Royal Oak: Summer Nights Filled with Sweet Sounds

There’s music in the air in Royal Oak. From developers trying to hawk condos, to city officials offering some summer fun, groups sponsoring free music concerts are aplenty this summer.

With the recent reopening of the Royal Oak Music Theatre, the city’s downtown has never had so many musical options, said Liz Tillander, executive director of the Greater Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce.

The newest batch of outdoor concerts are Friday-night jazz shows funded by Chicago-based developer David Strosberg, whose loft condominiums on South Main were sold before the building was finished.

“I’m a big jazz fan, so I definitely will be there, ” said Strosberg, president of Morningside Group.

With his company juggling other loft developments in Royal Oak and Ann Arbor — not to mention the free concerts planned for July 9, July 23, August 6 and August 20 — Strosberg said he spends at least two days a week in metro Detroit.

Detroit-area jazz groups will play 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. on a company-owned patch of grass no bigger than a tennis court — on East Fourth near the railroad tracks, between South Main and South Washington — in the shadow of Morningside Group’s 8-story SkyLofts Royal Oak property.

Its 70 condos sold out last fall – well before the building was done. But adjacent to the jazzy green space is a condo sales office, open durig the jazz concerts, where concertgoers can learn about a new Morningside project in Royal Oak. SkyLofts MarketSquare is planned for 11 Mile at the site of the soon-to-close Select Inn motel, three blocks east of Main Street.

Units in SkyLofts MarketSquare will sell for $260,000 to $540,000, company officials said. If the city approves the project, Morningside Group officials said they hope construction can start this summer.

The kick-off concert with the Guymon Ensley Quintet was last month, and the shows continue July 9 with Barbara Ware and the Cliff Monear Trio; July 23 with Kathy Kosins; August 6 with a return of Barbara Ware and the Cliff Monear Trio, and end August 20 with a return of Kathy Kosins.

If the names and notes sound familiar to Royal Oak visitors, that’s because the same performers played just blocks away at the downtown Royal Oak Clay & Glass Festival June 19-20. this was the first year that the swelling art fair has included a major offering of live music, said festival event manager Mark Loeb.

And the downtown has more free outdoor music in the annual Wednesday-night summer concerts put on by the city’s recreation staff and held on the lawn just south of the public library — off Troy Street just south of 11 Mile.

The series of seven weekly concerts, each beginning at 7 p.m., opens July 7 with the South Oakland Concert Band, after a 6:15 p.m. opening performance by the Royal Oak Handbell Choir.

Subsequent weeks will showcase local players of modern jazz, Dixieland, Motown and Pop oldies. A purple banner announcing the series arches high over Main Street near 11 Mile, citing the MotorCity Casino as “proud sponsor of the Midweek Summer Concert Series, ” although other sponsors include the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources, several stores and two credit unions.

Even the city’s new restaurant association has scheduled a free music fest – an indoor batch of concerts on August 17, said Mike Sophiea, owner of Rumors restaurant.

City officials said they’re grateful that Morningside Group kept its jazz dates from conflicting with other outdoor music events.

Unfortunately for fans, jazz events on the newly sodded spot will be shortlived.

Inevitably, something will be built there, said Nico Schultz, development manager for Morningside Group.

“We grassed it and irrigated it, ” he said. “But it’s available, build to suit.”

Click here to visit the SkyLofts MarketSquare website!

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