November 6, 2002

Macomb settles into $6.6 million hall

Township site to anchor future downtown

By Edward L. Cardenas / The Detroit News

   MACOMB TOWNSHIP -- Tom Roosen had trouble finding the drop box for his absentee ballot at the Macomb Township hall, but he had no difficulty finding the new building.
Like many residents, Roosen said he is impressed with the architecture of the brown brick structure that houses most of the township offices in the middle of fields just off 25 Mile near Broughton.
"It's beautiful," said Roosen, 69, of Macomb Township. "This is a palace."
He calls the former township small.
It has been nearly a month since 50 Macomb Township employees moved two miles north from their cramped, outdated facilities on 23 Mile to the spacious $6.6 million hall. Once in the new building, officials report that there were just a few glitches they had to address.
Ameritech had to install an extra 1.5 miles of phone line to handle the volume of calls to the new building. Controls for the heating and cooling system needed to be fine tuned to keep the structure at one temperature.
Employees also had to get used to the sheer size of the hall.
"This is a big building. In the old building we were on top of everything," said Macomb Township Clerk Michael Koehs, who added that residents are still discovering the location of the new offices.
"People don't know where we are. They don't know we are the only building out here," he said.
   
Catalyst for growth
The two-story building sits in the middle of fields which officials hope will become a downtown for the township.
Planning for the project began in the late 1980s. The 79 acres of property around the new hall was bought in the mid-1990s when land prices near the three-acre site of the original hall on 23 Mile soared and made it too expensive to expand.
The new hall totals 42,000 square feet. The old hall had 11,000 square feet.
To keep a consistent theme, Macomb Township trustees have approved a 40-page ordinance that requires new housing in the area to be built with porches and garages. The plan for the area surrounding the new township hall includes 2,500 new homes, commercial and retail development and a $14-million recreation center.
"This is my second visit and I think it is great," said Bridget Bobick, 43, who went to the new hall to obtain absentee ballots.
She is looking forward to the future developments in the township, including the recreation center. "I have two children and that will be wonderful," Bobick said.
Macomb Township resident George Kurtz likes the new building but misses the proximity of the old hall.
"The old hall was close to me," said Kurtz, 72, who lives between Hall Road and 21 Mile. "This is quite an improvement, but I need to look at a map to see where it is located."
Darnell Haywood, who recently moved to the township, was surprised that the offices had moved out of the one-story hall.
"The directions to the new building were right inside the door," said Haywood, 42, who found the new building with ease. "This is really nice. You walk in and the building and employees make you feel good."
   
Development criteria set
The one-square-mile area for the new township hall is based on the New Urbanism approach to zoning and planning. New Urbanism, according to the trade journal New Urbanism News of Ithaca, N.Y., is "based on the belief that a return to traditional neighborhood patterns is essential to restoring functional, sustainable communities."
In Macomb Township, a common thread within the New Urbanism area is that each home will have a front porch, and decks will be banned.
The township also will have buildings with businesses on first floors and condominiums on second floors. It all will be built around a town square that will be in front of the new hall.
Plans include four new neighborhoods of homes that would be within a five-minute walk of the town square.
A new township hall was needed to keep pace with the community's rapidly growing population. The number of residents has nearly tripled from 22,714 in 1990 to more than 60,000 this year, according to Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.
Township departments such as parks and recreation, building and assessing were placed on the first level of the new hall because of the large amount of usage by residents. The supervisor's and clerk's offices were placed on the second floor because of the limited amount of foot traffic to those departments.
Parks and recreation and senior citizens services will continue to use the former township hall. A portion of the smaller building also will be used by the clerk's office for elections and storage.
Part of the building may also be used as a training facility with computers for the township. The Macomb County Sheriff's Department is expected to move from a small substation at the old hall into a separate building on the property that used to house the building department.

You can reach Edward L. Cardenas at (586) 468-0529

 

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Ice hockey complex moves ahead

Macomb Township reaches agreement with rink developers

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Macomb Township has worked out a deal with a Farmington Hills developer that will allow the firm to break ground for construction of a dual ice hockey rink complex in Michigan’s fastest-growing community.

The agreement is the result of a lawsuit Suburban Hockey filed in Macomb County Circuit Court against the township because officials would not approve the last phase of a land deal where the rinks are going to be built.

Township officials say a technicality in an ordinance prevented them from approving the final piece of the deal. But after the lawsuit was filed, township trustees agreed to proceed through a quick phone poll, Macomb Township Supervisor John D. Brennan said.

The consent judgment was approved Wednesday by Macomb Circuit Judge James Biernat.

Suburban Hockey had purchased 7.9 acres on Broughton, south of 25 Mile, from the township for about $480,000. But when company officials attempted to legally divide the property from the main piece owned by the township, the township refused.

The township ordinance prevented dividing property — calling a division — because Broughton had not been officially named a public road, said Robert Kirk, attorney for Suburban Hockey.

“It was just a technicality,” Kirk said.

Broughton will soon be named a public road but that wasn’t quick enough for Suburban Hockey, so it filed the lawsuit to get the deal done quickly.

Suburban Hockey wanted the arrangement expedited by Friday so it could get financing for the hockey complex, Brennan said.

“And they couldn’t get the financing unless they got the split (property divisions),” Brennan said. “They didn’t own the property until they got the property split. It was a Catch-22 thing.”

“They want to have the ice arena built by next August,” and that was the urgency for the property split, Kirk said.

Kirk said the Suburban Hockey ice rink complex will be similar to the Mount Clemens skating complex. Mount Clemens has two ice rinks at the Groesbeck location with a physical fitness club above the rinks.

“It’s great,” Brennan said. “They will have two sheets of ice, expandable to three. Everyone is exited about it.”

You can reach Gene Schabath at (586) 468-3614

 

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Town center starts to bloom

Macomb Township ready for phase two

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The next phase in the creation of downtown Macomb Township — pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods with an urban feel — is fast approaching.

Developers have received preliminary approval from the Board of Trustees for hundreds of homes to be built around the new Township Hall and Recreation Center at 25 Mile and Broughton, which township officials have identified as a town center.

The entire one-square-mile development is being built on former farmland bounded by 24 Mile and 25 Mile and Luchtman and Broughton.

Macomb Township resident Ann Cioletti, who lives about a mile from the proposed development, is excited about the project. She is particularly interested in the private ice rink to be built next to the recreation center.

“I think it’s great ... especially with them putting in an ice rink. Right now I am driving to Troy,” said Cioletti, 34, a special education aide. “It’s so hard to believe ... (the township) it’s growing so fast.”

Unlike many other residential and commercial developments in the rapidly growing township, the Town Center will incorporate components of the “new urbanism” approach to planning that is akin to the old downtowns and neighborhoods of pre-World War II communities.

“There is a lot of interest” in the development, which includes government, residential and commercial uses, Macomb Township Clerk Michael Koehs said. “People have been calling faithfully for the last two years.”

Three residential developers are in the second of a three-step process to obtain site plan approval from the township. That approval is needed before land can be cleared and construction can begin.

Developers Polaris Enterprises of Sylvan Lake, Lombardo Companies of Washington Township and Antonio Evangelista of Sterling Heights are proposing residential developments next to the Township Hall and Recreation Center. Both the township hall and rec center opened in the last two years.

The new homes will keep Macomb Township on its current path of rapid growth. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments estimates the township’s current population at 68,592 residents, a big boost from the 2000 U.S. Census, when 50,478 lived in the community.

The most recent approval from the Township Board came for Polaris, which is proposing nearly 600 homes on the north side of 24 Mile, east of Luchtman.

The three developments aim to create an urban neighborhood in a suburban community with small lots and clustered buildings, and first-floor offices next to grocery stores with condominiums atop them.

The “new urbanism” theme will be applied to homes in the form of front porches instead of decks, detached garages and an emphasis on front yards. The homes are intended to be within a five-minute walk of the new township hall.

The homes will borrow architectural styles from Victorian, Greek revial and Gothic homes built in Macomb County from the 1820s to the 1920s.

When completed, the entire project is projected to have 2,500 homes and offices. Prices for the homes, lofts, apartments and condos will range from $190,000 to $500,000.

Planners also included more than 10 parks to be located throughout the development.

As township officials receive a number of inquiries from prospective residents, real estate agents also have jumped on board to increase the visibility of the project.

REALTOR® Dave Elya has developed a Web site, www.macombtowncenter.com, that includes information about the project, links to articles written about it and links to his office.

“(The Web site) has had a lot of traffic” from homebuyers who are interested in the Macomb Township development, Elya said. “They want to be part of the action.”

This type of development is not unique to Macomb Township. Cherry Hill Village in Wayne County’s Canton Township is a nearly $500 million development that also features old-style neighborhoods, retail and community theater.

You can reach Edward L. Cardenas at (586) 468-0529

 

Friday, October 21, 2005

Busy fitness center to expand

Macomb Twp. facility's popularity soars as thousands join

MACOMB TOWNSHIP -- Jasper Sciuto was one of the first Macomb Township residents to buy a membership at the township's year-old, state-of-the-art recreation center.

The Oakland University student heads to the center about five days a week to lift weights, run on the track and swim laps.

As the number of paid members has grown into the thousands, township officials have embarked on plans to nearly double the size of the facility by spring 2007, providing more offerings to both residents and nonresidents in growing northern Macomb County.

"It's closer and cheaper (than other gyms) and the equipment is really nice," said Sciuto, 20, who schedules his workouts for times the center is less crowded. "It's like your own personal gym."

Elected officials have approved the sale of $10 million in bonds to finance an expansion of the popular recreation center, which is next to the Macomb Township Hall in the middle of a one-square mile area of the township dubbed "Town Center."

The expansion comes just a little more than a year after the original 57,000-square-foot facility opened to the public.

Creation of the Town Center, a downtown-style development with a mix of residential, commercial and public uses, began with the construction of the township hall and recreation center in the 25 Mile and Broughton area.

The first private development opened in August with a two-rink ice arena, and two of the four residential projects have been approved.

"The residents have taken so well to it," said Sal DiCaro, parks and recreation director, who has seen growth in the daily visits and memberships to the center. "We are trying to meet the needs of the future before it gets here."

That's good news to Macomb Township resident Kim Meehan, whose family is considering buying a home in the new development.

She likes the idea of recreation, homes and businesses all within walking distance of neighborhoods.

"That's what I could go for -- more of a small-town feel," she said.

Construction is expected to start on the 40,000-square-foot recreation center addition in May, and take about a year.

Among the amenities will be a second gymnasium, a larger running track and more workout space.

Resident Rosa Armenta supports the idea of adding space to the facility.

"It is really busy," said Armenta, 27. "I like that they have areas for big kids to play and areas for little kids."

There also will be multi-purpose rooms and a larger party room, both of which have been heavily used in the current center. DiCaro said there were 565 rentals of the party room last year, with four to five parties daily on the weekend.

"The party room has been an enormous success," DiCaro said.

Its membership stands at 4,000 people, about 200 of whom are nonresidents.

Once the expansion is complete in May 2007, work will begin developing the remaining 56 acres of Macomb Corners Park on the north side of 25 Mile.

DiCaro said plans call for four new baseball diamonds, two soccer fields and a walking path.

You can reach Edward L. Cardenas at (586) 468-0529

David Elya

 

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