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Grand River Corridor Blends Challenges, Opportunities

After consultants reviewed findings of a corridor study Wednesday, about 40 local residents brainstormed ideas to improve the three-mile area.

About 40 area residents and business owners met Wednesday at the Costick Center in Farmington Hills to re-imagine a 3-mile stretch of Grand River, a state highway that runs through both communities. 

The 2-hour long meeting focused attention on the Grand River Corridor, which covers about 460 acres along either side of the road, from Eight Mile in Farmington Hills to Power Road in Farmington. Tapping a 2005 law, each city in 2011 created a Corridor Improvement Authority (CIA), with boards that are working together to develop a vision for the area. 

Consultant Jim Houk of OHM Advisors said the goal is to determine the right mix of land uses in the area that "matches the needs of the marketplace". More than half of the land is occupied by retail businesses or is vacant, he added, and medical office uses cover nearly a quarter of the area. 

Corridor challenges, opportunities

Houk showed maps that divide the corridor into three areas:

North: Closest to downtown Farmington, the north section has large areas of office space and multifamily housing, along with an "underutilized commercial center" (West River Centre, anchored by Target), Houk said. While its long, narrow lots can pose a marketing challenge, this area also offers what he called "gateway opportunities". 

"The whole team was taken back by the amount of green space," Houk said. "It looks to us like an opportunity for a natural gateway." 

Middle: Houk said this area is dominated the design of the M-5/Grand River split, where drivers can move onto a bypass or stay on Grand River. The road creates difficulties with access to some parcels, although the split may also be seen as a gateway. Houk pointed out that pedestrian crossings are a mile apart in this area. 

South: Anchored by Botsford Hospital, this area has limited office space and housing, and little vacant land. Traffic on the 6-lane road, Houk said, moves very quickly, and access to green space is limited. He said the boulevard that runs through the area prevents connection between the north and south sides of the road. 

Traffic analysis

"Obviously, the 800-pound gorilla in this room is mobility," consultant Aaron Domini of OHM said, noting the CIA study includes a traffic analysis. With the exception of the Orchard Lake intersection, everything moves smoothly along the corridor. 

Consultants with LSL Planning, Inc. took a look at what would happen if one lane of traffic was removed, and it caused problems with service at the M-5/Grand River split, Domini said. 

Following the presentation, participants met in small groups facilitated by consultants and worked through exercises to generate ideas for the future. Those will be combined with feedback already collected through smaller stakeholder group meetings and presented at a public meeting in February. 

"This meeting is the culmination of our public outreach in the first phase," Domini said, adding the next step is to craft a vision, then analyze existing policies and ordinances and figure out how best to implement that vision. 

Nate Geinzer, assistant to the city manager for the City of Farmington Hills, said that while the visioning process is expected to conclude in April, moving from vision to reality will take years. 

"This isn't something that's going to happen overnight," he said. 

For more information about the CIA, including maps, findings and a brief survey to provide your input, visit fhgov.com/grandriver

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