Hazel Park is the newest spot for chic condos near Detroit

 A deep-pocketed homebuilder with deep roots in Oakland County — Bloomfield Hills-based Robertson Homes — has been filling the soaring demand for starter homes near Detroit with big projects in Ferndale and Royal Oak.



a large brick building with grass in front of a house: This artist's rendering shows the style of three-story, two-bedroom condominiums planned for a complex of 54 units in Hazel Park, to be priced in the low $200,000s and to each have a one-car attached garage. It's to be Hazel Park's largest housing development in decades. (Credit: Robertson Homes)


© Robertson Homes
This artist’s rendering shows the style of three-story, two-bedroom condominiums planned for a complex of 54 units in Hazel Park, to be priced in the low $200,000s and to each have a one-car attached garage. It’s to be Hazel Park’s largest housing development in decades. (Credit: Robertson Homes)

Now it plans to build in Hazel Park. 

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Robertson Homes on Saturday opened an office trailer for home sales on a site along Woodward Heights, just east of John R, in Hazel Park where the firm plans to build 54 three-story townhouses. The developer reported it signed up five buyers on Saturday, nearly 10% of the available units.

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The swath of condos, going up where a vacant parochial school was demolished, will be the largest batch of new homes that Hazel Park has seen built in decades, Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klob said.

It’s the latest sign that metro Detroit’s construction of entry-level housing, which once surged only in townships at the edge of sprawling exurbia, has returned with vigor to the region’s core — Detroit’s inner-ring suburbs. It’s an area where “for sale” signs have, in just a decade, replaced a rash of foreclosures and cratering home values.



a sign on the side of a building: This photo taken on Nov. 13, 2020 shows one cluster of 72 townhouse-style condominiums recently built in Ferndale, and where only 8 units remain unsold, according to signage of Robertson Homes.


© Jason Twardy
This photo taken on Nov. 13, 2020 shows one cluster of 72 townhouse-style condominiums recently built in Ferndale, and where only 8 units remain unsold, according to signage of Robertson Homes.

Robertson Homes recently finished big clusters of condominiums and single-family homes in Ferndale and Royal Oak. The firm is perhaps best-known for its Townes at the Corner in Detroit’s Corktown area, where the builder’s luxury condos ring the site of the old Tiger Stadium, starting in right field and curving into center field.

In Hazel Park, the new housing is the latest in a string of upbeat news about this largely low-income town of about 16,000 residents. The Great Recession hit it hard, and the closing of Hazel Park Harness Raceway in April 2018 dealt a body blow to a city hall already battling deficits.

Yet, this town that borders Detroit to the south and Warren to the east has steered a giant Amazon warehouse to the grounds of the shuttered racetrack, seen storefronts upgraded and surprised gourmands across metro Detroit when an elite restaurant opened whose chef was so hot that Free Press Restaurant Critic Mark Kurlyandchik directed a documentary film about him — a place where take-outs include Green Curry Mussels ($22) and Crispy Sea Bream with salt-and-vinegar chips ($25).

Mabel Gray’s chef James Rigato, reached at his busy eatery on Friday night just after he catered a high-end party elsewhere, said he was delighted to hear of the new housing.

“I’m really liking how Hazel Park has diversified into a really cool blend,” Rigato said, sounding like a chef turned economist. His chic spot is just across John R Road from where the new townhouses will go up, just one block east.

That’s a bragging point for Robertson Homes Senior Vice President Darian Neubecker. The two-bedroom condos are aimed to sell in the low-to-mid-$200,000s when the first is complete in late spring or early summer of 2021, Neubecker said.

Most locations where Robertson Homes likes to build are “places with walkable, traditional downtowns — that’s where we’ve found success,” he said. Hazel Park is not that, instead possessing what urban planners call a linear corridor on John R Road.

“But we’ve been monitoring Hazel Park for a long time,” watching as the city’s fortunes turned up, he said. 

 “We’re across John R from Mabel Gray, and we’re in a community that’s nestled between Royal Oak, Ferndale and downtown Detroit, so you’re a 15-minute Uber ride from anywhere” in metro Detroit, he said. Each condo will have a one-car attached garage with additional surface parking nearby, and they’re to be virtually identical to those built recently in Ferndale.

More: Lack of starter homes in Michigan leaves first-time buyers in the lurch

More: Old Tiger Stadium apartments are finally done: Here’s what they look like

“It’s obviously the largest housing development that Hazel Park has seen in some time. We were able to establish a Neighborhood Enterprise Zone, which will abbreviate the property taxes of our new homeowners for eight years,” Neubecker said.

That along with other financing aid will let many buyers purchase a condo for a mere $6,000 or $7,000 down and then pay less than $1,500 a month, “including your taxes and condo dues,” he said.

Robertson Homes recently completed rows of condominiums and new houses in Royal Oak on the border of a former golf course, where 40-acre Normandy Oaks Park is under construction. The company also recently built scores of new houses and condos in Ferndale, and they’ve sold quickly — a function of metro-Detroit’s pent-up demand for starter homes, said Ferndale Community and Economic Development Director Jordan Twardy.

“They did two projects here. I’m walking my dog past one of them right now,” Twardy said Friday during a phone interview, as he and shepherd-lab-mix Allie strolled past some of Robertson Homes’ 72 townhouse-style condos, recently completed on a former school site just north of Garbutt Park.

“I think they only have eight units left on the town homes. The build them as they sell them,” Twardy said,.

Twardy is intimately familiar with the developments, having supervised what the city required before giving Robertson Homes a green light. 

“In these town homes, what they did for us is they created pathways through the complex with raised-bed gardens and seating, so you can walk right through to the park. We didn’t want it to be an isolated project that wasn’t connected to the surrounding neighborhood,” he said. 

Less than a mile away, the company built 28 single-family homes on another school site, southeast of downtown Ferndale and beside Wilson Park. The single-family homes have detached garages in the rear, matching the dominant look of Ferndale’s homes – another design characteristic that Ferndale officials sought.

Most prized of all, though, has been the sheer injection of new residents, drawn to the housing going up near Detroit, in areas where just a decade ago the housing values were plummeting.

“When I was in grad school, they taught us there’s a pent-up demand for this kind of thing. People want to live near the amenities — shops, parks, dining, even their jobs. The inner ring is very compact, you’re close to a lot of things, and many of the cities are doing things to increase that feeling,” Twardy said.

Ferndale Mayor Melanie Piana said she was happy with the city’s new housing.

“The residents who live there tell me they love it,” Piana said on Sunday.

Southfield has won awards for improving the walkability of Evergreen Road near the city’s big library. Warren Mayor Jim Fouts is plugging plans for a walkable quasi-downtown planned for the area on Van Dyke around Warren City Hall.

As downtown Detroit regained its status as a cultural and entertainment magnet, the city’s nearby suburbs have regained appeal — and property values.

“For us, the best thing is that this is just a lot of families coming here,” Twardy said. He could’ve been speaking for anyone at Hazel Park City Hall.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Hazel Park is the newest spot for chic condos near Detroit

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