Rochester Hills State of the City Address a Red Carpet Affair

by Bryan Everson

The Rochester Hills State of the City Address moved from Emagine Theatre to Stoney Creek High School this year, but the occasion remained A-list to commemorate what Mayor Bryan Barnett called a “golden year” for the city.

Barnett’s 10th such address had a major focus on the housing market, as did the ceremonies for Rochester a week prior. After boasting a 13-percent increase in housing permits in the last year, Barnett recognized the city’s reply to a well-documented gap in comparably affordable options with new projects like the Barrington Park townhomes off Auburn Road near Rochester Road that start around $250,000.

Rising property values were mentioned in regards to existing owners, and looking ahead to upcoming growth, Barnett said over 400,000-square-feet of new developments are in the works for 2016. Some of those spaces will be occupied by senior living facilities and shopping centers.

Jobs and continuing investments by new and existing companies in Rochester Hills were also touched on, highlighted by the new announcement of electronic parts supplier Molex’s purchase of the old Volkswagon building on M-59 near Hamlin Road. It’s set to serve as headquarters of the company’s transportation solutions division, and on top of providing 400 new jobs, Molex reportedly plans to spend roughly $15 million to expand the facilities.

Several unique new businesses to the region like Stein Mart and Fresh Thyme Farmers Market were recognized for planting roots in Rochester Hills, and Barnett couldn’t resist a joke over adding another Tim Horton’s franchise — construction is rapidly underway at the corner of Walton Boulevard and Adams Road.

“I mean, honestly folks, you guys love Tim Horton’s,” Barnett quipped, then had youth council members deliver donuts to the crowd.

With those jobs, a 3.5 percent unemployment rate was touted, too, the lowest number for the city since 2008.

It wouldn’t be a Barnett-led night without some humor, and the comedy factor during the presentation peaked with a spoof of the presidential hopefuls like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders speaking, but instead with voice-overs done to mock some of their well-known policies in Rochester Hills-centric way. There was also some poking fun at the spelling of his name for write-in ballots for his re-election.

Nor would it be with the absence of mentioning the development of Riverbend Park, a sort of pet project for Barnett that’s anticipated to be a major attraction showcasing the city’s natural characteristics when completed. He stressed that strides are being made to gather the $6 million in funds needed to complete the project.

“We’re well on our way,” Barnett said. “I’ve been meeting with donors weekly and we’re in for several significant state and foundation grants as well.”

“One way or another, we’re going to raise this money and deliver the coolest park in southeast Michigan.”