DETROIT – The City of Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department today submitted a request to City Council to authorize the purchase of the former Rogell golf course, a 120-acre property located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Lahser and Seven Mile roads in Northwest Detroit. The $1.94 million acquisition would enable the City to transform the property from its current blighted condition into a naturalized public park, spur development and neighborhood vitality, and improve stormwater management in a part of the city that frequently experiences flooding.
The purchase of Rogell would offer the City a rare opportunity to create quality public spaces and landscapes on a large scale balanced with private development. It also would help the City address persistent stormwater management challenges near the Rouge River in an environmentally appropriate way.
If approved, the City’s acquisition would be an early action step in the Northwest Grand River planning process, which is nearing completion. A partnership of several City departments will be responsible for implementing the plans for Rogell, which currently include open space with nature trails connecting to the planned Rouge River Greenway to be developed and maintained by the General Services Department, future development primarily along the Seven Mile frontage to be led by the Housing and Revitalization Department, and a green stormwater infrastructure project to be implemented by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.
To purchase the property, the City plans to use a portion of the special $8.9 million allocation of Community Development Block Grant funding it received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2015 to help address disaster recovery activities and planning needs arising from the severe flooding that occurred in August 2014, when nearly 6,000 homes in Northwest Detroit reported flooding and basement backups.
DWSD will construct the planned improvements in Rogell and in the surrounding neighborhoods after the acquisition.
“The volume of stormwater we will manage on the Rogell site is like no other location in the city,” said Gary Brown, director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. “This is critical in meeting a permit requirement to reduce stormwater flows into our wet weather facilities. More importantly, residents and businesses in northwest Detroit have experienced basement backups and street flooding that can be lessened immensely by installing green stormwater infrastructure which Detroiters will see as beautifully landscaped bioretention gardens.”
The funding source for the acquisition – Community Development Block Grant-Declared Disaster Recovery – is intended to support the implementation of green stormwater infrastructure strategies to better manage stormwater, reduce flooding, and improve quality of life for residents, all goals that the City aims to achieve with this investment. CDBG-DDR is also the source that funded the Northwest Grand River plan.
“This site combines all the elements that the federal grant funds were designed to address, specifically mixed-use development, open space, and stormwater management,” said Arthur Jemison, Director of Housing and Revitalization. The acquisition and implementation of different programming elements is being managed by HRD, who will also be responsible for exploring future mixed-use development opportunities on the site. Development may not take place for several years, but any projects initiated by HRD will include a public request for proposals or open bidding process.
The property was previously owned by the City from 1946 until 2007, when it was sold for $2.1 million to the Greater Grace Temple of the Apostolic Faith, whose main campus is located across Seven Mile Road from the golf course. The church continued to operate the golf course until 2013, but was forced to close the facility when it was no longer profitable. A proposed sale to a cemetery company in 2014 fell through when the Board of Zoning Appeals denied the necessary zoning change.
Site features that make commercial uses for the property challenging, such as the presence of the Rouge River floodplain and rolling topography, make it an ideal location for the City to leverage those same features for public benefit, according to Director of Planning and Development, Maurice Cox. “This opportunity was identified in the course of our neighborhood planning efforts in the Northwest/Grand River area,” said Cox. “We’re excited to bring innovative landscapes to every corner of the city.” PDD is leading the creation of a conceptual master plan for the property in partnership with HRD, DWSD, and GSD.
Of the open space portion, Director of the General Services Department Brad Dick said, “We are very excited about providing programmed and passive new green space in the City of Detroit. The Rogell site offers lots of recreational opportunities on a diverse piece of land.” GSD will complete the park improvements when the design is complete. Fund raising for more detailed design and construction of the park will soon be underway as part of the Strategic Neighborhood Fund II, as presented in the Mayor’s March 6 State of the City address.
The golf course first opened for play in 1912 as the Phoenix Country Club, associated with a local Jewish social club, in what was then Redford Township. It was renamed Redford Country Club in 1920 and annexed into the City of Detroit in 1926. In 1946, the City acquired the property for use as a public golf course. In 1979, the City Council voted to rename it the William G. Rogell Golf Course in recognition of a then-sitting council member and former player for the Detroit Tigers. The City intends to document and celebrate the important history of the course in the site design, including exploring options for adaptive reuse of the clubhouse building.