Metro Detroit development. 

Building permits are up across the region, and we expect the trend to continue. Here's our take on what to keep your eye on across southeast Michigan in 2017.

Walkable suburban centers

In suburban Detroit, walkable, vibrant cities and towns are the name of the game these days. 
Even car-centric cities like Southfield, Troy, and Center Line – cities that lack traditional downtowns – are trying to find ways to transform their cities to attract a millennial generation increasingly drawn to traditional urban planning and design. 
And older cities with traditional downtowns are seeing significant dollars pumped into revitalization efforts to attract that same generation of young workers. To wit: Ford Motor Company and its $60 million dollar project in West Downtown Dearborn. The same trend can be seen in New Baltimore, Roseville, Mount Clemens and Clawson.


The placemaking program Public Spaces, Community Places aims to transform Michigan cities into walkable, vibrant communities through crowdfunding campaigns and matching grants provided by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Some of the campaigns launched in Metro Detroit in 2016 should begin to see the benefits throughout 2017, if they haven't already.

One is Lake Norcentra Park. Those following Metromode in 2016 probably saw a story or two about the fundraising efforts benefitting the 14-acre park in downtown Rochester. Over $100,000 was raised as part of the Public Spaces program. BT Irwin, a project manager of the Lake Norcentra Park project, said in November 2016, "Every dollar is going straight into building or repairing something in the park that everyone in the community will be able to enjoy [in spring 2017]." Those improvements include concessions, new seating, bike parking and repair station, and education and entertainment programming.

In downtown Mt. Clemens, there are plans for improved access to the Clinton River, including the installation of a universally accessible kayak and canoe launch. Should the crowdfunding campaign reach $60,000 by Jan. 28, MEDC and MSHDA will contribute a $50,000 grant, leading to an installation of the launch this spring. Improvements are also planned for the downtown MacArthur Park.

Destination Marine City 

Marine City, that small beach town situated along the St. Clair River, made a bit of a splash in 2016 development news and figures to continue that trend into 2017. A successful crowdfunding campaign in 2016 netted the community more than $20,000 to improve Marine City Public Beach conditions, thanks to the aforementioned Public Spaces, Community Places project. In 2017, that beach stands to see even more visitors thanks to the projected completion of a new three-story mixed-use development. Developers expect the Inn on Water Street to be completed in the summer of 2017, bringing a combination of 26 hotel and apartment units to downtown Marine City.

The great beer state

Just like the fermentation process, good things come to those who wait. That's certainly proving true for HomeGrown Brewing Company, whose Oxford brewery and bar is taking a little bit longer to come to fruition than first reported. While the company announced last July that it was on track to open its facilities in downtown Oxford this past fall, the development has yet to open to the public. But fear not, beer fans, as HomeGrown Brewing is now eyeing an early 2017 opening.

One to watch: The Birmingham-based Griffin Claw Brewing Company, which in 2016 announced a second location to open in Rochester Hills, though there's no word yet on an official opening.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall

Iconic shopping malls. Professional sports arenas. Old prisons and psychiatric hospitals. It's an eclectic group, but they make up some of the region's biggest, most historic properties and they now sit vacant – or soon will. 
Though their futures are uncertain, it's likely that each will meet the wrecking ball, some even as soon as this year. It's not all doom and gloom, however, as local officials are hopeful that demolition of the vacant buildings will clear the way for new developments.

Two Oakland County shopping malls could be demolished in 2017. Northland Center, built in 1954 and considered the first regional shopping mall in the United States, has been closed since 2015. A concept released in August 2016 proposes an enormous residential and commercial mixed-use development for the 125-acre site. And in Waterford, the old Summit Place Mall, closed in 2009, could be the site of a partial demolition, partial re-development, according to reports by the Detroit Free Press.

Then there's the Pontiac Silverdome. The 80,000-seat stadium is the former home to the Detroit Lions, a building left in tatters by neglect, its roof shredded apart by a 2013 winter snow storm that exposed the building to the elements. The city of Pontiac is working with the owners of the property, Triple Investment Group, to demolish and redevelop the site, though it seems like the Toronto-based group is slow to move on any developments for the 127-acre location. 
Another sports arena, the Palace of Auburn Hills, is host to the Detroit Pistons, who are moving to downtown Detroit's Little Caesars Arena for the 2017-2018 season. Though there's no announced plans for the Palace, it seems like demolition of the arena and redevelopment of the land is almost a sure bet in automotive company-heavy Auburn Hills.

Over in Wayne County, it's two sites, one a prison and one a psychiatric hospital, that could see bulldozers in 2017 to make way for construction cranes in the future. 
Demolition of the old Detroit House of Corrections facility in Plymouth, located at Five Mile and Beck has already begun. Detroit has had a prison on the site since the 1860s, although it has sat vacant since the 1980s. No plans have been announced for the 45 acres, but Township officials believe that demolition should lead to development for the area and its surrounding parcels, following environmental remediation. 
In neighboring Northville, it's the old Northville Psychiatric Hospital that's coming down. The state facility closed in the early 2000s. Development could follow in the area of 7 Mile and Haggerty roads, which has seen a lot of new construction in recent years. Northville received money for the demolition through the sale of another former prison site, the former Robert Scott Correctional Facility at Five Mile and Beck roads. That 53-acre site is pegged for even more residential and commercial-use development.

Preservation win

For all of the demolition crews set to descend upon the aforementioned sites this year, there is some good news for historic preservationists in 2017. One of the biggest preservation wins in metro Detroit is the restoration of the Strand Theatre in downtown Pontiac. In its long history, the Strand has been home to vaudeville troupes, classic cinema, art house films, adult movies, and theater companies. The 1,200-seat theater was built in 1921, has been vacant since 1994, and re-opened in January 2017 following a $20 million renovation.

It's a good start to a year that promises to be full of interesting developments. 

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
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