Southfield becomes 'Centre' of excitement


There is a sense of excitement building in the city of Southfield, and a lot of people are feeling it, from city council members, to the president of Lawrence Technological University to the business community.

“Everyone is eagerly awaiting it,” said Councilman Jeremy Moss. “It’s been a long time coming.

“...Southfield is starting to build again.”

In this case, the “it” that Moss was referring to is not only the reconstruction of Evergreen Road but the redevelopment of a large tract of middle Southfield into what officials have been calling the City Centre for decades.

The City Centre embodies a large section that includes the civic center, Lawrence Technological University, the Town Center area and a chunk of land northeast of the civic center.

Moss wasn’t kidding about the city starting to building again. That comment can be taken literally. In fact, city planner Terry Croad said that there is about $100 million in investment that has gone into the City Centre in recent years.

Of course, that includes the $12.1 million for the reconstruction of Evergreen Road with two roundabouts and a landscaped median. But there is a whole lot more in the works, with business people getting in one what could be called the ground floor of a new wave of development and redevelopment in the area.

City officials say that the Evergreen project, with improved transportation, as well as the implementation of a more walkable, liveable area is partially responsible creating the buzz. The Evergreen project and earlier renovations to Civic Center Drive will include better and wider walkways, benches, wayfaring signs, special lighting and “green” bus shelters.

What's coming

Among businesses getting involved is Time Equities which is planning to build a retail center with a drive through coffee/smoothie operation as an out building in the area of the Travelers Tower, on the west side of Evergreen.

Also involved is developer Hasaan Jawad, who also sits on the Civic Center Advisory Board, who is building a 24,000-square-foot development on the east side of Evergreen, north of 10 Mile.

It’s all part of the “Miracle Mile” from 10 Mile north to I-696 that has seen an explosion of restaurants and shops on both sides of the road, acting sort of as foothills to the towering high rise buildings.

Councilman Ken Siver admits that there have been “a number of false starts over the years.” But now, things are different.

“Once the road goes in,” Siver says, “there will be so much government infrastructure that (developers) will say, ‘This is the place to build.’”

Officials have only to look across Evergreen from the civic center at one prime area they are targeting, right at the corner with Civic Center Drive. A large, vacant parking lot has spawned hope for an impressive development, maybe, Siver says, even another high rise residential project like the 5000 Tower, also on Evergreen.

Other possibilities include a hotel and more retail. Siver noted that, according to a retail study of the city, the area is “under-served” for retail shopping.

Business on board

It seems that business owners agree. The Arbor Lofts development in that area has been successful, with LTU leasing out units for its burgeoning student population.

Also moving into the Lofts, is a business new to Southfield – the Yoga Shelter, which also has locations from Birmingham, to Royal Oak to Midtown, among others.

“The city of Southfield and Lawrence Technology University are making a shift to developing a better, bigger and brighter city and university,” according to a business press release.

“Yoga Shelter welcomes partnering with Southfield residents, and people who work there along with the LTU students to help to continue to cultivate the growth of Southfield,” said Hannan Lis of Lis Ventures and owner of Yoga Shelter.

Feeling that excitement – and helping to build it as well – is LTU President Virinder Moudgil.

“You know, from the day I arrived, I spoke with mayor and the city council,” Moudgil recalled. “There is no greate city without a great educational (institution).” And the reverse is true as well, Moudgil added.

LTU's role

He said that before he arrived, relations between the two entities were “cordial,” but his aim has been to build that relationship so that students from LTU, who hail from across the country and across the world, “will feel this is their home.”

That means having a walkable city where students can go to restaurants and other venues after their school day end, he said. Already, LTU transports students by shuttle to Tel-Twelve Mall and to the Arbor Lofts, but Moudgil eventually would like to add more shuttles to expand student access throughout the City Centre area.

And reconstruction of Evergreen Road is tied into that. Moudgil said that by “together creating an environment,” the university’s efforts to increase students who stay on campus will benefit. Recently, LTU broke ground for a new freshman residence hall. And it expects to break ground in September for the Taubman Engineering, Life Sciences and Architecture Complex.

Developing a “safe, secure and green place” will encourage parents to spend a day in the city while visiting their students, and thereby boost the local economy, according to Moudgil.

That collaboration is expected to “raise the profile of the city to the next level,” he said. “The potential is so great. Southfield will be a beacon city in Oakland County.”

“It’s not just a road,” Moss said of the changes. The youngest member of the city council, Moss said he wasn’t even alive when the Town Center was developed.

“Now my generation gets to see (the City Centre),” he said.