by CYNTHIA KMETT
As the city moves forward with plans to convert the Troy Civic Center property to an urban center, now known as Troy Town Center, let’s be perfectly clear on one point, the 125- acre civic center is NOT for sale to a developer.
Plans are now firm, after dozens of planning sessions and focus groups with residents and stakeholders, and those overseeing the project – Troy City Council, the Planning Commission, and the Downtown Development Authority – all seem pretty happy with the final design.
Bringing those plans to the city is Robert Gibbs, president of Gibbs Planning Group of Birmingham. Over the past 25 years, Gibbs has designed over 400 urban centers around the world. He observes that Michigan is the only place without four or five of these urban centers.
The Troy Town Center plan will include approximately 850 residential dwellings, 180,000 square feet of retail/commercial, a 300-room hotel that can be viewed from I-75, a revitalized city hall with a new façade and a Veteran’s Square in front, community center, courthouse, library, a new 60,000-square-foot civic building one day in the future, a six-acre lake and nearly 60 acres of parks. All existing buildings stay.
There will even be a green grocer out on Livernois – The only thing that moves is the Family Aquatic Center, which basically moves across the parking lot and into Huber Park, which remains a recreation area, with new plants and trails, and without the invasive plant species which have overtaken those grounds.
Homes in the center will face the parks rather than back up to them. The homes will be both rentals and owner-occupied. They will include cottages, apartments, and townhouses, all built on a carefully designed grid system, which Gibbs has noted in the past is a format that makes an urban center stable and successful.
To safeguard this winning grid formula, the city is currently working on the design standards they want on this property. This plan is being worked on by Carlisle/Wortman, Troy’s planning consultant. Those standards are to be completed before the city goes to developers who have expressed an interest in the project – and there was a number of them at last December’s New York convention – with an RFQ, a request for quotations.
This is a big project and someone has to look at the financial end of it. That is CORE Partners of Bingham Farms, which does a lot of property management in the metro area, but is also an excellent source for finding out about asset management, development costs and who might want to live in your new development.
CORE CEO and Founder Matthew Farrell noted Troy has 14,000 folks over 65 years of age, with 20,000 Troy households which have no school-age kids, 4,200 young people on their own between 20 and 34 (who love to walk) and 1,300 residents without a car. These seniors and millennials are the prime audiences for such an urban development.
If the civic center was for sale, it would have a price tag of $29 million. But Troy’s lack of walkability has been a hindrance for the city, especially with those I-75 entrances and exits. This is a plan that will attract walkers in a safe environment. In fact, Troy’s safest city status, AAA bond rating and excellent school system, make it very attractive to developers.
And, Farrell observed, this is not a retail development; it is not going to compete with the Somerset Collection.
But it is a $350 million project, so it needs to be on firm footing. The city has worked through six different designs to reach this last one. As to the costs, CORE’s Larry Goss pointed out developers will get a pro forma statement on the financials involved in the center.
“This is a very ‘right’ project in a ‘right’ location,” Farrell predicted.
The RFQ should be ready to go out in the next 60 days.