As seen in The Detroit News
Friday, September 17, 1999 INDPENDENCE TOWNSHIP – While residential golf developments are one of the hottest sectors in Michigan’s booming construction market, Southfield developer Andrew Milia is bucking the trend. Milia, president of Franklin Property Corp., which has developed dozens of luxury homes in Ann Arbor, Farmington Hills and Franklin, purchased the Clarkston Golf Course and is converting the facility into an upscale housing development. “We looked at maintaining the course, but to offer estate-sized lots, which is the primary market in north Oakland County, we had to take out the course,” Milia said. “But we’ll preserve the 100-year old oak trees and offer one-acre lots.” Milia plans to break ground on the 47-acre site, three miles from Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, next spring. He will offer 30 two story country homes that range in size from 3,300-5,000 square feet and are priced from $450,000 to $700,000.
“For the exterior, we’ll use a mixture of brick and stone, and offer a three-car garage,” Milia said. “There will be a country kitchen where you have a hearth room with a fireplace, four bedrooms, great room, library and open floor plan. Milia noted the country feel of the location. “That area of Clarkston still permits horses on large lots, so it’s almost like being up north or in England,” he said. “Our primary market will be families from DaimlerChrysler AG (in Auburn Hills) and the large auto suppliers and related companies.” The site has been designed so that no home backs up to another. Common features include rolling hills, pond, gazebo, pedestrian path and entry marker to the Oakmont subdivision.
The project, scheduled to be completed in three years, is surprising, given that most developers want to buy or build a golf course and border the fairways with luxury homes or condominiums. “In this particular instance, the course was not making any money, and it didn’t seem to be working,” said Steve Board, chairman of the Independence Township Planning Commission and director of project development for Barton-Marlow, a large construction firm in Southfield. “Andy has received a preliminary zoning change from recreational to single-family residential. “There is one caveat, though. The developer and the township must sign a development agreement, which would then allow the zoning change to go through.
The site plans are in and the project is moving forward.” North Oakland County is one of the hottest areas for residential development because of its available land, strong economy, low taxes and expanding job market. For the first seven months of the year, more than 1,000 residential permits were issued in north Oakland, according to Housing Consultants Inc. in Clarkston. Communities with the strongest residential growth include Rochester, Rochester Hills, Orion Township, Commerce Township and Oxford Township. “There is just tremendous job growth along the Interstate 75 corridor, and the home builders follow the jobs,” said Gilbert “Buzz” Silverman Cos. in Farmington Hills, which is building several subdivisions in north Oakland County. In addition to Oakmont, Milia is developing several other projects, including:
* North Lake Orchards: In Dexter Township near Ann Arbor, 21 homes are being built on a 35-acre apple orchard. Prices start at $280,000.
* Franklin Forest: A development of 21 luxury homes ranging in price from $600,000 to $1.2 million in Franklin.
The project is located along 13 Mile west of Telegraph.
* Whittaker Farms: A collection of 100 homes in Ypsilanti with prices ranging from $180,000 to $210,000.
As seen in The Eccentric
Tuesday, October 17, 1997 The extension of a municipal sewer line has made possible the creation of Franklin Forest, large, detached condominiums on large lots in Franklin. A third of the 21 lots off 13 Mile between Telegraph and Franklin roads were sold before the community’s cul-de-sac road had been paved.
“Pre-sales before building speaks well of the subdivision, the location, qualities and features of the site itself,” said Andrew Milia, the developer. “I think that speaks well for the quality of the builder,” Milia added.
“We really like Hometowne (Building) because of the product they offer and their ability to work well with clients, the customer. They share our ideals of quality and the kind of product to go into this sub.” Lot sizes at Franklin Forest range from a half-acre to 1-1/2 acres. Buyers can build a plan already designed by Hometowne, customize a plan or start from scratch. “It will cost at least $450,000 to build in the sub,” speculated Patrick O’Leary, Hometowne partner “But most homes probably will run at least $500,000 when all is said and done,” Milia said. There’s plenty to bring buyers into Franklin Forest.
“All 21 lots either look out on a protected wetland area or a wooded area,” Milia said of the 25-acre parcel. “We will build an acre-and-a-half pond on site. It will always have some water in it and be a very attractive feature.” “Franklin has a charm that would be unique to northern Michigan, let alone in the 696 Telegraph, Northwestern corridor,” O’Leary said. “Franklin still has a very rural character,” Milia added,” It’s not a curb-and-gutter community.” Geographically, it’s one of the best areas, “Milia said. “You’re minutes from Southfield, 10-15 minutes from Birmingham and Troy, 10 from Farmington Hills. You’re minutes away from the work base of an affluent population.”
“Birmingham schools are another great draw,” O’Leary added. Milia anticipates a typical buyer as an auto executive or entrepreneur, 35 to 50 years of age who has owned two or three houses previously and probably has built before. “I think a lot of people will be here a long time because they are making a significant investment,” he said. Robert and Diane Strager ordered a colonial from O’Leary for themselves and children Hunter and Sam. “I had been looking for a long time,” Robert said. “I happen to like the Franklin area. It’s very pretty, very picturesque, densely treed. It has some character to it.”
As seen in The Eccentric
By Larry Paladino
Thursday, October 17, 19 The long fight to bring an upscale cluster housing development to Franklin is over and ground is expected to be broken within two months for the $12 million, 21-site Franklin Forest subdivision. “It’s been an arduous process, but I think it’s going to be very attractive,” said trustee Jo Saltzman, who was joined by all five other council members present Monday night in approving the preliminary site plan as recommended by the planning commission. Homes in the development, which will have an average frontage of 150 feet, will sell for between $500,000 and $1 million.
The development will be bordered on the north by 13 Mile Road, on the south by the Southfield city limits, on the west by Bruce Lane and Hickory Lane, and on the east by the Helmandale Woods subdivision. Andrew Milia, president of Southfield-based Franklin Property Corporation, had been trying for about 10 months to get the village to approve the project, designed by Finnicum Architects in Franklin. Original plans called for 25 houses on the 25-acres, but that was modified down to 23 and then finally 21.
“We’ve satisfied all the major concerns, but there always will be those people who are against development of any kind,” Milia said after the vote. “This was a very tough procedure to go through, much more stringent than in other communities. But the final plan is excellent. … The plan is in character with the village.” Numerous hearings were conducted after the plans were first introduced, held by the council, the planning commission and even the state Department of Environmental Quality.
Ultimately, Franklin Forest acceded to the last few requirements of the planning commission. “Franklin Forest has conformed to all the motions put forth by the planning commission,” said commission chairwoman Sue Davis. “It has responded well to the concerns at the public hearings. … I think it will be a nice development.” Milia said hopefully all the homes the development will be completed within three years, “if the market supports this.”