By DREW HOWARD
Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett took a “govertainment” approach to the 2018 State of the City Address, where residents were filled in on upcoming infrastructure projects, new businesses, and the condition of the city’s housing market.
Dubbed the “Signed Sealed Delivered” World Tour, Barnett’s 90- plus-minute speech was unconventional in its incorporation of comedy and live musical performances, but not unexpected for those who have seen his annual addresses in the past. The mayor maintained a conversational and high energy presence as he spoke on some of the most important developments in the city.
Barnett drew one of the biggest reactions of the night when he addressed road improvements on Hamlin and Livernois roads. Because both roads are technically owned by the county, Barnett said the city had to “seek creative solutions” to the problem. With Hamlin Road, Barnett said Rochester Hills will share in the cost of the project and complete construction “this spring.” Livernois proved to be a much trickier project, he noted, as funding for improvements aren’t expected to arrive until 2021.
“Funding doesn’t arrive until 2021, and I think you all know that roads don’t last that long,” Barnett said. “The city approached the Road Commission about pre-funding that project – in 2019, the Road Commission will do the work and then pay the city back in 2021.”
Barnett also touched on the Auburn Road Corridor Project which aims to revitalize the area between Dequindre Road and Culbertson Avenue, an area the mayor described as “a dangerous place for vehicles and pedestrians.”
“We believe the investment, which could total over six million dollars, will spur additional private sector investments as we expect to see new boutiques, restaurants and entertainment venues along the corridor,” Barnett said. “Improving the safety, aesthetics and just giving people a reason to walk, shop and dine in the historic area is going to be the shot in the arm this district needs.”
Barnett also touched on the current state of the housing market in Rochester Hills. He cited a short list of statistics revealing the average home value in Rochester Hills ($276,000), total number of foreclosures in 2017 (24), and total construction value fluctuation over the past two years (+158 percent). According to the statistics presented, the average home in Rochester Hills jumped in value 42 percent from 2013 ($194,000) to today ($276,000). Additionally, total housing permits were found to increase by 40 percent while total permits overall jumped 42 percent.
Barnett later took a moment to showcase every single new businesses in Rochester Hills opened in the past year, a lengthy list that includes Marconi’s Pizza, Culvers, Bikram Yoga, Massage Heights, and Catalina Jewelers, among other places. Looking to the future, Barnett noted several new businesses like Aldi, Art Van, and the Griffin Claw Brewery that are still being developed.
Barnett was especially excited about the new brewery. “This will be the city’s first official brewery, and the state of the art 27,000 square foot facility is coming along nicely,” Barnett said. “The LePage family has invested handsomely to make this the hottest new place in southeast Michigan – this place will also be a great place to randomly take your mayor out for drinks.”
In concluding the presentation, Barnett awarded two Rochester Hills residents with the Community Excellence Award: Jana Kramer, a singer and actress who competed on Dancing with the Stars, and Ziad Kassab, the creator of the music therapy studio DMAN Foundation.
The City of Rochester will host its own State of the City Address on Monday, April 16 at the Royal Park Hotel. To view Mayor Barnett’s full presentation, visit the “RochesterHillsTV” YouTube channel.