Construction of new downtown park, buzzy restaurant openings mark banner year in downtown Farmington

It was a big year for downtown Farmington, a downtown small in footprint but mighty in making things happen. From buzzy bakery openings to fundraising for, building, and opening a brand new park (and all in the same year), it seemed like there was good news breaking in downtown Farmington nearly every week in 2023. And what a lead-in for 2024, when the Oakland County community celebrates a truly significant milestone: its bicentennial.

Farmington was settled by Arthur Power in 1824 and the city will be celebrating its 200th year as soon as the clock strikes midnight, ushering in 2024 with gusto. Community leaders will be coordinating celebrations all year long, with the first major events taking place at the Riley Park Ice Rink on New Year’s Eve. A kid-friendly event, Harry Potter and the Bicentennial Skate, begins at 7:30 p.m. and will feature Harry Potter-themed activities and a Young Wizard Ball Drop at 9 p.m. And for the adults, The Farmington Bicentennial Bash begins at 10 p.m., including a ball drop over the rink at midnight.

But before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at some of the major developments to occur in downtown Farmington in 2023.

New Biz City

Those giant scissors they use for grand opening ribbon-cutting celebrations might need a little WD-40 after 2023, as downtown Farmington has seen its fair share of high-profile businesses open up shop downtown. Some of the businesses to open this year include:

Blue Hat Coffee
Coffee roaster that offers pastries, an expanded food menu, and more from the renovated first floor of the historic Farmington Masonic Temple
23715 Farmington Rd.

Bob’s Big Boy
The classic restaurant chain specializing in American comfort foods – and, of course, that iconic mascot, whose statue greets customers as they arrive (he made it to Farmington, too)
32704 Grand River Ave.

Canelle by Matt Knio
Award-winning pâtisserie that specializes in French pastries and baked goods selects downtown Farmington for their fourth location
33304 Grand River Ave.

Grand Raven Festival revelers march along Grand River Avenue past the newly-opened and much buzzed about Cannelle Patisserie. (David Lewinski)

Dolcetto Cheese & Specialty Goods
First-time entrepreneur purchases Farmington staple The Cheese Lady from her neighbors, complements original store’s classic inventory with carefully curated wines, specialty foods, and plenty more
33041 Grand River Ave.

Lindsay Kennedy, owner of Dolcetto Cheese & Specialty Goods in downtown Farmington. (Photo: MJ Galbraith)

Le Pecora Nera
The popular Italian deli, breakfast and lunch spot in downtown Detroit travels all the way up Grand River Avenue with its first expansion location in downtown Farmington
23632 Farmington Rd.

A spa with franchise locations throughout the country specializing in massages, facials, and waxing services from licensed massage therapists and estheticians
33037 Grand River Ave.

Taques Bar & Grill
Authentic Mexican cuisine with a creative eye for interior design – and that liquor license should arrive just in time for New Year's Eve, too
32758 Grand River Ave.

Sticking around (one way or another)

This year saw several small business shake-ups downtown, from determined relocations to getting feet in the doors of local markets.

Skep Space hosted a skateboard art exhibition in celebration of Plus Skateboarding's 20 years in downtown Farmington in June 2023. (Photo: David Lewinski)Skep Space / Honeycomb Gallery
With its lease up at the original pop-up location, non-profit artist incubator and gallery Skep Space was able to find a new location elsewhere downtown, celebrating its grand opening in early December
33018 Grand River Ave.

KickstART Farmington
Another non-profit arts organization was forced to relocate earlier this year, eventually finding a new space that is currently being renovated for a 2024 opening
23616 Farmington Rd.

Lekker Chócó Treats
Local sweets-maker Nakija Mills got her Lekker Chócó Treats brand onto the shelves of Fresh Thyme Market following a pop-up location downtown
23300 Farmington Rd.

Almost there…

There’s a saying about best-laid plans and good intentions, and then there’s waiting for permits and licenses to clear. Keep an eye out for Heights Brewing, which is now expected to open in 2024.

Public life

While it’s locally-owned small businesses that often drive foot traffic in our downtowns, it can be the public spaces that operate as true anchors of a community’s sense of self. And while Riley Park and its Sundquist Pavilion are no doubt central to downtown Farmington’s way of life, the story of a brand new park stole the show in 2023. Efforts by the Farmington Downtown Development Authority to transform a parking lot into a permanent park proved successful in 2023, and it all happened at speeds that rival the 10G internet that’s coming to town.

The year started with the DDA’s announcement of a $75,000 crowdfunding campaign in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The eventual success of that campaign secured a $75,000 matching grant from the MEDC and it was off to the races. Dinan Park, named for the family and foundation that contributed $25,000 to said campaign, celebrated its grand opening this past November.

Cathy Dinan Dillon at the new pocket park site in downtown Farmington. (Photo: David Lewinski)

Located on Farmington Road – just south of Grand River Avenue, next to Sipp Smoothie & Juice Bar, and across from the also-new Farmington Road Streetscape beautification project – Dinan Park features outdoor seating, greenspace, improved landscaping, and plenty more. The DDA partnered with the Disability Network of Eastern Michigan (DNEM) and Grissim Metz Andriese Associates to build a universally accessible park to ensure access for users of all ages and abilities.

Congrats are in order, too

While they may not be celebrating 200 years, several downtown institutions celebrated milestones in 2023 that are nothing to sneeze at. Focal Point Studio of Photography celebrated 50 years in business, the Farmington Farmers Market celebrated its 30th year, and Plus Skateboarding celebrated its 20th.

2023 also marked 30 years of the Farmington Farmers Market. (Photo: David Lewinski)
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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

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