NOVI, Mich.- Approaching its 50th anniversary as a township, Novi has attained the status of being among the fastest growing communities in the state of Michigan.
With a population of more than 60,000 as of 2018, Novi is among the 20 most populated cities in Michigan, according to the Michigan Demographics website. With a population that keeps growing, though, as evidenced by how the population has gone up by nearly 5,000 since the 2010 census had it at 55,224, the process of sustaining such a large community is something that presents a much more difficult challenge for city government.
“You’re going to need to have multiple actions going on to ensure that the community that is growing is the community that people want,” said Rex LaMore, the director of the MSU Center for Community Economic Development, who has 35 years of experience in the field.
“There’s a number of important elements to consider. Public participation in the decision- making process would probably be the first priority. Next would be a good master plan that also involves public participation and that’ll guide your overall land use pattern as you grow.”
Novi’s master plan, which was most recently updated on July 11, 2016, development has focused on new residential subdivisions, new high tech research developments and the reinvestment in existing shopping centers, among other things.
Having capable leaders who know how to plan can also be considered a must for any sustainable community, and it’s a sentiment that LaMore said is the final important element for community building.
He said it’s key to “have visionary leadership about what is it that you want to become as a community, and that has to be expressed both through your master plan and through the decisions that are made daily at the community level so that you have that overriding vision on what you want to become and what are the important characteristics of the community that you want to preserve and enhance.”
For those in Novi’s city government, plans going forward would include focusing on staying current in technology, which
is something that Novi Community Development Director Charles Boulard said is going to be a main focus for Novi going decades into the future.
“The plans that I’m aware of are focusing right now on trying to diversify the high-tech job market, and also some different kinds of cost-effective housing for the younger parts of the workforce and single families,” Boulard said.
“I think the challenges are what the city is going to look like in 50 to 100 years from now. Technology and jobs are going to change drastically rapidly, so it’s about how do we be proactive in being able to respond to the changing trends and keep Novi as an attractive place to live when we’re talking about going that far down the road.”
For keeping Novi attractive, redevelopment and expansion is something that Assistant City Manager Victor Cardenas said has also been very important to the success of Novi.
“One of the things we’ve had to do as a community to improve upon ourselves is to constantly redevelop. That’s the mindset we’ve been in,” said Cardenas.
As for how that system of development can sustain itself going in to the future, Cardenas said he thinks Novi has the right combination of youth as a community and attentive city structure to keep itself going strong years down the road.
“I would like to think we have positioned ourselves well for the future. We’re a pretty young city so we don’t have a lot of the long-term post-employment liabilities that our brother and sister communities have around the country and I think that the infrastructure that we’ve built will serve us well going into the future because we are constantly working to maintaining and improving it instead of just building it and letting it be.”
As for citizen views on how Novi should best promote sustainability going into the future, being able to address infrastructure and being responsible and smart in the land development of the community are both issues that were brought up as being important to them.
“The biggest problem that I see right now is traffic, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said restaurant owner Mary Brady, who has lived in Novi since 1991.
“I think that it’s going to be a real struggle to get the roads and the infrastructure to where it needs to be and that’ll definitely affect business because people won’t want to put up with construction.”
(In the video above is my interview with Novi Councilwoman Laura Casey and her thoughts on the future of Novi)
“We’re at a crossroads now where the really bug pieces of land are already developed,” said Justin Fischer, a lifelong Novi resident and former Novi City Council member.
“I think we need to have responsible and fair development, because we’re seeing a lot of small pockets of land being developed that is located between existing property so we would want to respect those existing owners, and also keeping infrastructure in mind with things like the water, sewer roads and keeping the long-term planning for those things in mind.”