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Community Praises DMC Facility, but Frets Over Looks

From city officials to residents gather at the Royal Oak Public Library to learn about the proposed Detroit Medical Center outpatient facility and share their opinions about the development.

Most of the 80-plus people who attended the Detroit Medical Center’s presentation Tuesday of its proposed $52 million outpatient facility in Royal Oak agreed the DMC is a world-class medical organization. Where folks split hairs is whether the planned pediatric and adult specialty care center is aesthetically pleasing.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” a chuckling Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan said to the capacity crowd in the Friends Auditorium at the on Tuesday evening.

Duggan was part of the DMC team that gave city and school officials, along with members of the business community and residents, an overview of the project it proposes to build on the 4.15-acre parcel at Interstate 696 and Woodward. The property is owned by the Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority (DDA), and has been vacant for more than 15 years.

DMC officials said if everything goes well they will break ground in October or November and it will take 18 months to build, creating 100-125 construction jobs. The center is expected to employ 155 full-time workers.

Comments range from praise to picky

Employees, partners and patients of the DMC sat through the one-hour presentation and flooded the public comment portion of the evening with glowing praise of the medical center.

Former football coach and Royal Oak resident Jeff Hill told attendees of his experience with DMC caring for his 4-month-old daughter “The care and the people at Children’s Hospital are absolutely fantastic,” Hill said.

Tom Anderson, a 20-year resident, has worked with the DMC network at health fairs. “They are the highest caliber organization,” he said.

When it came to the architecture of the proposed facility, some people were much harsher with their words.

“We’ve waited 20 years for this project,” Mike Thompson said. “The building doesn’t tie into the community.”

Thompson went so far as to draw up his own site plan for the project. “We are trying to be cutting-edge and hip,” Thompson said. “This building looks outdated.”

He compared the six-story tower to the once-controversial Jim Fresard dealership clock built on Woodward Avenue and pleaded with DMC officials to give architects liberty to do something “creative and modern.”

While Ron Wolf said the development was the “perfect use of the site,” he said the DMC facility tower looked like "a giant needle."

Others complained about the height of the tower, saying they didn’t want to have to look at from Pleasant Ridge. By contrast, the nearby Detroit Zoo water tower is 163 feet tall - about twice the height of the 80-foot-tall DMC tower.

DMC Pediatric & Adult Specialty Center details

Dr. Herman Gray, president of Children’s Hospital of Michigan, is becoming somewhat of a fixture in Royal Oak. In addition to the presentations he’s made to the DDA, Gray has been meeting with residents of condo associations that surround the property the medical center is interested in. Gray is actively trying to address residents' concerns about traffic and noise.

“We have a 125-year reputation to protect,” Gray said. “We are going to be good neighbors.”

The Royal Oak center would not be a trauma center, Gray pointed out, so neighbors should not see a lot of ambulance traffic — no more than one or two runs per month are anticipated.

As for patients, the DMC anticipates 120-150 children per day would visit the four or five clinics within the medical center and perhaps as many as 20 surgeries per day would be performed in four operating rooms for pediatric outpatient surgery. Duggan, who is on the board of directors at the Detroit Zoo across Woodward from the proposed site, said that because surgeries are not scheduled for the weekend, he intended to work with the zoo and let it use the DMC parking lot for overflow parking when it's practical to do so.

Pediatric specialty care for the Royal Oak location includes cancer and infusion therapy, dialysis, diabetes treatments and physical, occupational and speech therapies.

The first floor would consist of emergency rooms; the second floor surgical suites and the third floor specialty clinics.

'Tower will serve as a gateway to the city'

Plans for the three-story 97,000-square-foot facility call for masonry walls with stone detailing. The much talked about 80-foot tower would anchor the southeast corner of the facility.

“The tower will serve as a gateway to the city,” said Dave Manardo, DMC's corporate vice-president of facilities.

Plans call for 312 parking spaces and plenty of trees and shrubs to “soften the appearance of the property and make it look attractive,” Manardo said. To help control traffic congestion, curb cuts are proposed for Woodward Avenue and 10 Mile Road, as well as the removal of the divider island on Main Street at 10 Mile Road that reduces two lanes of traffic into one lane.

Security to watch neighborhood, too

Rick McCarty, manager of security for the DMC, said he’s already talking with Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue to build a relationship with the police department.

In addition to watching over the medical center, McCarty, who spent 31 years with the Detroit Police Department, said DMC officers also plan to patrol neighborhoods around the facility. DMC uses state-of-the-art security cameras as well as license plate recognition technology, he said.

McCarty indicated he already has a feeling for trouble spots in the area. “We spend 100 percent of our time being proactive,” he said.

City's officials praise plans

Among those in attendance was Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin and school board member Marty Cardamone.

"This city is a great place for families and this project is one more reason why Royal Oak should be a destination for families," Lewis-Lakin said.

City Commissioner Kyle DuBuc said he thinks the development is a great fit for the city. When DuBuc was 7 years old his 3-year-old brother was diagnosed with leukemia and treated at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

"I know what it is like for families to have to travel," DuBuc said. "It will be nice to have a top tier children's treatment center in our city."

Next steps

The DMC is expected to present a purchase offer to the DDA at its next meeting, March 29, member Jay Dunstan said. If the DDA approves the sale, the plan will go before Planning Commission for review, said Tim Thwing, the city's planning director and executive director for the DDA. It would then move on to the City Commission for full approval — all opportunities for more public comment, too.

Ronald Wolf March 21, 2012 at 06:06 PM
The meeting was infiltratied obviously by a few Beaumont people trying their best to throw a monkey wrench. I believe I was sitting next to one grilling the presenters with hospital code jargon only an insider could understand. This only makes me more suspicious of Beaumont as not welcoming competition as it turns more and more away from the common touch it used to have to the bottom line of cold business. What we are talking about here are sick children, many chronically ill, and highly stressed parents who have to transport them for treatment too often many miles away. It would be nice for Royal Oak to be known as a center for helping sick kids, not just an entertainment district with a few too many troublesome "meet" market bars as opposed to quality family style restaurants. I encourage DMC to also consider the bank forclosed Kroger contested Fresard property for a four to five story mixed office and apartment for their medical residents and employees. This would improve the quality of life for all concerned downtown.
Rob K March 21, 2012 at 07:04 PM
The meeting had a positive vibe. Not ONE person at the meeting disapproved of the use for that parcel. The only negatives were the proposed ingress/egress curb cuts and the building's aesthetics. I agree with many people at the meeting that this is NOT an attractive building. Unfortunately, I do not believe there is a commission who can alter a project if it fits within ordinances. It would also be nice for DMC to shoot for a higher energy efficiency factor than just a "basic LEED certification" that DMC's architect mentioned. The CEO said “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”... which I assume means a healthy balance sheet instead of the building's appearance. If I spent $52m, I would like it to make a bold statement.
ryan March 21, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I have no objection to the DMC proposal for the I-696 site. With that being said, I'd like to point out why municipalities need to stay out of the real estate business. How does a project get this far without agreeing on price first? This deal is being negotiated backwards! It's like bizarro world negotiating. A story in another newspaper states that it now goes back to the DDA to approve the land sale. How can they approve the sale if a price hasn't been settled on. In the real world, price is agreed on first, then the due diligence period begins. Not in Royal Oak. They sell it to the public first, build community support, and only then begin to talk about price. Would any of the taxpayers who spoke in support object to the project if Royal Oak sold the property at a multi million dollar loss? Maybe. Maybe not, but agreeing on a price comes first in a land sale transaction. Can you imagine if you bought your house by negotiating everything else first, and then the cost last? It makes no sense. Can someone shed some light on the city's logic of negotiating price last?
Sandra Kellogg March 21, 2012 at 11:06 PM
I am all for the new DMC facility. I like the proposed appearance. This particular location has been vacant for years. The DMC facility would be a great use for this space. The additional tax revenues to the city would be a bonus. Sandra Kellogg
Nathan Schoenfeld March 22, 2012 at 01:14 PM
This person you speak of being a Beaumont person is far from the truth! I am not a Beaumont employee. Beaumont or any one else has every right to be at any meeting or to voice concerns. If your were educated about what a medical facility can bring to your neighborhood other than treating a patient in a nicer neighborhood, closer to home you would know this. Understand that people are concerned about their family, property and neighborhood 1st considering the hit that everyone has taken over the last several years and might take if things go sideways with crime and other issues. With any development comes issues but with something that operates 24/7/365 there are many other concerns that the surrounding neighbors have every right to be concerned about. As far as Mr Duggan’s comment “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” make this a nicer, more attractive property and something that people will find more visually pleasing since it’s going to be what represents the entrance to Royal Oak for the next several decades or longer. Spend a few more dollars to make it a softer look and less imposing. Blaring advertising is not needed to make the statement that is currently there.
Mark H. Stowers March 22, 2012 at 05:17 PM
I welcome healthcare competition so we can get better value for what little money we have to pay for healthcare.
The Duke of Royal Oak March 29, 2012 at 06:11 PM
I seen nothing wrong with the design of the DMC project. I welcome another hospital in Royal Oak. I have heard many of complaints about the patient service at Beaumont and this would be a great alternative.

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