Consultant Maps Out Dexter's Future Growth Potential in Comprehensive DDA Study
At the Dexter City Council meeting on December 27, Michelle Aniol, the Community Development Manager for Dexter, presented a report compiled by Land Use USA for the city's Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Aniol submitted the summary of the 400-page study highlighting its key findings and projections.
The study, led by Sharon Woods, Principal at Land Use USA, offered a detailed analysis of various aspects such as residential, real estate, and demographic economics. Aniol emphasized the exhaustive nature of the data collected and the thoroughness of the executive summaries provided. According to Aniol, Woods' expertise lies in market analysis and demographic studies based on extensive data compilation. She also noted Woods' previous work conducting a target market analysis for Dexter in collaboration with Chelsea, Saline, and Ypsilanti in 2015.
“This (summary) sort of encapsulates the key projections of the key findings that are associated with all that data that she collected,” said Aniol.
The study was conducted to inform the DDA's strategic planning for future redevelopment, which includes various housing formats like single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes, and higher-density housing.
“(Woods’) area of expertise is studying the markets, understanding demographics, understanding and being able to evaluate the different trends based on unbelievable amounts of data that are collected,” said Aniol.
The report's executive summary outlines strategic recommendations for Dexter's housing and retail sectors. For the housing market, it suggests the construction of 30 new detached houses or large cottages for the owner market, alongside 20 alternative formats like townhouses or condominium-style apartments annually over the next five years. Additionally, the report advises rehabilitating 25 existing houses and townhouses each year for the next five. For the renter market, it proposes building 65 new cottages, accessory dwellings, units in apartment houses, and 15 lofts in downtown and townhouses, focusing on rehabilitating various units in the same timeframe.
Woods stated in her summary, “Within reason, consider letting developers test the limits of the market potential for new-builds. Be willing to forego some rehabs in exchange for the development of more new-builds.”
The summary underscores the importance of diversifying construction styles and addressing affordability concerns, especially for lower-income households. It recommends smaller, more affordable units and encourages mixed-income projects. The report also advises the city to consider annexations to facilitate growth and to work with developers to offer a range of building formats and price points.
“Recognize that renters have significantly lower incomes than owners,” stated Woods. “Many of the owners also have moderate incomes, and two-thirds of them will hope to find something for $375,000 or less. Similarly, two-thirds of the renters will hope to find something for $1,700 per month or less.”
In terms of retail analysis, the report supports the addition of up to twenty new businesses in Dexter’s Downtown, including restaurants, apparel stores, and home improvement specialty stores. Other recommendations for the city and DDA include:
- reducing vehicular speeds and potential conflicts at the intersection of Main and Central Streets to slow traffic
- encourage impulse shopping by drive-by visitors
- improve pedestrian safety
- adding more bicycle racks
- encouraging stores to bring merchandise displays outside by following Hackney Ace Hardware’s example
- providing guides to public restrooms at the library
- adding public restrooms at the Mill Creek Trail.
“The city should be actively engaged in Scio Township’s master planning processes to ensure that the intersection at Interstate 94 and Baker Road does not eventually emerge as a new retail destination or even with a few scattered chain stores,” stated Woods. “Otherwise, the impacts could be devastating for Dexter’s downtown merchants.”
Aniol highlighted that while the projections in the report are based on comprehensive data, they are conservative. For example, the recommendation of 30 new detached homes does not limit potential development to this number but serves as a baseline estimate.
The entire summary can be found in the December 27 city council meeting packet posted on the city’s website, which also has a link to the council’s meeting with Ms. Aniol’s explanation of the summary.
Photo by Doug Marrin