Editor’s note: Last week, four firms interested in redeveloping the 3-acre Maxfield Training Center property in downtown Farmington each made their case to city officials. This is the first of four articles on those presentations, which were based on responses to the city’s Request for Proposals (RFQ).
Bloomfield Hills-based Robertson Brothers Homes has had its eye on the Maxfield Training Center property in downtown Farmington for quite some time.
Director of Property Acquisitions Tim Loughrin said the company has “significant experience” redeveloping obsolete sites and excels at “bringing life to downtown commercial corridors.” Robertson also likes working in walkable communities and has experience with contaminated or “brownfield” sites.
“That’s why we’ve been interested in this site for seven years,” he said. “I truly mean it when I say this site is right up our alley.”
Loughrin also noted the company’s strong financial position, with over $25 million in equity and $55 million in authorized debt capacity.
“We closed 140 homes in 2020, even through the pandemic,” he said. “We really persevered, and I think that demonstrates who we are as a company.”
Robertson Brothers proposes a 59-unit, owner-occupied townhome community, with homes standing side by side. The company presented two options, one with guest surface parking and interior pathways, and the other including off-site improvements, such as a European-style “Woonerf” or living street, with walkways, public parking, and a gathering space.
The vision, Loughrin said, would lead to a lower scale development, less traffic, and higher income residents. Also, the average year-over-year increase in value for properties within a quarter-mile of Robertson communities is 14 percent higher than the market average, he said.
The larger plan includes a tram to get people up and down the hill leading into Shiawassee Park. Pressed for details, president James Clarke said the company looked at that in lieu of a switchback path. He indicated a willingness to do either, but said the tram would be “less impactful”.
“I don’t want to create a hill maintenance issue,” he said. “Once you start digging into hills, they tend to roll down.”
Council member Steven Schneemann asked why Robertson felt townhomes were the best solution for the site.
“We see a lot of owner-occupied in the area, we see we’re very close to some of those owner-occupied houses,” Loughrin said. “We feel we’re a very good transition from single family owner-occupied to the downtown area.”
He added that rentals were “not off the table”.
Clarke pointed out that the first housing for young professionals is townhomes. He estimated price points will range above local single family bungalows, in the $200,000-$300,000 range. A similar project in Auburn Hills opened with prices $30,000 higher than neighboring homes and sold out in a year, he said.