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  • By Lisa Brody

Birmingham to issue RFP for new master plan

Birmingham city commissioners unanimously approved issuing a request for proposal (RFP) for a new comprehensive master plan at their meeting on Monday, April 9.

The RFP was to have been issued for a new master plan process for the city on Wednesday, April 11, with responses due back June 1 at 3 p.m. An internal committee will then review the submissions in June, with interviews of firms in July and August, planning director Jana Ecker said, with the awarding of the contract in August. The full process to research, report and complete a new master plan, the first for the entire city since 1980, is expected to take about two years, with a final report completed in August 2020.

“Over the last several years the city commission and planning board have been actively discussing the potential scope of an RFP for a new comprehensive master plan. The updating and implementation of master plans and subarea plans are important aspects of maintaining and improving the standard of excellence that is expected in Birmingham,” senior planner Matt Baka wrote in a memo. “There are several components of the plan that included demographic data and projections that were based on a 20-year time frame (1980-2000). In addition, many of the land use policies and system analysis may be considered outdated now considering the advancements in technology and changes in lifestyle habits. Accordingly, much of the information provided in the plan was intended to project up to the year 2000, and is in need of updating.”

Priorities for a new master plan include community visioning and planning objectives; a population update, including demographics and future projections; an update of regional and surrounding development, including residential, retail, office, mix of land uses, and analysis of the region, regional and downtown development trends and regional collaboration efforts; a residential housing section, including changes in neighborhoods, development trends, residential patterns; review and update of transportation; update and review of existing land use, updated recommendations for future land uses and an updated future land use map including the area of Woodward between 14 Mile Road and Lincoln, known as the S. Woodward gateway; parking analysis; and looking at the city's policies and its goals for its best implementation.

“This is a huge improvement over the one before. I am still concerned there is a greater emphasis on transportation and parking and not on neighborhoods and residential,” said mayor pro tem Patty Bordman, stating she wanted to change language to emphasize the residential community.

“The whole point in a master plan is envisioning for a whole city,” countered Ecker.

“The master plan gets into land use issues,” said city manager Joe Valentine.

“I'm hesitant to do that because there is a hierarchy to this. The first thing is residential,” said commissioner Mark Nickita. “We need a community vision, and we need a large scale plan, and we need something that addresses everything in the city. In my opinion, this is appropriate. I don't want to disrupt the recognition, our place in metro Detroit. I think it confuses the issue if we move it around.”

“I think it's way too long. I'd like to see it done in January 2020,” Bordman said.

“We will encourage a shorter timeline,” Ecker said.

“It's a long time, but there's a lot of work to do,” Nickita said. “Rather than pushing so we do not get what we need, request that the consultants give us a timeline. They're the experts.”

“Isn't that risky – asking for an aggressive timeline? We want quality. We don't want someone to rush it,” said commissioner Rackeline Hoff.

“I agree. We're talking six months of time. We can't take things lightly. We have to get quality,” said commissioner Pierre Boutros.

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