Lyon Township Growth Leads to Plans for Downtown New Hudson Neighborhood

ByShannon J. Cortes

Jul 27, 2022

Perhaps no community in Michigan has experienced such rapid change as Lyon Township.

The community nestled in the southwest corner of Oakland County has become a destination, with a massive boom in commercial and residential property development in the once sleepy township.

Now the focus is on the north end of the community where Grand River Avenue, Milford Road and Pontiac Trail meet. The goal? Turn this part of the township into a destination, with businesses, retail and walking opportunities.

“There is a need for local commerce,” said Amy Allen, director of Lyon Downtown Development Authority. “Because right now people are coming out of the community for some of the traditional services and shopping. And now we have a broader base to support some of these businesses.”

The desire to transform the area at the northern end of the township into a more walkable and friendly environment is something that has been in the works for years, Allen said. So much attention has been given to the township’s industrial corridor along the Grand River west of Napier. Several new projects have sprung up in this part of the city, from Exotic Automation and SupplyMoba USA and even Amazon.

The area is so developed and industrial that the township recently chose to stop offering tax breaks. Allen said taxpayer dollars captured in the DDA District can begin to support the community development that business owners and residents have been waiting for.

“Now we’re at the point where we have very little left, so our focus can shift to downtown and what we can contribute to serving all these new employees, all these new members of the community,” she said.

The demographic explosion of Lyon

An overview of Grand River Avenue looking east from New Hudson.  The area around Grand River, Pontiac Trail and Milford Road is being targeted to become a larger destination by the Township of Lyon in hopes of becoming more of a "downtown" Region.

The canton of Lyon has a fascinating history when it comes to development. The Township – which extends from Eight Mile to approximately Pontiac Trail and Interstate 96; and from Napier to Dixboro, with the exception of the part occupied by the city of South Lyon – saw its population increase by 60% in 10 years.

The township has grown from 14,545 residents to 23,271 residents according to the 2010 and 2020 censuses. No other community in Michigan has seen the percentage of growth Lyon Township has seen in those 10 years.

This boom continues a trend of driving people away from the city: new residential developments are regularly offered, including a large under construction at the Erwin Orchards property near Pontiac Trail and Silver Lake Road.

Several new businesses have sprung up in recent years in the region, showing that change is in the cards. These stores include places like Jonna’s Bar and Grill, Novella’s Pizza, Jodea Bella, and Whole Hearted Winery.

Dan Weiand, owner of the winery at 56808 Grand River with his wife Brenda, said they have experienced massive growth since starting operations in 2019. They have expanded their winery to the front of the old house built in the 1850s last year and added more seats.

Brenda Weiand serves a glass of wine from Whole Hearted Winery on December 13, 2021. Weiand and her husband, Dan, opened Whole Hearted Winery in 2019 and have continued to expand, expanding into the former home they occupy the along Grand River Avenue and hosting events at their unique location.

They found plenty of people – many of whom are being rerouted along the Grand River due to road construction in the area – living in the community who had no idea of ​​a winery being operated on the north end of the canton.

“I’m joking that nobody from south of Lyons ever turns right at Grand River because they go straight on Milford Road. People from Milford never come south of I-96. So New Hudson is this little Bermuda Triangle in the area,” he said. “And people only find out about us because they got stuck in traffic on the Grand River.”

Community park a big step

Amy Allen, director of the Lyon Township Downtown Development Authority, unveils the sign marking the new Inspiration Park along Grand River Avenue on June 15.

Instead of directing these residents to communities such as Novi, Milford or Brighton, the hope is to keep them engaged in the community in which they live. One of these steps? The creation of a new community gathering space.

This comes in the form of Inspiration Park, a new joint venture between the township and the New Hudson United Methodist Church. The two partnered on the large open space of the church property as a community park, hosting events such as concerts and holiday gatherings.

Reverend John Pajak said the church began having conversations with the township about using the expansive lawn several months ago, and it recently culminated in a new sign and dedication during a short ceremony on June 15 before the bi-weekly concert.

Pajak said the collaboration not only gives the community a place to celebrate events and gather, but also brings attention to the church, which has been in the area for many decades.

“It’s definitely kicked up the energy already. We noticed a few people coming in and checking us out (on Sunday morning),” he said. “We’ll see if there’s resistance to that, but it’s a win-win.”

The public listen to music at one of the twice-weekly concerts held at Inspiration Park on a warm evening on June 15.

Challenges to create a downtown atmosphere

It can be difficult trying to turn a vision into reality for part of a community. Other communities, such as Novi and Livonia, had conversations on the desire to create a “downtown” area similar to organically grown ones in communities such as Plymouth, Farmington and Northville.

Allen acknowledges that there are a lot of issues in realizing this vision, including walkability.

Although there are a few sidewalks in the Grand River/Milford Road area, there are plenty of gaps, which might tempt some to get closer to cars speeding along the road. Many of these gaps could be filled as companies change usage, although it could take a long time.

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“What’s happening is that the buildings that were in place before, we can’t really dictate what they do now, so we have to wait for either that building to change its use or some new development be built and then we can mandate by zoning what they have to build,” she said. “So if a new business comes in, yes, you have to build a sidewalk connection or if it’s not possible at that time, you can contribute to the sidewalk fund, so when we do this project later, that money can go there. “

The area will become even more defined with the completion of the ring road, which will eventually link Lyon Center Drive to New Hudson Drive.

Also involved? How to call the region. While the municipality is the Township of Lyons, the area has long had the nickname New Hudson, a holdover from its days as a village when the first settlers settled there in the 1830s. area is served by a ZIP code that has the name New Hudson in area mailing addresses, and street signs along I-96 direct drivers to New Hudson, not Lyon Township.

Allen acknowledges that this mailing address issue could challenge efforts, especially for businesses trying to market to people outside the area searching for their stores on Google.

“The reason this is such an issue that we have to be proactive about is you have companies like Draft Horse (Brewing Company) that when they advertise you see a lot more advertising for specific companies “, she said. “When they advertise, they use New Hudson. And that’s not an affront to Lyon Township.”

Whole Hearted Winery pushes the New Hudson name by telling people where they are, something they don’t plan on changing. Given the ID name, especially with the nearby New Hudson Inn, Weiand said it made no sense for him to advertise without the name.

“You can’t call it the Lyon Township Inn,” he said. “You must call it New Hudson.”

Despite the challenges, there is a sense of not being left behind as communities along I-96 continue to expand and attract residents looking for places to work, restaurants to to eat and shops to browse. Building a sense of community can take time, Allen said, but the township wants to keep moving forward, even small steps at a time.

“We can’t keep having big ideas and no action,” Allen said. “Even though it’s small improvements, we have to start seeing progress. And I think that’s what we’re all on board for.”

A sign marking the start of the Lyon Township downtown district at a roundabout along the Grand River.

Contact reporter David Veselenak at [email protected] or 734-678-6728. Follow him on Twitter @davidveselenak.