New Farmington Hills senior housing complex moves forward

Plans for a 354-unit senior housing community in Farmington Hills moved forward Monday, as officials approved a Planned Unit Development (PUD) Plan for the former St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher site in the northwest corner of 12 Mile and Inkster Roads.

Built in 1929 as a home for orphaned children, the facility closed in 2005. Because it has been vacant more than 10 years, most of the buildings have been damaged and are unusable.

St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center
Cracked roads and other failing infrastructure will be addressed as St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center is converted into a senior housing community.

Proponent John Shekerjian, of Sarah Fisher Holding, LLC, said 13 of the 16 buildings on the historic site will be removed, with two cottages and the administration building repurposed. Independent living, assisted living and memory care units will be built in two phases, with a kitchen and dining room between the buildings, and a “campus feeling” on the site.

“It was really important to us to keep the new buildings from encroaching on the historic buildings,” Shekerjian said. With a new entrance on 12 Mile Road, “visitors will get an unobstructed view of the original administration building.”

Council member Richard Lerner asked about parking spaces; plans show 79 in the area where 108 total independent living units will be located. Jim Pappas, of Ferndale-based Fusco, Schaffer & Pappas Architects, said the project provides 317 spaces overall, which exceeds the 241 required. Also, he said, “very few” independent living residents would drive, with the exception of those living in the project’s villas and brownstones.

“The typical independent use today, we’re seeing a very frail population,” Pappas said. “The average age is 85.”

Council member Theresa Rich asked City Manager Dave Boyer whether the impact of new senior residents on emergency services, Meals on Wheels, Costick Center senior programs, and other departments had been taken into account. He said all departments reviewed the PUD plan.

Director of Planning and Community Development Ed Gardiner said there was a lot of use on the property with the St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center, and there wouldn’t be much additional infrastructure demand, except for police and fire. Boyer added that existing demand on emergency services was already part of this year’s budget discussions. He also pointed out that senior facilities typically have on-site activities.

‘Useful to the community’

The only comments during the scheduled public hearing came from supporters. Historic District Commission representative Steve Olson said his group is pleased because “we know that preservation only happens when buildings are in service, when they are useful to the community.”

“We think this is a very good use,” he said. “What’s remarkable is the three buildings that are being preserved will set the character for the whole community.”

Mayor Ken Massey also praised the project. The PUD plan, he said, gives the city “some degree of control, so that we can have confidence moving forward.”

Lerner’s motion to approve the plan and authorize the city attorney to draft a PUD agreement, which will also be presented for review and approval, passed unanimously. A “friendly amendment” from council member Valerie Knol added a review of building materials.