JC Reindl, Detroit Free Press
The next frontier in Oakland County real estate will cover a shuttered municipal golf course in Royal Oak and ultra-luxury condominiums in downtown Birmingham.
The first project, geared to middle-class home buyers, features 78 planned townhouses and 47 single-family homes and anticipated prices from the mid $200,000s to the high $300,000s. The second project — 10 condos priced between $1.7 million and $3.8 million — is designed to appeal to the county’s 1%.
Both developments are unique in their own ways, and represent something new for their respective local markets.
Royal Oak’s nine-hole, 50-acre Normandy Oaks Golf Course closed two years ago for financial reasons and is about to be reborn as a 10-acre housing development and 40-acre public park. Last month, the city agreed to sell the 10 acres for $3.85 million to Robertson Brothers Homes, which is looking to break ground on its 125-home Normandy development later this year.
The project will give the suburb its biggest all-new neighborhood in decades. Most of the recent new home construction in Royal Oak has involved people buying small older houses and bungalows in order to tear them down and fill the lot with a new, larger house.
“Royal Oak has been built out for years, so we are re-urbanizing an urban area,” said Jim Clarke, president of Robertson Brothers Homes. “This is a market that a lot of younger families are very interested in being in.”
Further North in geography and asking price will be the Forefront, a super high-end condo development at 400 S. Old Woodward Ave. in downtown Birmingham. The three-story condo building is under construction on the former site of Greens Art Supply, a store that had been there since the 1960s and sold the property to Jonna Luxury Homes in 2014. (Green Art still has a Rochester store.)
The development firm’s owner, Joey Jonna, said the new building will have a ground-floor commercial tenant and two floors of custom-built condos, ranging from 2,500 to 6,500 square feet each. The condos would make a particularly good fit for empty-nesters, he said. Three of the 10 units have already sold.
“The demographic so far is somebody who has a place elsewhere — Florida, New York, or wherever it may be — and they still want a presence in Michigan, and they want the ability to be gone for six months and not have to worry about anything,” Jonna said.
While one can find buildings in downtown Ann Arbor with $1 million-plus condos, the Forefront would be the first development of its kind in metro Detroit in a downtown environment. “There’s nothing like this ever as far as the location and the price point,” Jonna said.
In Royal Oak, the Normandy Oaks redevelopment will take up a 10-acre sliver of the old city-owned golf course at the corner of Delemere Boulevard and Normandy Road, including where the parking lot and golf course office currently are.
The townhouses will likely sell in the mid to high $200,000s and the single-family homes in the high $300,000s, Clarke said. Pending necessary site approvals, the initial construction could begin late this year, with house models ready by spring 2017, he said.
The new homes will neighbor a future public park that is to be created from the remaining 40 acres of what was Normandy Oaks.
Todd Fenton, Royal Oak’s economic development manager, said the timetable for the big park will be determined once officials decide whether it becomes a city or an Oakland County park.
Royal Oak voters authorized the sale of the 10 acres in a 2014 vote. Most proceeds from that sale are to finance the golf course-to-park conversion, with a smaller, unspecified amount then going to improvements at the city’s still-operating nine-hole Royal Oak Golf Course.
The two city-owned golf courses had been losing money before Normandy Oaks closed, which helped the finances of the surviving course. Normandy opened in 1972 as an overflow course for Royal Oak Golf Course, which dates to the early 1960s.
“We are breaking even now at the moment,” said Joe Spatafore, director of operations for Royal Oak Golf Course, which operates under a management company.
The closed golf course presented a rare opportunity in the city for substantial new home construction. An earlier proposal in 2007 to sell all of Normandy Oaks for residential development proved controversial and was rejected by the City Commission, despite offers for the land from developers for as much as $18 million.
Michael Stoskopf, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Southeastern Michigan, said that new home construction in long-established suburbs like Royal Oak, Birmingham, Ferndale and Berkley has often involved the buy-and-teardown strategy.
“A lot of those bungalows were built in the 1930s and ’40s, so they’re older and they don’t have a lot of the features that people are now looking for,” he said.
Much of the new home construction occurring in the region has happened further out in areas such as Lyon Township, Canton Township and the Brighton Area, whose close proximity to Interstates appeal to commuters.
What’s being built in Royal Oak:
- 78 townhouses and 47 single-family homes on 10 acres of former Normandy Oaks golf course.
- Ideal for young families.
- Townhouses priced in mid to high $200,000s; single-family homes in high $300,000s
- Development will neighbor a future 40-acre public park.
What’s being built in Birmingham:
- 10 uber high-end condos
- Ideal for empty-nesters
- Priced between $1.7 million and $3.85 million for the biggest penthouse
- Will be on second and third floors of a new downtown building