Why 11 Mile could become the new place to live, party in Oakland Co.
An industrial stretch of 11 Mile Road in southeast Oakland County could be reinvented into one of the region’s newest entertainment districts with restaurants, breweries, new housing and retail.
Oak Park, Berkley and Huntington Woods, which border 11 Mile from Woodward Avenue west to Greenfield, are teaming up to see how rezoning, reducing traffic lanes and becoming an easier place to walk and bicycle could help lure redevelopment to the corridor.
Already, River Rouge Brewing Co. of Royal Oak has plans to open a second location on 11 Mile and Gardner in Oak Park, and Drought recently revamped an old building on 11 Mile and Henley in Berkley into its new juicing production facility.
“I envision the 11 Mile corridor looking like any downtown area,” including shops at ground level and housing on the floors above, said Kim Marrone, Oak Park’s Director of Community and Economic Development. “Everything’s more walkable and creates an environment people are drawn to.”
To help, Oak Park rezoned portions of the south side of 11 Mile, west of Coolidge Highway, allowing once-industrial areas to be recycled into places like shops, residences, restaurants, and even breweries with tasting rooms, said Marrone. The city’s available liquor licenses are expected to be another enticement.
“A lot of those buildings are a lot older, and don’t have the ceiling height for today’s industrial needs and have become obsolete. When we saw the corridor, we saw it as having great potential for mixed-use development. And the buildings are what the businesses are looking for these days — they have that cool, industrial look,” Marrone said.
At Drought, owners put roughly $600,000 into renovations last year to restore an 80-year-old industrial building in Berkley, moving their operations from Ferndale, according to Jenny James, one of four sisters who own the business.
Drought’s 6,000-refrigerated-feet at the Berkley facility allows the sisters to carefully oversee all aspects of pressing.
“We were searching for a light industrial space for two years, close to our homes, and we wanted something that would get street traffic,” James said.
She lives in Ferndale with her partner, but said space there was slightly more expensive than in nearby Berkley, and the sisters liked the accessibility to the public offered on 11 Mile. Drought has an area onsite where passersby can buy juices or watch production through a glass window.
“We didn’t want to be tucked away in an office park,” James said. “Berkley was excited for new business to come, so the hoops we had to jump through here were far less than in other places we looked at.”
James said neighbors frequently pop in to check out the facility and she has high hopes for development along 11 Mile.
“Seeing any kind of brick-and-mortar retail is nice. Any kind of increased foot and other traffic helps. It’d be cool to see a local food hub pop up around here,” she said.
To help attract more businesses like Drought, Vivian Carmody, director of Berkley’s Downtown Development Authority, said the city is looking into the benefits of reducing lanes on Coolidge Highway, adding bicycle lanes and adding pedestrian crosswalks on mile roads, including 11 Mile.
Carmody asked Huntington Woods and Oak Park to join the effort as bordering cities. Huntington Woods, which lacks the industrial spaces and is almost wholly residential, wants to add a crosswalk on 11 Mile, a change City Manager Amy Sullivan says will serve area schools and improve safety.
In August, the cities received a matching grant from SEMCOG (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments) to study the best approach to road changes, including adding green infrastructure to take water off Coolidge and 11 Mile roads.
A proposal for Coolidge, from 11 Mile north to 12 Mile in Berkley, includes reducing traffic lanes and adding bicycle lanes; the Berkley City Council is expected to take up that specific issue soon.
“The traffic analysis says that from a safety outlook alone, we’ll see a 28 percent reduction in traffic accidents, which is substantial,” Carmody said. “It slows traffic, which is better for our pedestrians and cyclists.”
She said Berkley isn’t moving to rezone its portions of 11 Mile yet and will likely wait for the city’s Master Plan update to be completed some time in 2019. Still, she said Oak Park’s 11 Mile redevelopment will help Berkley.
“We are all so closely tied together,” Carmody said.
Melissa Graham, 38, a software engineer who moved to Oak Park from Novi with her graphic novelist husband Noah, 31, a few months ago, said while she thinks bike paths and pedestrian traffic are important, she worries that reducing driving lanes could hurt her commute.
She is especially keen, though, on the possibility of new restaurants and breweries anywhere in town.
She said she chose the city because of its mid-century character, real estate values and already walkable streets.
“We wanted to be near the Woodward corridor, but not on top of it,” Graham said. “We figured, too, that Oak Park would be the next big place by the time we’re looking to move out of the area.”
Posted By: Detroit Free Press on October 10, 2018. For more information, please click here to read the source article.
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