BY MICHAEL McCONNELL
Driving past the construction site, you might think it’s another cluster of single-family homes or a strip mall about to be erected on the north side of West Road, just west of Telegraph.
Redhawk Landing is a different kind of project, township officials say, one that is at the forefront of a new trend: upscale ranch-style apartment living.
Aimed at senior citizens or anyone who doesn’t want the hassles that come with paying a mortgage on a house or even a condominium, Redhawk and the nearby Peninsula Ridge project off West Road are serving a niche, according to Richard Batt, a senior development vice president with Ohio-based Redwood Living, which is overseeing the projects.
“The majority of our renters are empty nesters,” Batt said. “There’s a need in the market for that.”
Although not an age-restricted development, Batt said a lot of older adults looking to downsize from the large, multistory houses where they raised their families are attracted to the company’s communities.
And the lack of maintenance that comes with living in an apartment gives residents the freedom to travel or use their vacation home with worry, he added.
The apartments, which are around 1,400 square feet and rent for $1,200 to $1,600 a month, include on-site maintenance staffs and managers to respond to residents’ concerns.
“That’s a big attraction for empty nesters,” Batt said. “If you have a lightbulb out, we’ll change your lightbulb. If you have a package that’s too heavy to carry in from your garage, we’ll carry it in. If you can’t take your garbage out, we’ll take it out for you. We’re fairly high service as a landlord.”
While the Redwood apartment concept is unusual Downriver — the company points out it has already built similar communities in Canton, Lake Orion, Commerce, Macomb and Howell — it’s far from the only project going on in Brownstown. Unlike much of the mostly mature Downriver area, where most cities were fully built-out decades ago, the township still has plenty of room to expand, making it one of the fastest growing communities in the region.
“We’re experiencing a little bit of everything,” said Joe DiSanto, the township’s community and economic development manager. “It’s really been throughout the township. Anything that’s vacant has been getting slowly absorbed and some new stuff is coming on line.”
This year, Brownstown will probably issue permits for around 200 homes, he said. Last year, it was 150. Both figures are a big improvement from the Great Recession lows of six years ago.
“In 2008, I think we did maybe five,” DiSanto said, adding that before the mortgage bubble burst, issuing 400 permits a year was not unusual.
Of the township’s 30,627 residents counted in the 2010 census, DiSanto said half of them lived somewhere else a decade earlier. In 2000, Brownstown had 22,989 people. Township Supervisor Andrew Linko has lived in Brownstown since the mid-1990s — a time of tremendous growth. He said the high-quality jobs in the community, such as the General Motors plant responsible for the lithium-ion batteries in the Chevrolet Volt, along with good schools, make Brownstown a destination for people from throughout the region.
“Our building department is so busy,” he said. “They’re not even in the office most of the time. It’s a good problem to have.”
Much of the residential construction is concentrated in the township’s Southwest portion. Bridgewater, a Del Webb/Pulte Homes project aimed at “active adults,” according to its website, is still under construction at a parcel flanked by Inkster, Van Horn and Arsenal roads. Prices range from $186,000 to more than $361,000 for the one- to three-bedroom homes.
Also along Arsenal Road is a project known as Timber Creek, being built by the Michigan-based Gerish Cos. Homes range from about 1,700 to 3,000 square feet. The company is also developing Prairie Creek Village, a similar subdivision west of Telegraph and north of King Road.
Brownstown officials hope all this surrounding new residential construction — especially Redhawk Landing — helps bolster the township’s town center development it has been mapping for the last decade.
“It complements everything else that’s going on,” said Vernon Gustafsson, an assistant director with the township’s Downtown Development Authority, which has been working on the mixed-use project at the corner of Telegraph and West since purchasing 77 acres there for $15 million in 2005.
Officials expect to complete the town center project by 2018. Gustafsson said the township is in discussions with several large retailers, which he declined to name due to the sensitive nature of the negotiations. Plans call for a mix of retail and restaurants. “It’s exciting,” he said. “You’re looking at probably 150,000 square feet of retail and service-type uses that will go in there.”