Over the last few years the corner where Okemos Road and Hamilton Roads meet has slowly been vacated as businesses shutdown.
At the Meridian Township Board meeting, True North Development, headquartered in Okemos, presented the Village of Okemos Concept Plan to break new ground in downtown.
The $100 million plan was first announced in May 2018 and is funded by Douglas J. Plans are to be confirmed in the spring. The clean-up of the area will take place in the summer and construction of the parking garage will begin in the fall.
What the space will include
Robert Gibbs of Gibbs Planning Group, who is collaborating with True North Development, described the design as a walkable, compact, mixed-use community.
Gibbs said empty nesters, single parents and those living by themselves seek other options to a suburban lifestyle in keeping with an authentic Midwest Michigan community.
True North Development wants the Village of Okemos to have a historical feel and is incorporating traditional storefronts and handcrafted signs into the concept designs.
The construction area, which is in the current block system, plans to include residential areas, small shops, employment offices, retail spaces and parking.
On Hamilton Road a landscaped boulevard will have two one-way lanes and feature retail buildings with residential spaces above them.
Okemos Road will house office and commercial spaces as well as additional residences on top. On the west side will be solely town homes and residences.
Finally, parking structures are located in the middle of each block and are surrounded on three out of four sides by newly constructed buildings.
The plan calls for two blocks of approximately two to two and a half acres in size or five acres of development in total.
Approximately 40,000-45,0000 square feet is to include space for general merchandise, eating places, bars, breweries and pubs, full-service restaurants, special food services and stores and hardware and garden stores.
In addition to this, 27,000 square feet will go to offices and an undetermined square footage for 154 residences.
Gibbs describes the location as perfect.
“The site for the village is one of the best we have seen in a long time,” Gibbs said. “It is well located to Grand River and I-96. It’s part of a historic grid, and … it is next to a large natural park and river.”
Thoughts from the Board and community
Trustee Kathy Ann Sundland praised the development team for communicating with residents and finding out their opinions on the matter.
“I thought that it was really good to do that upfront,” Sundland said. “You may have already revised some of your plans based upon this residential feedback.”
Trustee Dan Opsommer echoed praise and noted the project’s artistic attention to detail.
“I am actually quite blown away at the quality of the materials and the architecture,” Opsommer said. “One other thing that I think is unique here … (is) there are six other architects that are producing work products on this. So what you see in the mid-block breakup in the architecture is because you have an entirely different architect with an entirely different creativity or creative lens producing that.”
Opsommer also suggested a high-end restaurant with a rooftop patio. East Lansing has El Azteco, and Haslett has the Blue Gill Grill and Mayfair Bar Grill, but Okemos does not possess such a vantage point.
Treasurer Phil Deschaine went to a meeting with a community group earlier in the day and passed out some of the concept drawings. Residents wondered if this was actually going to happen as it seemed too good to be true, but the majority are positive about the project.
“I think this plan is extremely exciting,” Deschaine said. “It is an astounding new development for the township, and I think it’s going to be well received by our residents.”