SkyLofts Raises City Hopes

Barry and Connie Silverman don’t intend to spend much time in the kitchen once they settle into their cozy loft, overlooking downtown Royal Oak’s lively atmosphere.

The Farmington Hills couple will be too busy trying out all the restaurants and coffee shops that have made the city popular.

“Without children in the home, there is no need for me or my wife to do extensive cooking, ” said Barry Silverman, 46, who works at Greektown Casino in Detroit. “We’re really excited about being part of a high-energy urban area.”

The Silvermans built their three-bedroom home in Farmington Hills more than 17 years ago and hope to begin their new “empty-nester” lifestyle at the SkyLofts – an upscale industrial-style condominium complex atop retail shops on Main between Fourth and Fifth streets – by the end of January.

Residents of the 70-unit sold-out complex can begin moving in the next two weeks, creating more foot traffic and the long-awaited, built-in customer base essential to revitalizing the downtown economy.

“It is such a pioneering effort for the downtown, ” said Jerry Dettloff, downtown city manager. “Our new direction of the future is bringing residents to actually live in the downtown. Those people will help support our retail and restaurant businesses. It becomes that win, win, win situation.”

Retail shops make up about 30 percent of the downtown’s central business district, Dettloff said, while restaurants account for 34 percent. The remainder is left to the service industry.

Downtown living is attractive because everything from clothing shops to a wide variety of fine dining is at their doorstep, Dettloff said.

“They love that closeness (to) walk out their door and walk to the corner shop, ” he said. “That has an appeal. More and more people want to come back to that urban environment.”

The success of the SkyLofts project has lead to an influx of downtown residential options, Dettloff said. Five other condominium and retail projects are in the works, including 18 New York-style industrial lofts on the northwest corner of Troy and Seventh streets. The Planning Commission approved two more residential projects last week.

SkyLofts builder David Strosberg of Chicago said his project will not only attract more developers, but also national retailers. Noodles International, Electronics Boutique and Cold Stone Creamery are among the shops slated to open on the street-level of the SkyLofts in March.

“Downtown Royal Oak was well on its way to progressing toward a successful downtown, ” Strosberg said.

Small Plates, a 200-seat restaurant that specializes in Pan-Asian dishes, is expected to open mid-year in the 80-year-old former Royal Oak Savings Bank building on Fourth and Main, he said.

The $48 million SkyLofts mixed-use project includes 70 lofts, 135 parking spaces exclusive to residents and 21,000 square feet of shops along three blocks of Main Street, Strosberg said.

Mayor Jim Ellison is pleased with the downtown’s growth.

“The single most important thing is that it is bringing residents downtown. That’s the key, ” Ellison said. “Any time you have developers coming in your downtown and investing a lot of dollars, it’s a positive.”

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