What will the presence of Henry Ford Health Center mean for downtown Royal Oak?

Henry Ford Health System has signed on as the sole tenant of the City Center office building in downtown Royal Oak. We asked Economic Development Manager Todd Felton all about it.

Q: What does the big news mean for Royal Oak?

For Royal Oak, we gain a major employer in a sector that only continues to grow. Henry Ford has signed a long-term, 27-year lease, so we have a stable tenant that will be bringing hundreds of employees and thousands of visitors to our downtown for the decades to come. Since Henry Ford is a tenant and not the owner of the building, Royal Oak will also see a stable form of property tax revenue along with the economic impact that will be generated from one of our largest employers downtown to the benefit of our local stores and restaurants.

Q: One of the reasons for the City Center development was to increase Royal Oak's daytime office worker population. This news announces hundreds of employees. Why was it so important to boost those numbers?

It is anticipated that Henry Ford will be bringing over 400 employees in total, split among two shifts, not to mention thousands of daily visitors to its medical center each year, some of whom may have never set foot in Royal Oak before. We have always been a destination city for people craving amazing food, shopping, and nightlife after 5 p.m. By increasing our daytime office population, we are diversifying our city’s economic base and making the city more attractive for more investment opportunities, especially in the retail sector. It completes the (pardon the cliché) live-work-play triangle that every city aspires to.

Q: Why are Royal Oak and Henry Ford a good fit?

I’ll let Henry Ford make the appropriate announcements in the coming months about what they have planned for its Royal Oak center, but needless to say, we are excited by the investments it will be making into the facility that they have shared and the cutting edge services that will be offered. Not only will Henry Ford be a great resource for our city and its residents, but we are hoping to gain a few more residents from some of its visitors who will see firsthand all that Royal Oak has to offer. Royal Oak is a health-conscious city as well, and we look forward to partnering with Henry Ford to promote our walkability and sustainability initiatives.

Q: What else would you like to see happen with the City Center development?

I am really excited to see the ideas coming from the public for the design of our new downtown park. The completion of this, as well as our new city hall and police station, are at the top of my to-do list.

Q: What will downtown look like in five years?

You will see a dramatic increase in people working between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., which will spur more investment in our retail storefronts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few high-in-demand national brand names in Royal Oak as well. Success begets success, and we are seeing an amazing level of development interest in the future of our city that has been triggered by the projects being announced today.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.