Detroit proposes purchase, acquisition of former Rogell golf course

Land would leverage development, help address water management issues in area

By Larry Spruill - Reporter, Von Lozon

DETROIT - A plot of land in Detroit where there were plans for a cemetery is now set to be purchased by another buyer.

Detroit's Housing and Revitalization Department submitted a request to City Council to authorize the purchase of the land, which was the former Rogell Golf Course. The land -- which would cost $1.94 million to purchase -- is 120 acres and is located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Lahser and Seven Mile roads in Northwest Detroit.

The golf course was closed in 2013 after no longer being profitable. It was then purchased by Detroit Memorial Garden in hopes of turning the land into a cemetery. Those plans fell through in 2014 when the Board of Zoning Appeals denied the necessary zoning change.

This purchase would offer the city the chance to create public spaces and landscapes on a large scale balanced with private development, according to a press release from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's office.

If the purchase is approved, this would be an early step in the city's plan to use some of its $8.9 million allocation of Community Development Block Grant funding received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2015 to address disaster recovery activities and planning needs originating from severe flooding from August 2014. That flooding saw nearly 6,000 homes in Northwest Detroit endure flooding and basement backups.

The Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) will make the planned improvements in Rogell and surrounding neighborhoods when the acquisition is finalized. 

Community Development Block Grant-Declared Disaster Recovery, which is the funding source for acquiring the land, is meant to assist the implementation of green storm water infrastructure strategies to better manage that storm water, cut down on flooding and enhance the quality of life for residents.

"This site combines all the elements that the federal grant funds were designed to address, specifically mixed-use development, open space and storm water management," said Director of Housing and Revitalization Arthur Jemison.

Acquiring and implementing different programming elements is being managed by the Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD). It will also be in charge of seeking future mixed-use development opportunities on the site. Development may not happen for several years, but any project started by HRD is set to include a public request for proposals or an open bidding process.

Features on the site that make commercial usage challenging include the presence of the Rouge River floodplain and rolling topography. However, that makes the site 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," Cox said. "We're excited to bring innovative landscapes to every corner of the city.

A master plan for the property in partnership with HRD, DWSD and General Services Department (GSD) is being created by the Planning & Development Department. 

"We are very excited about providing programmed and passive new green space in the city of Detroit," said Director of the General Services Department Brad Dick. "The Rogell site offers lot of recreational opportunities opn a diverse piece of land."

Park improvements will be finished by GSD when the design is complete. More funds will be raised for more detailed design and construction of the park soon, as part of the Strategic Neighborhood Fund II, which was presented in Mayor Duggan's March 6 State of the City address.

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