If you’ve been to downtown Royal Oak recently, you’ve probably noticed lots of construction, as the city grows upward, with several mixed-use, mid-rise buildings under way. One of the newer projects, located just east of Main Street, is actually being steered mostly by the city government itself.

Rethink Royal Oak is the name of a project that encompasses several individual projects:

  • A privately owned 140,000 square-foot Class A office building
  • A 581-spot parking structure
  • New buildings for both the City Hall and police station headquarters
  • And a 2-acre public park in the city’s downtown

We went down to the current city hall — a building that very much looks and feels like the 1950s structure it is — to speak with Todd Fenton, Royal Oak’s economic development manager. He spoke with me about the Rethink Royal Oak project, how it fits with the city’s urbanist vision for downtown, and how the city is seeing more demand for office space than it can supply.

Fenton says the city wants to create more office space in part to give a boost to the downtown during the sluggish daytime business hours. Where city officials once targeted a goal of bringing on 180,000 square feet of office space by 2020, it’s now on track to create more than 300,000 square feet.

“Certainly the market has reacted positively,” Fenton says. “We’re not going to confuse ourselves with being a Troy or Southfield. It’s actually adding a use that wasn’t here, and we believe it will drive daytime traffic, which will in turn bring more retail opportunities into the city.”

Fenton says he’s had to turn away many companies that want to locate in Royal Oak due to a lack of available office space.

“There’s a lot of pent up demand coming into the city. I’ve certainly met with a lot of tenants that would raise some eyebrows,” he said, adding “the announcements will be coming.”

Give a listen to the interview in the player above.

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