We Have A Plan And We Know
Where We Want To Go
The City began updating their Master Plan in Fall 2015. Surveys and Town Hall Meetings were conducted. Over the next few months more meetings and data analysis will take place to formulate a new Master Plan for the city. Much of the information will be gathered from our Strategic Economic Development Plan that was adopted in August 2014.
History of Oak Park
The City of Oak Park Master Plan is an ambitious document which identifies "trends, patterns, problems and opportunities" of the City and establishes a path for the City to take as we move into the next century. The Plan is a culmination of countless hours of research which in turn has been melded into a pragmatic view of the future of our community.
The purpose of this chapter is to provide the Planning Commission with a list of observations compiled by the consultant team. These observations resulted from the data collection and analysis phase of the Master Plan program. The consultant team's observations are designed to assist the Planning Commission with the formulation of goals and objectives statements that will form the basis for the land use patterns shown on the Master Plan Map.
As part of the larger Detroit Metro region, Oak Park is closely linked with trends occurring in Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties. Regional and local trends identified during the Master Plan program include:
Money spent on new construction in Oakland County during 1992 was 36% of the total construction dollars spent in the entire SEMCOG region.
Rapid growth in Oakland County was the main impetus for major transportation improvements, such as completion of 1-696 and widening of 1-75 north of Square Lake Road.
Regional transportation improvements benefit Oak Park by providing improved access to job opportunities and giving Oak Park businesses better access to suppliers, customers, and employees.
The new east-west regional connection provided by 1-696 provides contact between communities as far apart as Farmington Hills and the Grosse Pointes that was nearly nonexistent for the past 25 years.
Improvements in travel times bring people of the region closer together economically and socially.
Rising home prices in the northern and western suburbs tend to exclude first time buyers and some young families from those housing markets.
Opportunities for the Future
The most difficult task of any planning program is identifying ways to capitalize on opportunities that reverse negative development patterns and trends. The secret always seems to be related to identifying the positive aspects of the trends associated with local and regional change. Change must be viewed as a natural, evolutionary process. The fact that circumstances in the community change does not automatically mean that all change is bad. There are a number of opportunities available to Oak Park that result from ongoing change locally and regionally.
The opening of the final segment of 1-696 provides convenient, new contact with other suburbs. It also serves as a good advertiser for Oak Park. There are 2 exits that identify Oak Park to freeway drivers.
Rising home prices in the northern and western suburbs makes Oak Park attractive to young families and first time home buyers. The City's neighborhoods are still basically sound and easily marketed to this segment of buyers.
Oak Park's well-designed apartments could be converted to condos as the need for senior citizen housing becomes even more pressing. Other options for new condo construction may exist on a few vacant sites or as a redevelopment option on strategically important properties.
Providing uniform, attractive barriers between residential neighborhoods and business/industrial areas will provide improved identity and pride for both sides of the fence.
Oak Park businesses can develop merchandising techniques similar to those used in malls to improve the shopping climate of the City. Techniques include pooling advertising dollars, keeping the same store hours, and updating store fronts. Some type of formal organization, such as a downtown development authority, merchants association, and/or chamber of commerce, may be needed to lead such a renaissance.
Strict developmental controls on office-retail conversions can ensure quality developments.
The diversity in Oak Park's population makes it a very interesting place to live and visit. The strong Jewish, African-American, Chaldean, and Arab populations provide an eclectic mix of race, culture, and religion in a relatively small land area. This diversity is exciting and provides a strong marketing base.
In the City's recent Vision Program, citizens outlined a future vision for Oak Park. The Planning Commission now has a valuable tool in directing the future of the City.
As was noted repeatedly during the Vision Program, a strong and well-coordinated program of code enforcement will benefit the City's neighborhoods, shopping districts, office corridors, and industrial districts.
The City needs an identifiable "center", especially related to shopping and personal service needs of its resident population. The Nine Mile and Coolidge area provides the base for redevelopment of a town center that could borrow from the successes of more traditional small city downtowns.
From the consulting team's perspective, opportunities abound in Oak Park. Building upon its strong tradition of affordable housing, stable neighborhoods, recreational amenities, and central location, recent regional trends of deteriorating housing and neighborhoods can be halted. In fact, a strong program and plan for neighborhood and business enhancement could project an image to the region of Oak Park as the location where change is measured by success rather than decline, and excellence is the vision of City officials and residents alike.