Building Up Hilton Road
Hilton Road isn't as highly traveled as West Nine Mile or Woodward, but it's working its way up.
Hilton doesn't have the buzz of Nine Mile or the roar of Woodward. In fact, most people might not even think of it as a place to do business or to hang out. But, that's changing.
"We've been trying to create more awareness of the growing shops and businesses on Hilton," said Jennifer Roosenberg, the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce's executive director.
In 2009, a Hilton Corridor Committee was organized for this very purpose. The committee is made up of residents that live in the Hilton Road area that wanted to see it more vibrant.
One of the first acts of this committee was to piggyback the Ferndale Family Fall Festival by inviting festival participants to trick or treat the businesses along Hilton. About 25 businesses participated that year by decorating their storefronts and passing out candy to area residents.
"It was a small event, but it started to create awareness and it gave residents along Hilton a reason to get out and have fun," Roosenberg said. "Plus, it helped unite the business community, many of whom had never met each other."
In 2010, the Hilton Corridor Committee was instrumental in having the festival moved to Hilton to further enhance that Hilton exists and is a place for business.
Increased awareness is helping bring in new businesses such as M-1 Studios, which recently moved from Woodward in Royal Oak to Hilton in Ferndale.
"We needed a large open area with high ceilings to set up our equipment. We looked at a lot of buildings and this one works best for us," said Mike Madigan, co-owner of M-1 Studios, a video production company. "There's free parking, it's just off I-696 and it's centrally located."
Hilton Cleaners just opened in February under new management. "This location was selected because the business had been established here for many years," manager Britney Jones said. "Ferndale is a growing, expanding city."
Jim Turner, president and owner of Premium Electric Co. Inc., started his business on Nine Mile Road in 1989 and then built a new facility on Hilton in 1999. "I have a vested interested and personal attachment to Ferndale," he said.
Subway recently improved its landscaping, installed two new exterior signs and remodeled the inside to attract more customers and improve its image. Other businesses that have created inviting or bold facades to attract customers include the Hilton Road Café, Gordy's Music, and 2nd Time Around Resale.
Lofts Add Appeal
Adding to Hilton's image of an up-and-coming stretch of concrete are two trendy live-and-work condos on Brickley and Webster streets. Built within the last eight years, these condos are a throwback to early 20th century design and function with the work spaces on the first floor and living quarters above.
"The businesses that move in these live/work units have a more dense customer base, such as Brickley Place near 10 Mile Road," said Marsha Scheer, Ferndale's community development director. "There are markets, dry cleaners, stylists, barber shops and a breadth of services for live/work residents."
"The business mix on Hilton is very eclectic, which is something to be celebrated and why this is a good investment corridor," Ferndale Councilwoman Melanie Piana said. "To attract more businesses, we must continue to improve appearances and infrastructure."
Ferndale's Department of Public Works (DPW) has been improving appearances on Hilton since 2000, primarily with paving projects.
"We just resurfaced Hilton between Woodward Heights and Nine Mile Road thanks to a federal grant of just over $500,000," said Byron Photiades, public works director. The grant was part of the American Recovery and Investment Act.
In 2000, the department installed decorative streetlights and improved the streetscape as part of a $2 million infrastructure project to improve this corridor's appearance. Another streetscape improvement project occurred two years ago when DPW redesigned the intersection of Woodward Heights and Hilton. This included new brick pavers and decorative mast arms supporting traffic signals to create an attractive focal point.
"You have to maintain infrastructure," Photiades said. "Potholes and broken curbs send the wrong message to people looking for a great deal on a building. They think, 'I like the building, but I don't know if it's the right area.'"
In another effort to make Hilton safer and more pedestrian friendly, five years ago the city reduced it from five lanes to four and added bike lanes and on-street parking.
"The bike lanes added another mode to traverse Hilton, so it isn't just car and pedestrian oriented," Piana said. "Now there's another way of getting up and down Hilton."
Piana is looking to additional infrastructure improvements on Hilton. For example, she would like the brick sidewalk treatment at Nine Mile and Hilton to mirror Nine Mile and Woodward. "A full brick stamping would delineate the crossing more prominently, thereby improving it," she said.
In addition, she'd like to enhance the Hilton intersections to improve connectivity and traffic flow and replace some traditional traffic lights on Hilton with lights supported by decorative mast arms.
"These are just my ideas right now," Piana said. "We'll have to figure out if these ideas are financially viable in the next few years."