Southfield is easily accessible by car -- hop on the Lodge, find your way through the 696/Telegraph loop. But can it become a friendlier suburb for bikes and pedestrians? The city planning department is undergoing an eight week public input period for their 2026 master plan, and it could set the car-centric suburb up for a more walkable future. 

Gone are the days of community members gathering in a gym and sharing their opinions about what should be prioritized (like Parks and Rec). The more COVID-friendly option of online feedback is working out well so far, according to Director of Planning Terry Croad.

The public feedback period is broken up into eight weeks and different priorities each week. Croad says they're encouraging residents, students, the business community, and visitors to participate in the feedback. If you want to add your feedback and missed a week, don't worry. You can go back to the previous weeks when you sign up. There are multiple choice questions on the surveys, but also room to leave comments. Croad says they've received very thourough, insightful comments so far, and many on the need for more sidewalks and pathways.

Southfield is facing unique challenges in that it's such a hub for offices and office complexes and it doesn't have a traditional downtown. With an aging population and the need to attract younger residents, Croad says there's an opportunity to add more bike paths, green space, and public art. 

7.5 miles of new or enhanced bike paths have been built in the last few years, says Croad, and there's opportunity with this public input period to build upon that. A new bikepath could connect key institutions in the city, like Lawrence Tech, Ascension Providence Hospital, and the upcoming Northland Center Development.

City council recently approved the massive Northland redevelopment, led by Countour Companies. Croad says they looked at many different plans for the land encompassing the former mall, but they knew the final plan had to be a destination for people, in addition to the mixed-use component. The plan currently calls for 1,300 apartments in Phase One, plus landscaped pathways and a marketplace in the old Hudson's building. 

Another area of consideration for the public is the changing role of offices. As we have seen especially in the past year, many companies now realize that their workforce doesn't need to be in the office, which will lead to a shift in how we work and what the buildings could be used for. Southfield is loaded with office parks and buildings. Croad says that adaptive reuse could be used to create new housing or other mixed-use developments, like it's successfully played out in Southfield's Arbor Lofts

The topics covered under the input period range from Northland to social justice.

Because of all the recent changes in how we work and what younger generations want, Croad says that role of city planning as a whole has grown with input from different groups, like public health, and that's a good thing. "We need to be fluid and adaptable in the land-use planning sector." In this past year, we've seen the need for outdoor public spaces grow, which could also be a big factor in future planning.

The Sustainable Southfield Master Plan public feedback period runs through late March.