Baker College Development

**Project Update: The development team concluded negotiations with the City on April 17, 2019. Therefore, the project will not be moving forward. The staff memo and letter submit to City Council can be reviewed at this link.**

As you may be aware, the City of Ferndale has established a preliminary partnership with Baker College to explore the possibility of a new campus development in our downtown. On January 14, 2019, the City and Baker College entered into an Exclusive Negotiating Rights Agreement, or ENRA, to consider plans and provide opportunities to hear from the community before project approvals are sought.

Baker College, in partnership with Acquest Realty and TMP Architecture, desires to create a flagship urban college campus in the heart of downtown Ferndale. The campus would serve approximately 1,500 students and 50 staff, bringing an average daily peak traffic of 250-300 people per day, primarily during daytime hours, to downtown Ferndale.

Baker College plans to consolidate and close four suburban campuses in August 2020, and open their flagship urban campus somewhere in Metro Detroit in time for classes to begin in Fall 2020. Baker approached Ferndale as their preferred location and requested an opportunity to collaboratively explore this possibility with our community.

The proposed project would consist of the following developer-funded activities:

  • The acquisition of privately-owned property at the NW corner of E. Nine Mile and Bermuda and city-owned Parking Lot 13 (near Como’s) for the development of a college campus building housing classrooms, street-level activation, staff/administrative offices, and other ancillary college-related uses
  • The development of a mixed-use parking deck with small-business oriented retail and potentially affordable residential, and approximately 300 to 400 parking spaces in one of the following three locations:
  • The city-owned parking lot between City Hall and the Ferndale Public Library
  • Firm commitments on community benefits and public improvements as determined through a public engagement process
  • Investments in temporary parking support and other services to prevent and mitigate, to the fullest extent possible, any reduction in current public parking capacity in the project area

The City is exploring this opportunity with Baker College keeping in mind community goals that have been captured in the City's Master Plan and Strategic Plan, as well as the DDA's Strategic Plan. Preliminary reasons the City is taking this ENRA period to explore to opportunity include parking/mobility, community impact, and a general "fit" within the community. Community benefits that the City is negotiating with Baker College could include parking supply, public improvements (ex: green infrastructure and streetscape), affordable commercial space, and public safety.

The current timeline for the project includes:

  • Steering Committee meeting: February 12, 2019
  • Planning Commission discussion meeting: February 20, 2019 at 6:30pm
  • Resident and business focus groups: Week of March 11, 2019
  • Baker College Community Meeting & Open House: March 21, 2019
  • Planning Commission public hearing meeting: TBD
  • City Council public hearing meeting: TBD
  • ENRA expiration: April 24, 2019
  • Potential Baker College construction: Summer 2019-Summer 2020
  • Potential Baker College opening: Fall 2020

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated March, 2019
  • How would traffic be impacted? The City will require a traffic study for the project to ensure adequate circulation of people and vehicles through the project area. Baker College will fund a traffic study to look at Bermuda Street and E. 9 Mile from Woodward to Paxton. The City will complete an independent audit of Baker’s study to provide a second professional opinion on the results. The study will inform what must be done for adequate traffic accommodation.
  • How would we ensure pedestrian safety, walkability and event flow? City plans require projects to enhance pedestrian safety and walkability. The proposed plans provide for enhancements surrounding both the school building and the mixed-use deck. These include: a covered walkway (in addition to sidewalk) along 9 Mile and pavers and pedestrian spaces along the western and southern alley of the college building, as well as green spaces and pedestrian enhancements around the mixed-use parking deck along 9 mile and between the Library/City Hall.
  • How would parking be impacted? City ordinance requires that development projects provide all necessary parking on their property. The city would also require NO REDUCTION in public parking capacity. If the project moves forward as proposed, the 46 spaces in city lot 13 (next to Como’s) and the 96 spaces in city lot 11 (next to City Hall) must be accounted for in the mixed-use deck, and remain publicly accessible at all times, including ADA spaces, and electric vehicle charging spaces. This is in addition to all required spaces for the college and associated private uses, currently estimated at 251 spaces, which would result in a total requirement of 393 spaces. The proposed project exceeds this requirement, offering approximately 408 spaces.

    Also, Baker College would be prohibited from closing both parking lots at the same time for construction and required to provide temporary parking, such as valet/shuttle, during construction.

    As the site plan is finalized, the final number of parking spaces may change slightly based on the type of private uses adjoining the mixed-use deck. Ongoing negotiations on community benefits may also result in Baker-designated spaces being made available for public use during weekend nights and other times when demand for public parking in Ferndale is highest. Site design conversations will resume in April, after additional community engagement in March.
  • What about impact on city services, return on investment, and future use of the buildings? City ordinance requires that construction in downtown Ferndale be resilient and easily converted to other urban uses. The proposed project would be concrete construction and would comply with city ordinance so that it would be desirable for, and compatible with, alternative future uses. This includes:
    *Structural column spacing (approx. 60 feet) for maximum flexibility in floor plans on all levels without having to alter the building shell, making renovation/reuse much easier for future users.
    *A first-floor uniform height of at least 14 feet, which is the minimum for commercial space.
    * Design revisions promoting vertical articulation to break up the visual appearance of a building’s façade to appear as several buildings instead of one, making the property easier to subdivide.
    * Sustainability features such as electric vehicle charging stations, solar energy systems, and adequate storm water management and utility infrastructure to handle the projected demands from the school, deck, and associated uses.

    In addition, city ordinance requires green spaces, public spaces, and other street-level amenities. The project proposes to meet these and all other ordinance requirements.

    Community benefits are also being pursued as a condition of the project if it were to move forward. A legally-binding Development Agreement and Community Benefits Agreement will be developed to account for: the additional costs of increased demand for public safety and maintenance of public spaces and enhancement of place via community partnerships, scholarships, and other support. Additionally, the City would ask the college to commit to a long-term (10 or more years) lease of city land or a purchase with deed restrictions/right of first refusal for the city to have first dibs on the re-acquisition of the land if Baker fails to perform. Formal agreements would be crafted as part of the project review and approval process.
  • How can I review the documents for this project?
    Documents will be posted on this page and will be available on the City's Planning Commission agenda packets, when they are part of upcoming meetings. Planning Commission agenda packets are typically posted on the Friday prior to the next meeting. Paper copies of materials may also be reviewed at City Hall during business hours, Monday through Thursday, 8am-5:30pm.
  • What is an Exclusive Negotiating Rights Agreement (ENRA)?
    An ENRAallows Baker College a due-diligence and exploratory process would begin, during which the City could not entertain any other offers for the properties named in the ENRA (i.e. the City-owned parking lots). This process would run through April 30, 2019 with an option to extend under certain circumstances if the City deems it necessary/appropriate. The project will only be enabled to proceed by the City if a satisfactory Development Agreement and Community Benefits Agreement are reached, and if all applicable city ordinance and master plan parameters are satisfied.
  • What is a special land use?
    As defined in City ordinance, "a use of land for an activity which, under usual circumstances, could be detrimental to other land uses permitted within the same district but which may be permitted because of circumstances unique to the location of the particular use and which use can be conditionally permitted without jeopardy to uses permitted within such district, subject to special approval by the city council." The parking structure use proposed is a special land use in the Central Business district.

Download an FAQ sheet.