Friday, August 01, 2008

The Future Face of Ferndale

Residents of Ferndale, Michigan need to let their elected Council members know what they think about the alternative plans for renovating our city buildings and the possibility of moving Ferndale City Hall.

Within the next five weeks or so, the Ferndale City Council may decide between two plans that will determine the look of our downtown for the next few decades.

The "New City Hall" plan involveds buying the second floor of the Credit Union One Bank building on E. Nine Mile Road next to the police station and building it out, creating a possible new entrance on the west side of the bank, with elevators, and moving the entire city hall and its departments and offices into that space at a cost of between $2.5 million and $3 million. Then the current city hall would be completely renovated for the 43rd District Court and the expansion of the police department at a cost of around $4.5 million. Total cost of this plan is estimated at between $7.5 and $8 million.

The "Phased Plan" would purchase the OLHSA building for the Court next door and renovate and expand that space at a cost of between $1.5 million and $2 million. City Hall would remain where it is, and over time, it could be renovated. The police department would also be expanded and renovated. These costs could add up to $4 million, but could be done over time, phased in and done as needs and funds permit.

Everyone agrees the Court is in terrible need of moving. But not everyone believes that City Hall needs to be renovated or expanded right now. Most of us agree that the police department is in need of more room.

Proponents of the Credit Union One plan say it is innovative, and plans long term for development on the north side of 9 Mile Road where the old court and Olhsa sits now.
They believe we need more room for all three entities: the Court the Police Dept. and the City Hall. They say the funds are available, and want to commit the resources now.

Opponents of that plan wish to move the Court next door to OLHSA next door and preserve the current City Hall. They believe the plan is much less expensive, and prefer to do the work in phases. They do not like the concept of moving the City Hall into a private corporate building where visibility and access may be reduced.

I prefer the OLHSA plan because it preserves these buildings. It reuses what we have instead of building a new City Hall. It is less expensive, and prioritizes our needs by focusing first on the Court. It follows the concept of "fix it first", retro-fitting exisitng structures which is environmentally more friendly, rather the incurring the costs and materials of creating a new city hall within the bank. Finally, this plan preserves our City Hall as a stand-alone symbol of the City of Ferndale. Rather than locate the "people's" city hall inside a bank building, it keeps it independent and visible.

Good people can disagree, and this issue has proponents on both sides. I believe it is important for the people of Ferndale to weigh in now on this issue. Your elected Council members should hear from the voters and residents, regardless of which side one favors. The issue involves the city's (your) buildings, the look of your downtown, your tax dollars, and the very face of your government.


At 9:50 AM, Blogger chris said...

For some reason I think back to the Blues Brothers (and I'm talking the original) at the end of the film when they're looking for the Cook County Assessor's office in a huge government building. Hopefully finding city hall offices in the Credit Union One building won't feel like that.

But I don't think they will.

As big of a fan as I am of saving old buildings, it seems to me that moving city hall into the bank building, while building a new combined police and courthouse building makes the most sense.

Here are my reasons why:

I think the time when a city hall proper is used less is coming. I see a lot of people paying water and tax bills going into city hall. Those will only be done more online in the future.

I wonder if city services will eventually get consolidated and wrapped up with the county. The assessing and tax collection could probably all be done there, lessening our need for office space at a city hall.

I wonder if then Credit Union One will allow the ramp to be used by the public. My guess is that if they have an entire floor to rent then they probably have ample parking. Some sort of booth could be put in, perhaps with free parking for city hall and bank employees, generating revenue for the city all hours of the day otherwise.

If there's a building that could benefit from being state of the art, or a building I, as a taxpayer, would want to make sure IS state of the art, it would be the Police Department. Public safety is much more important to this community than the inconveniences an old building puts on regular city employees. I say that as a business owner who for years worked in an office without proper heat, air conditioning or a window.

I also feel that space downtown is valuable for development. I question whether city hall truly needs to take up that kind of space now, or in the future. The police department and court are different.

I've seen comments about the perception of Ferndale, with it's city hall being located in a bank building. At first I agreed, but now see the opposite side of the coin. I see a city that's forward thinking, and puts the development of the city itself, by decreasing its footprint on the city and not being caught up in the ego-driven need to have a large formal presence for something that is only becoming more unnecessary as time goes on.

That is something its citizens should be proud of.

I understand this isn't the least expensive way to go, but I think there are some intangible benefits that should be added in.

Thanks for asking for our opinion Craig.

Chris Johnston

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Craig Covey said...


Very good points you have made, except you need to know the price the bank is asking, which I am not allowed to divulge, but it is a very high price, and the bank at this point is saying no parking for us...

This could change.



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