You could say John Mooney knows Beverly Hills.
As a member of the Beverly Hills Village Council for 32 years and council president since 2008, Mooney has seen the little village of 10,000 residents transform from a conglomeration of “Birmingham wannabes” into a proud community with its own identity.
“That evolution has been slow and steady,” Mooney said. “The transformation it brought about has been dramatic.”
Mooney points to a long list of village accomplishments over the past 35 years, including fundraising for the construction of a public safety building; reconstruction of infrastructure including sewers to avoid basement flooding and water mains to minimize interruptions; saving and restoring Riverside pond; and the transformation of Beverly Park from an unusable facility to one of the finest parks in Oakland County.
This is all in addition to sponsoring myriad community events, from the Memorial Parade to the Halloween Hoot. He added that the village is independently rated among the safest municipalities in Michigan, and one of the best to raise a family.
Indeed, the village fits in a wide array of features in its 4.25 square miles, including top-notch municipal services, varied housing options, excellent public and private schools, parks and even two nature preserves.
The superior Birmingham public school district serves the residents of Beverly Hills. There are private options as well with schools like Our Lady Queen of Martyrs and the prestigious Detroit Country Day School.
The 34-acre Beverly Park offers numerous activities, including a sled hill and ice skating rink, sand volleyball and basketball courts, two baseball fields and two tennis courts, a large playground, disc golf course and a wooded area with trails for biking and hiking. If rigorous activity isn’t for you, there is also the smaller half-acre Riverside Park, where visitors can sit, have a picnic and even go fishing in the mill pond.
Unique to Beverly Hills are its two nature preserves, Douglas Evans Nature Preserve and Hidden Rivers Nature Preserve, both of which are restricted by deed to remain in their natural states. Though public access is limited at Douglas Evans Nature Preserve, visitors are allowed for walking.
These features are what has sustained the village through some of its most difficult times, Mooney noted. “In the past 10 years, through the dark days of the great recession, the village has found its way clear to overcome some financial difficulties and is on strong economic footing,” he said.
It seems that tranquil is the word one can readily associate with Bingham Farms. Spanning just 1.25 miles, the village is home to just over 1,000 residents and a seemingly endless amount of peaceful quiet.
The small village that sits along Telegraph and 14 Mile Road seems free from much of the bustling activity that seems to be whirling around its larger neighbor, Birmingham, but it has a charm all its own.
The secluded hamlet does not have any retail establishments, but it does have some office space. The median home price in Bingham Farms is roughly $381,190.
The peace comes from not only its small size, but also the fact that many of the residential lots are larger than those in surrounding communities. Shaded with numerous trees and enjoying a woodsy feel, Bingham Farms also values its proximity to nature.
For more than 60 years, Bingham Farms has valued its residential character. Prior to its incorporation, moves were made to annex the area that is now Bingham Farms into becoming part of the city of Southfield. That did not sit well with the residents in the future Bingham Farms, however. They believed the natural landscape and quality of the neighborhoods in the area made it important to retain a separate identity.
It was incorporated as a village in 1955, taking its name from Carson Bingham, one of the five original drafters of the village charter. In the years after it became a village, residential development began to threaten the natural habitat that drew residents to the area in the first place. However, with strategic land use plans and ordinances, the pure woodsy charm of the area is largely intact.
Bingham Farms has its own village council, and is serviced by the Franklin Bingham Fire Department and Franklin Bingham Police Department. Birmingham Public Schools is the village’s public school district.
Residents are able to experience both the peace of their hometown and the convenience of being located so close to larger cities. As Hagaman pointed out, Bingham Farms is “immersed in nature yet at a crossroad to major highways and convenient to high-end shopping and restaurants.”
Birmingham continues to be the little city that does a lot of big things.
This year, one of those big things has been the Old Woodward Reconstruction Project, which will upgrade aging infrastructure and bring a fresh new look to the iconic Central Business District.
The $7 million project, expected to be completed in summer 2018, includes the complete rebuilding of Old Woodward Avenue from Oakland to Brown, replacing all water and sewer lines, and installing a new electrical system and irrigation system. When completed, the new street and sidewalks along Old Woodward will be accompanied by amenities to improve the pedestrian experience like new planters, trees, new medians with plantings, charging stations for electronic devices, shorter pedestrian crossings and ADA accessibility.
City Manager Joseph Valentine said the Old Woodward Reconstruction Project is an investment in the long-term viability of Birmingham, a 4.7-square-mile jewel nestled along the Woodward corridor.
Despite its diminutive size, the city has a large impact on the region with its three high-end and vibrant business districts, 26 parks, top-tier public school system and 20,000 residents.
Birmingham boasts the rare quality of seeming like two cities in one: It offers the bustle of a big city with the quiet familiarity of a small town.
Numerous events, like the Birmingham Village Fair, the Hometown Parade and Party in Shain Park, Day on the Town and Birmingham Restaurant Week, give residents and visitors a thriving city experience.
However, many may not know about the impressive amount of quiet natural beauty and escapist delights in the city. Valentine, for example, noted how there is a little-known tranquil spot right in the middle of town.
“With the benefit of having a secluded nature trail through the middle of the city,” he said, “a walk along the Rouge River Trail is one of the best secrets Birmingham offers.”
A Sunday morning might mean a visit to the Birmingham Farmers Market to sample the fresh abundance of Michigan seasons. Summer nights mean breathing in the sweet warm air as you sit in Shain Park for the In the Park Concert Series.
“Birmingham has become an attractive community to live in because of the amenities and the environment it provides,” said Valentine. “When you build on this with the implementation of best practices in land use planning and promoting walkability, it is easy to see why Birmingham is special and an attraction to people from around the world.”
Before it was Bloomfield Hills, it was a wooded patch of wilderness that held all the rustic idyll and mystery of nature at its most pure.
And while it is true that most towns also have these wilderness origins, what sets Bloomfield Hills apart is what it has done in the years since, said City Manager David Hendrickson.
“Bloomfield Hills is rich in history having evolved from densely wooded wilderness inhabited by Native Americans, to pastoral farms and orchards worked by early settlers, to today’s residential community with stately homes and diverse neighborhoods,” Hendrickson said. “Many communities have the same beginnings, but Bloomfield Hills has strived to hold onto to its character of natural features, rolling hills, streams, woodlots and majestic tree-lined streets only a few miles from busy expressways.”
With a population of roughly 4,000 residents, Bloomfield Hills is home to some of the most affluent homes and residents in Michigan. The large wooded lots and stately homes allow residents to create their own quiet oases amid the busy Woodward corridor. Residents value the ample green spaces and peaceful setting that come with living in the idyllic city.
This affluent little gem has impressively maintained the integrity of its natural features even in the face of increasing development in the surrounding area.
“Although always a challenge, Bloomfield Hills has held to its commitment of keeping its serene character over pursuing development for developments sake,” Hendrickson said.
In addition to its natural beauty, Bloomfield Hills is home to some of the most prestigious and exclusive schools in the United States, including Bloomfield Hills School District, Cranbrook Schools and the Roeper School.
In keeping with the strong residential character of the city, the business district is small and concentrated to Woodward and Long Lake roads. However, it enjoys close proximity to nearby cities and villages that offer a wider range of businesses, shopping and restaurants.
To live in Bloomfield Hills is to live in a serene setting that boasts top-notch city services, the best educational institutions and high-quality public safety, Hendrickson noted.
“Although there are destinations to visit in our city, I believe the overall draw is the quality of life our residents experience by living here,” he said. “There are many areas of the city that will make you forget you are just minutes from all of the activity as you enjoy the peaceful surroundings.”
Bloomfield Township is one place that knows how to keep its residents happy.
That’s due in large part because it seems to offer a little of everything. The expansive stretches of lush green lots hold elegant homes that are never too far away from idyllic parks, lakes and streams. From exemplary schools and municipal services to a beautiful senior center complex and family-friendly events, Bloomfield Township is a place anyone can call home.
All this, and it’s also located near the convenience of the Woodward corridor, within minutes of world-class shopping and dining.
“Bloomfield Township is a terrific mix of fine homes, stores and restaurants,” said Greg Kowalski, Bloomfield Township director of community relations. “With the quality schools, a superb senior center and an extremely well-run Township government, Bloomfield Township is a great place for new families and retirees.”
While there is a steadily growing business scene along the Woodward and Telegraph corridor, Bloomfield Township remains primarily residential. Many of its municipal services are focused on the needs of 41,000 residents. The township’s top priority is customer service and making sure residents have what they need delivered in a timely, professional manner, Kowalski noted.
So proud is the township of its municipal services, in fact, that they are the focal point of the hugely popular annual township open house, which will be held on Oct. 14 this year. The open house showcases the township services in a fun family setting, complete with face-painting, fire station demonstrations, pie-tasting contests and a petting zoo.
“This is extremely popular with residents and increasingly with people from across the county,” Kowalski said.
And one would be remiss to not mention Bloomfield Township’s participation in the annual Woodward Dream Cruise. The township hosts several Dream Cruise-related events, including the Bloomfield Township Classic Car Show and the Bill Wells Car Club Classic.
Now you might think that it would be difficult to foster a sense of community in an expansive, 26-square-mile township, but you would be wrong. Bloomfield Township residents are a community-minded bunch, often sending thank you notes to the police and fire departments, and wanting to be involved in making the township a better place to live.
“If I was to pick anything that sets us apart,” Kowalski said, “I would say there is a spirit of community here that is special.”
For more information about Bloomfield Township, visit bloomfieldtownship.org.
The village of Franklin is sometimes referred to as the “town that time forgot.”
There does indeed seem to be a wistful quality about the village, as if it is drizzled with the sweet glaze of memory and nostalgia.
This 2.7-square-mile town of 3,025 residents values history. Founded in 1824, Franklin was once home to settlers who worked as blacksmiths, shoemakers and masons. The village is still fiercely protective of its roots. Much of the historical architecture of the town’s buildings has been preserved and re-purposed for modern use. The Thomas Midgely House, for example, used to be the residence of a well digger and his six children, but is now the site of the Wright & Zelazny dental practice.
For residents, this means the chance to live alongside history, but while enjoying modern conveniences. The village is part of the Birmingham School District, and police and fire protection is provided by a partnership with neighbor Bingham Farms. The Franklin Public Library offers free events for children and adults, including story hours, play groups, book discussions and lectures.
The benefits of those modern conveniences, however, come with headaches: This past year saw the completion of first phase of the Franklin Village road rehabilitation project, which consisted of the streets west of Franklin Road. Phase II began in spring 2018, and will rehabilitate the remaining roads east of Franklin Road, between 14 Mile and the southern village limits. The road project is being funded through a 2016 voter-approved millage.
The gem of Franklin, however, may be the Franklin Cider Mill, a destination for visitors from around southeast Michigan. Visiting the cider mill, built in 1837, is to experience autumn at its most sweet. The mill presses its own cider using Michigan apples and makes only one type of donut: the soft cinnamon-sugar kind that comes from an old German recipe brought to the country many years ago.
In addition, Franklin enjoys a burgeoning business scene and has its own nonprofit organization, Main Street Franklin, which is dedicated to preserving the historical business district in the village. Main Street Franklin hosts multiple community events throughout the year, including Sip, Shop & Stroll, Franklinstein Frenzy and Paint the Town.