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WARREN, MI-The city council has been mulling plans for a planned unit development by General Motors for a vacant 312-acre parcel near its Technical Center in the city. The automaker is working with Grand Sakwa to create the largest mixed-use development in the city in recentdecades.

When completed, GM envisions a housing and commerce area that would appeal to the approximately 20,000 who work at the Technical Center. The property across from the GM Technical Center is considered valuable because of its size and location, including the proximity to freeways, Fortune 500 companies and auto suppliers. Some estimates suggest the land could be worth about $300,000 an acre.

GM tightly guarded its plans for the property for years, after the city’s plan for upscale homes and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course collapsed in 1994 before groundbreaking. In 2001, the automaker hired a Pittsburgh-based planning firm to recommend the best use for the parcel. Its conclusion: a pedestrian-friendly town center development with downtown shopping and homes close to restaurants, bars and shops. The company, Urban Design Associates, pointed to the commerce of Royal Oak and Birmingham as examples.

Housing could range from $150,000 multifamily units to single-family homes priced up to $250,000, according to the study. Strip malls and “big box” department stores were not part of the recommended commercial development.

In 2002, GM invited developers to submit designs including mixed uses. The selection was delayed for months due to the weak economy and the demands on staff time involving land projects in other parts of the country, the automaker says.

GM eventually chose Grand Sakwa, an Oakland County company. Grand Sakwa is the firm working in partnership with Ford Motor Co.’s Land Division to develop 175 acres at the old Packard Proving Grounds, west of Van Dyke, between 22 Mile and 23 Mile roads in Shelby Township. Last spring, a GM official said the plan along Mound Road in Warren would include a total of about 900 residences. The company has not submitted a formal development plan to the city–that move would come at the time is seeks to rezone the parcel from industrial to planned unit.

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