Farmington Hills officials chafe at senior housing approval

With a fair amount of reluctance, Farmington Hills officials on Monday approved plans that will convert a hotel at 12 Mile and Orchard Lake Road to senior housing.

Manor Senior Living will turn the Radisson’s 217 hotel rooms into 21 memory care units, 51 assisted living, and 56 independent living units. Plans call for new exterior materials and landscaping, as well as driveway changes on 12 Mile and Orchard Lake Roads.

Manor Senior Living
This rendering shows exterior changes that are part of the Manor Senior Living project.

Project manager Paul O’Meara of Rowe Professional Services in Farmington Hills said the Comfort Care Senior Living project reduces parking and adds more green space. The hotel pool will stay for use by independent living residents.

Founded in Frankenmuth, Comfort Care has 10 facilities in five counties, executive director Doug Boehm said. Excluding the purchase price, the company will spend $5 million on renovations, adding a movie theater, activities area, exercise rooms, library, lounge spaces, conference and dining rooms.

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“Hotel rooms are larger than assisted living rooms in the area,” Boehm added. “We think that is a bonus for residents of Farmington Hills.”

Other senior living projects

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Boleware raised concern over the number of senior living facilities in place and planned for the Farmington Hills area. Senior living projects in the pipeline include:

  • former Ginopolis restaurant at 12 Mile and Middlebelt
  • Sisters of Mercy site at 11 Mile and Middlebelt
  • former St. Vincent & Sarah Fisher Center site at 12 Mile and Inkster
  • Northpoint Development in the 14 Mile and Inkster area
  • conversion of the Holiday Inn, 12 Mile and Farmington Road area

Boehm cited research that showed a demand for more than 1,200 units within a 5-mile radius, from independent and assisted living to memory care. He said the local independent living occupancy rate is at 90 percent–and the industry doesn’t expect peak demand until 2035.

‘Senior living facility dumping ground’

Mayor Vicki Barnett questioned why so many of those units should land in Farmington Hills. With most residents in assisted living and memory care, she said, the project doesn’t create “synergistic relationships” that encourage people to visit nearby retail centers and restaurants.

What the Farmington Hills area lacks, Barnett added, is condo communities that attract active seniors who are downsizing from a larger home.

“I’m concerned that we’re going to get the reputation of a senior living facility dumping ground,” she said.

Barnett also wanted to see changes to the grade for a shared drive on Orchard Lake Road, innovative open space amenities, and solar panels or other “green” features. She cast a reluctant vote for the plan, but said that won’t guarantee her vote on the last step, a PUD (Planned Unit Development) contract.

‘We have to work with what we have’

Council member Valerie Knol said officials shouldn’t penalize the developer “because we think maybe someone else is coming along for development that hasn’t come to fruition.” She said this project is much further along than others.

“If we were redeveloping from scratch, I’m sure it would look a lot different, but we have to work with what we have, and right now, we have a dilapidated hotel,” Knol said.

City manager Gary Mekjian said the project will improve long-standing traffic problems on the site.

“We’re in a situation now where… whether you like this project or not, we have actually made a breakthrough on improving traffic circulation and safety,” he said, adding the developer will have to meet specific design and safety standards.

Knol’s motion to approve the plan passed with Boleware and council member Ken Massey opposing.

Watch the full presentation and discussion here:

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