TO THE EDITOR:
We write to express our support for a reasonably higher-density project at the Maxfield site.
As residents of the Historic District, we certainly would encourage that Council and consultants push the chosen developer toward a project with the highest design standards, which complements the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses (though variety in architectural styles is not necessarily a bad thing) and which facilitates the best and most logical pedestrian connections to Shiawassee Park and the rest of downtown.
We feel that this is a significant project that will impact Farmington for decades to come, and undersizing it or settling for an uninspiring product could be a considerable lost opportunity. To state the obvious, higher density allows for more people to live in our downtown, which means more patrons of our existing retail and restaurant establishments and those to come, more volunteers to pitch in at our many events and community activities, and more residents of different backgrounds who can become a welcome part of the fabric of the increasingly eclectic and diverse downtown environment that Council and the DDA have worked hard to cultivate.
There is broad support for continued improvement of our downtown district, which this development is poised to catalyze. We think back to the Farmington Vision Plan process in which residents rated the appetite for growth in Farmington at a significant 6.7 on a scale where 0 represented maintaining the status quo and 10 equaled maximum growth. Though we understand and support a desire to retain our identity as a quaint town, there is certainly reasonable, community-supported growth potential here that we would be remiss if we do not strive to realize.
We also disagree with the anti-renter sentiment that we have seen percolating with regard to this project. Despite the fact that we personally are homeowners, we feel that renters can be just as invested and productive members of our welcoming community. It is also notable that there appears to be markedly underserved demand for rental units in our downtown. We should prioritize inclusivity and seek to alleviate the existing barriers to downtown residency to the greatest extent possible.
Rental units appear to make more fiscal sense as well. A contemporary Retail Market Investment Study commissioned specifically to assess the financial impact of these respective projects on Downtown Farmington reveals that renters in a higher-density Maxfield site development would be more likely to shop locally and patronize our downtown businesses and would generate nearly $1 million more in aggregate sales over those derived from an owner-occupied product.
In light of the above, we urge Council to choose the development team most primed to meet this pivotal moment, with the dexterity, design capability, and product offering necessary to meet the needs of the community and advance the long term vitality of Farmington’s key competitive asset, our downtown. Based on their RFQ response and body of work, that team appears to be River Caddis and Hobbs+Black.
Sean Murphy and Courtney Showalter