Will Auburn Hills Be Ready For The Reality Of The New Normal?

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend professional certification training in Lansing organized by the Michigan Association of Planning.  The primary focus of the seminar, led by economists Dr. George Fulton, Lou Glazer, and Dr. Charles Ballard, was to educate city planners on the population, education, and economic trends that will impact local communities in the years ahead.

To summarize, the economists explained that Michigan is now considered a “Low Prosperity State,” in terms of household income, despite having a growing automotive sector.  Startlingly, despite our strong economy, they reported that 40% of Michigan households can’t afford basic necessities due to low wages.  The experts told us that 25% of households are experiencing increasing incomes, while 75% remain stagnant.  This shift is creating a new class divide in Michigan and America that is primarily defined by college education attainment.

Auburn Hills has been preparing for the aging population. This slide shows a demographic shift is coming.

Planners learned that the dramatic aging of the population will create a labor shortage down the road due to a lack of younger workers replacing those who retire.  Thus, people will need to develop skills that will mesh with the evolving knowledge and information based economy for the State to prosper economically.  If Michigan does not produce or attract skilled workers, then companies will decide to locate in other States that can attract such a workforce.  Occupations that will become increasing vulnerable will be those with routine tasks that can be automated such as retail and assembly/manufacturing.

21st Century job growth will occur in the medical and college educated professional fields

All three economists repeatedly told the audience that “you can’t turn the clock back and bring back low skill manufacturing jobs.”  Most of those jobs have been replaced by automation and other industrial efficiencies.  If Michigan does not proactively adapt to the new economy, municipalities – and ultimately their residents – will continue to struggle due to structural revenue declines and economic disparity.  This is the New Normal.

Five lessons from Dr. George Fulton, Professor of Economics, University of Michigan

The training was excellent in that it raised awareness of the role of city planners in preparing for the aging population, fostering an environment for high-skill job growth, and creating places where people of all ages will want to live and work.

The City of Auburn Hills recognizes these trends and will continue to proactively work to be ready for the New Normal, so that we can play a role in helping Michigan “win” in the 21st century economy.

Working To Become An “Inclusive” Community

Posted by – Stephanie Carroll, Manager of Business Development & Community Relations

In 2012, Auburn Hills began engaging in Age-Friendly planning initiatives.  The journey has been an amazing experience and we’ve been able to create meaningful relationships with the residents in our community through this process.

Yesterday, at the Council of Michigan Foundations gathering, Mayor Kevin McDaniel outlined all the work done to date by staff, Planning Commission and City Council.  I can say that this has been a tremendous team effort.

The question on everyone’s mind yesterday is why do we need age-friendly communities?  In order to prepare for these demographic changes, Auburn Hills enrolled in the AARP Age-Friendly Network in 2013.  Auburn Hills was the first municipality from the State of Michigan to be accepted into this prestigious and growing network.

This program was key to changing our thinking.  It involved an assessment of the community, the creation of an action plan, and eventually implementation of the plan and finally an evaluation of its performance.

Along with Mayor William R. Wild of Westland, Mayor McDaniel outlined the policies and priorities communities are building upon that will continue to make Auburn Hills a desirable and inclusive community in which to live, work and play.

Breaking Down Barriers

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Could someone with a physical limitation visit your home today?  Do you think that you will be able to continue living in your home as you grow older?  The answer to both questions is most likely “no.”

The City of Auburn Hills is working to address this issue and raise awareness with home builders that certain design elements and features can be seamlessly integrated into the construction of a new home so that it is functionally accessible for people of all ages and abilities.  Encouraging “universal design” was a key policy recommendation that resulted from discussions with the community during the Age Friendly Auburn Hills initiative.

Overview of Universal Design Features. Diagram used with permission from Heartland Builders, LLC.

Overview of Universal Design Features. Diagram used with permission from Heartland Builders, LLC.

The strategy behind the universal design movement is to make a home usable for everyone, especially those with short or long-term disabilities (living within or visiting), by discretely removing physical barriers – without making the home look institutional or aesthetically unappealing.

To incentivize builders to incorporate these design features into their new home proposals, the City intends to offer streamlined permitting and eligibility for zoning flexibility.

Those interested in learning more about this initiative and proposed ordinance are encouraged to attend the Planning Commission meeting scheduled for Wednesday, February 15th at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall.  A final decision on the ordinance is anticipated to be made by the City Council on Monday, February 27th.

Hot Industrial Market Fuels Need For New Building On Taylor Road

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

An application has been submitted by Cunningham-Limp for approval to construct a speculative 50,000 square foot office / light industrial building on a 3.6 acre vacant parcel of land located at the northeast corner of Taylor Road and Pacific Drive.  No tenant has committed to the site at this time; however, a number have shown interest.

Rendering of the proposed building from Taylor Road

Rendering of the proposed building from Taylor Road

Site Plan

Site Plan

Those interested in learning more about this proposal are encouraged to attend the Planning Commission meeting scheduled for Wednesday, February 15th at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall.  A final decision on the application is anticipated to be made by the City Council on Monday, February 27th.

Auburn Hills 2016 Developments Exceed $170 Million

Posted by – Shawn Keenan, Assistant City Planner

For those who drive through Auburn Hills on a regular basis, they more than likely have noticed an increase in the number of bulldozers, cranes and construction crews working on a number of sites scattered throughout the City.  This year the Auburn Hills City Council approved an estimated $170,305,000.00 worth of new developments, redevelopments and business expansions.  The 22 projects include an assortment of residential, commercial and industrial developments.

Two projects that receive the most public interest are the H.U.B. (Home of Urban Bowling) that will be moving into the old Big Buck Brewery and the Auburn Hills Marketplace shopping center that will include Starbucks as its anchor store.


Two new senior housing developments Villa Montclair (88 detached single-family homes) and Blossom Park (160 unit senior living center) will help fulfill the goal of the City’s Age Friendly initiative by providing a more diverse housing stock for the City’s growing senior population.


Villa Montclair Clubhouse

The City continues to attract new businesses of all sizes from Renishaw’s new 20,070 square foot technology and research facility to Martinrea’s new 108,200 square foot technology and research facility.


Martinrea Ground Breaking Ceremony

Last but not least the City is excited to see construction activities taking place at Dutton Corporate Center located at the southeast corner of Lapper Road and Dutton Road, with the construction of the new Summit Place Kia of Auburn Hills automobile dealership.


Rendering of New Kia Dealership

We look forward to what 2017 has to bring.

Silverdome Off-Site Parking Lot Set For New Light Industrial Building

Posted by – Shawn Keenan, Assistant City Planner

The site located at the northwest corner of Opdyke Road and Featherstone Road was once used as an overflow parking lot for many diehard Detroit Lions Fans.  That property will soon be home to a new 108,250 sq. ft. light industrial building.


The new facility, with its modern look, is designed to suit either one large business or two separate businesses.


It is anticipated that the building will be complete and ready for occupancy sometime in August 2017.  Check back for construction progress udates.

They Wear Work Boots

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

My Dad often said to me, “Stevie, in order to leave footprints in the sands of time, you must wear work boots.”  My Dad is now gone, but his words still motivate me.

Perhaps that’s why I was so energized being with the Planning Commission this past Wednesday night.  I could not go to sleep when I got home after the meeting.  So much to do, so many possibilities.

The Planning Commission created an ambitious work plan for Y2017 during their marathon four-hour study session.  We are so thankful for them.

The Auburn Hills Planning Commission and Staff (12-14-16)

The Auburn Hills Planning Commission and Staff (12-14-16)

This dedicated group of volunteers work with a clear mission.  They give up their nights and spend well over one hundred hours annually reviewing projects and planning issues so that the City of Auburn Hills will be strong in the future.

What will they do next year?  Below are just a few of their assignments:

  • Inventory the remaining vacant and underutilized land in Auburn Hills (including the Palace of Auburn Hills property) and provide recommendations on how those parcels should be redeveloped.   The City Council has set this project as a 2017 goal for the community.
  • Work with Senior Services Director Karen Adcock to make policy and ordinance recommendations to the City Council to implement the City’s 2015 Age Friendly Action Plan.
  • Create a plan of action, study, and work with the City Council to implement policies and ordinances addressing student housing.
  • Begin updates to the City’s Zoning Ordinance, Master Land Use Plan, and Parks and Recreation Plan.
  • Hold public hearings and review an anticipated 20+ private development projects.

Yes, the Planning Commission has put on … and laced up tight … their work boots so that they can leave footprints in the sands of time.  It’s exciting that Assistant City Planner Shawn Keenan and I get to work shoulder to shoulder with this group to assist them with their mission.

As I tried to get some sleep in the early hours of Thursday morning, all I could think of was, “It just can’t get any better than this!”  The bar has been set.  Let the work begin.