Everything About Livonia, Michigan
Livonia was first settled in the 1830s when land from the northwest corner of Livonia Township was sold to a handful of pioneering families. One of the first settlers was Samuel White, who built a log cabin on his farmland in 1835.
Other early homesteaders included the Starkweather, Dean, Fuller, and Summers families. Many of these founding families were religious dissidents from New England seeking to start new lives on what was then the American frontier.
For its first few decades, Livonia was largely focused on agriculture with most residents sustaining themselves through farming. Wheat and hay were among the most common crops grown during the 19th century.
The population grew slowly but steadily; by 1850 Livonia Township was home to around 800 residents. However, the landscape remained predominantly rural and undeveloped during this period.
Things began to change at the dawn of the 20th century. The electric Interurban railway opened a station in Livonia in 1902, improving transportation links to Detroit and other regional hubs.
This spurred commercial and residential development, especially along the main rail and wagon thoroughfares.
Livonia was also impacted by the establishment of the nearby Ford Motor Company in Dearborn in 1903 and the subsequent growth of the auto industry, bringing an influx of workers and associated businesses to the area.
Livonia Township was formally incorporated as a village in 1950 and then transitioned to city status in 1958. An aggressive annexation program brought additional land under Livonia’s jurisdiction during the 1950s and 60s, expanding the city’s boundaries.
Livonia saw a population boom in the decades following World War II, transitioning from a small farming village of just a few thousand residents into one of metro Detroit’s largest suburbs, home to over 100,000 people by 1970.
Today, Livonia covers an area spanning 36 square miles and has a population exceeding 94,000 residents according to recent census estimates.
While no longer having an economy centered on agriculture, Livonia retains a bit of its historical small-town charm even as it has grown into the 10th largest city in Michigan.
Livonia is located about 15 miles west of downtown Detroit in southeast Michigan. It sits within a bed of glacially derived soils known as the Detroit Moraine that rises up to 200 feet higher than the surrounding landscape.
This gives Livonia a relatively hilly terrain compared to other parts of metro Detroit.
The city has a rectangular shape spanning 36 square miles. Livonia is bounded to the north by the Six Mile corridor and to the south by I-96/Jeffries Freeway, putting it about midway between the 8 Mile and 96/275 freeways that essentially encircle Detroit.
The city shares boundaries with Westland and Redford Township to the east and Farmington Hills to the west.
Several small lakes and streams are found within Livonia. Johnson Creek and Tonquish Creek run south through the city before emptying into the Rouge River in the southwest corner near Hines Park.
Directly east of Hines Park are several kettle lakes that formed as ice blocks melted amid glacial debris, leaving depressions. Some of the notable lakes include Newburgh, McKinley, Saywell, and Nash. These provide aesthetic value and recreation opportunities for the city.
A diverse landscape consisting of woodlands, wetlands, lakes, creeks, parks, subdivisions, office buildings, shopping centers, and industrial zones creates a varied geographical portrait within Livonia’s 36 square miles.
The terrain tends to be flat or gently rolling, with higher elevations centered near Schoolcraft Road decreasing outward.
This mix of natural and built environments along with Livonia’s higher elevation and inland location give the city a slightly different feel than communities bounded by rivers or canals.
The landscape underlying Livonia was shaped over 10,000+ years ago by the advance and retreat of massive glacial ice sheets during the last Ice Age.
As they scraped and gouged the land beneath, these glaciers molded the terrain and laid down thick layers of debris. This glacial activity directly impacted the topography and soil composition of the area now occupied by the city.
In particular, Livonia sits atop the Detroit Moraine – an arc-shaped ridge spanning dozens of miles through southeast Michigan.
Formed along the front edge of a retreating ice sheet, moraines consist of an assortment of mixed sediments left piled behind by the glacier. The Detroit Moraine rises nearly 200 feet higher than the adjacent lands, creating rolling terrain.
The city’s higher elevation compared to surrounding communities along the rivers means Livonia largely sits atop sandy deposits rather than the clay soils found in the ancient lakebed downstream.
Coarse-grained sands, gravel, and pebbles washed out from the melting glaciers tend to dominate surface geology across much of Livonia. In some areas, these unsorted glacial sediments reach hundreds of feet thick.
The glacier also left behind chunks of isolated ice that were buried under debris as the ice sheet dissipated. When these blocks melted, they created small depressions in the landscape – a geological feature known as kettle lakes.
Several of these waterbodies formed within Livonia’s borders. The term “kettle” comes from the kettle-like shape of the round hollows formed through this glacial process.
So in summary – rolling terrain, stratified layers of mixed glacial sediments, and kettle lakes characterize the landscape carved by ancient glaciers that originally shaped Livonia’s geology as we know it today.
As a large suburban city encompassing 36 square miles of territory, Livonia is comprised of many distinct neighborhoods. Most neighborhoods are centered around the public elementary schools and often bear the name of the school.
For example, Webster Elementary neighborhood or Johnson Upper Elementary neighborhood. Below outlines a few of Livonia’s major residential areas:
Rosedale Gardens – One of Livonia’s oldest neighborhoods, founded in the 1920s with homes built mostly between the 1940s-60s. Known for its classic brick ranch houses, mature trees, and family-friendly vibe.
Idyl Wyld & Seven Mile – 19 Mile corridor features various subdivisions filled with 1950-70s tri-levels, Cape Cods & ranches. Close to great schools, parks, hiking/biking trails.
Kirksey & Lyndon – Orchard Lake Rd south to Schoolcraft Rd between Middlebelt and Inkster. Mix of small starter homes to large colonials on acreage. Convenient to both 96 and 96.
Franklin – Northwestern area adjacent to Hines Park and intersecting 96 freeway. Has scenic views and a semi-rural feeling while still close to shopping/dining. Offers affordable housing options.
Plymouth-Schoolcraft – Southeast corridor along Schoolcraft Road with quick access to both 96 and 275 freeways as well as downtown Plymouth amenities. Area features charming bungalows to custom executive homes.
Stark – Larger lots with wooded scenery around Stark Rd between 5 and 6 Mile Roads. Custom-built brick homes give the neighborhood an upscale but private, peaceful ambiance. Conveniently located near both Laurel Park Place and Livonia Mall shopping.
In general, homes get newer and lot sizes increase moving from the eastern border with Westland/Redford outward west/northwest toward Farmington Hills.
But Landmarks like Hines Park, Schoolcraft College or Laurel Park Place tend to orient some neighborhoods as well. Livonia has much to offer homebuyers with its diverse mix of housing stock and community types to fit varying needs and budgets.
Straddling the line between humid continental and humid subtropical climates, Livonia’s weather patterns can feature wide seasonal variation. Summers are warm and frequently humid, while winters often bring cold temps with moderate but regular snowfall.
On average, Livonia sees around 30 inches of precipitation yearly. Seasonal snow totals average just over 40 inches, with the majority occurring from November to March.
While large snowstorms may sporadically dump up to a foot or more of snow, winter weather also fluctuates between cold snaps and intermittent midseason warm-ups where rain and ice can occur.
Summers are predominantly warm, sunny and humid, with temps reaching up to and exceeding 90°F for stretches in late July/early August.
However short cold fronts may also sweep the area in summer. Spring and fall are transitional – April/May and October/November can vary widely between short weather and winter coats from one day to the next as moderate Pacific air masses and cold Arctic fronts regularly cycle through the Great Lakes basin.
Being located inland from the Detroit River and Great Lakes, Livonia’s climate tends to be marginally warmer in winter but slightly cooler during summer compared to coastal Michigan cities.
Its position within the Detroit Moraine also means areas of higher elevation in the city may see variance in amounts of lake effect snow and precipitation compared to surrounding flatter terrain
As of the 2020 census, Livonia had a population of 94,471 residents. This represents a slight decline from its peak of over 100,000 in the 1970s, indicative of an aging inner-ring suburb.
Livonia’s population is predominantly white (85%), with black, Asian, and Hispanic residents making up most of the minority population at around 5% each.
Over 60% of households are owner-occupied. The median age is 39.5 years with 22% retirement age and 20% under 18.
Compared to Wayne County, Livonia’s population skews older, more white and Asian, middle to upper-middle income, and centered around families.
Livonia has a fairly educated population, with 39% holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median household income is $71,000.
Livonia saw its greatest growth during the 1950s and 1960s but gains have slowed since its 1970s population peak.
Declining household sizes and aging baby boomers present challenges for the mature suburban city moving forward. Efforts to attract young professionals and increase diversity have been implemented.
Livonia has a diverse economic base grounded in technology, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and professional industries. Many global corporations, small businesses and startups call Livonia home.
As of 2020, the largest industries by share of total city employment are:
- Healthcare and Social Services (17%)
- Retail Trade (15%)
- Manufacturing (13%)
Leading private sector employers headquartered in Livonia include Trinity Health at St. Mary Mercy hospital, automotive supplier Ghafari Associates, Masco Cabinetry unit, credit union developer Member First Mortgage and national restaurant franchisor Buffalo Wild Wings.
Other major Michigan-based firms with sizable facilities in Livonia include Roush Industries, Clarience Technologies and the Michigan Science Center. State and local government entities are also integral employers providing jobs and community services.
In addition to large anchor employers, small businesses across industries play a key role. Industrial zones on the north and west sides along I-96/275 host distribution hubs along with niche manufacturing and assembly shops supporting automotive, defense, and medical technology sectors.
Professional services, corporate offices and tech firms cluster near the city’s highways and corridors by Six Mile and Schoolcraft Roads. Numerous retail centers and essential local services round out Livonia’s diverse economic landscape.
New businesses are attracted by Livonia’s educated workforce, relative affordability and accessibility to the whole metro region.
Livonia provides a prime location between Detroit and Ann Arbor along major freeways near airports, drawing both young startups and large corporations seeking talent and growth opportunities. Ongoing public-private collaborations also aim to nurture emerging industries.
Livonia’s culture reflects its heritage as a community founded by Protestant immigrant families seeking religious freedom and economic self-sufficiency on the 19th century Great Lakes frontier.
The city has retained much of its Midwestern small town character even as it urbanized over the 20th century into one of metro Detroit’s largest suburbs.
Residents take pride in hometown institutions like the Livonia Public Schools district, which is centered around its comprehensive public high schools including Churchill, Franklin, and Stevenson.
Civic amenities such as Greenmead Historical Park, Livonia Community Recreation Center, Kirksey Recreation Center and numerous city parks provide gathering places fostering community cohesion.
Various cultural events also showcase Livonia’s local talent while bringing residents together. Long-running institutions like the Livonia Arts Commission Gallery which displays regional artists, the Livonia Symphony Orchestra, and community theatre groups such as the Livonia Civic Theater Guild supplement a range of multicultural offerings.
Newer initiatives like the Livonia Small Business Expo provide updated platforms connecting residents across generations.
Livonia’s built environment also reflects post-war suburban design patterns as subdivisions, malls and office parks typified decades of growth.
Yet walkable districts hearkening to early village roots contrast with these more auto-centric areas. Downtown Livonia near Five Mile and Farmington retains its original 20th century storefronts along tree-lined sidewalks.
Nearby Laurel Park Place opened in 1989 with a pedestrian-friendly open air concept that has aged well.
So blending heritage and progress, Livonia’s community culture balances traditional Midwestern sensibilities with adapting to inevitable change over its nearly 200 years of history.
Residents share a common pride and investment in the city’s schools, arts, parks, neighborhoods and small businesses framing Livonia’s local way of life.
Colleges and universities
While no major universities exist directly within Livonia’s city limits, the city provides convenient access to several high quality academic institutions in nearby cities:
Schoolcraft College – Livonia’s own two-year community college sits right on the city’s southern border with Garden City. Founded in 1961 and relocated to its current campus off Haggerty Road in 1967, Schoolcraft offers both associates degrees and vocational certifications focused on applied skills training for careers.
Madonna University – This four-year Catholic institution in Livonia offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs focused on the arts, humanities, teaching and nursing/health fields.
Madonna was founded in 1937 and has been located since 1991 in southwest Livonia off Levan Road near I-96.
Eastern Michigan University – One of Michigan’s major public universities, EMU’s campus sits just 10 minutes northeast of Livonia in Ypsilanti.
Eastern Michigan has over 300 academic programs including top ranked education, nursing, business and technology schools. The university was established in 1849.
University of Michigan – The University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor main campus is situated 25 miles west of Livonia. As Michigan’s oldest university founded in 1817, U-M is world renowned and considered a top global research institution with around 50,000 students in its 19 different colleges and schools.
So while Livonia may not be a quintessential college town, higher education options abound nearby. And the city is frequently home to professors, students and graduates affiliated with Schoolcraft, Madonna, EMU University of Michigan schools seeking an affordable and family-friendly community to call home.
As part of the large Detroit media market which spans southeast Michigan and Windsor, Canada; Livonia residents have access to a multitude of information and entertainment outlets through:
Newspapers – The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, Michigan’s largest daily newspapers, both provide Livonia coverage and are widely available in print form or online. The hometown Livonia Observer has provided community-focused reporting since 1964.
Broadcast TV Stations – Livonia falls within coverage spanning metro Detroit’s Big Four affiliate channels – WJBK Fox 2, WDIV Local 4, WXYZ 7 Action News and WWJ CBS Detroit at 62.
These have main studios based within 30 minutes of Livonia and all run regular local interest stories along with syndicated network programming.
Radio Stations – Numerous AM/FM radio outlets with transmitters scattered around the metro play popular music, sports, news, and talk programming.
Stations like 96.3 WDVD, 89X, 104.3 WOMC and 97.1 The Ticket attract many area commuters and radio listeners tuning in from home.
Magazines – Local interest publications like Hour Detroit and Ambassador cover events, arts, culture and lifestyle content across southeast Michigan including western Wayne county. The Observer & Eccentric Review provides Livonia-focused stories and happenings.
Internet News and Forums – Residents increasingly get both local and national news coverage along with community information through online sources.
These include hometownlife.com, the Livonia city website, Nextdoor app neighborhood forums and various social media groups.
So Livonia media consumers can tap everything from global headlines to what’s happening down the block through this robust network of news outlets available via both traditional and emerging digital channels. Options cater to all ages and interests around home, family, jobs, events and more.
Livonia has excellent transportation access via a network of highways, major roads, and rail infrastructure crossing the city:
- Interstates 96 and 275 provide high-speed east-west and north-south routes around Livonia connecting to downtown Detroit and airports.
- Schoolcraft Road runs diagonally southwest-northeast across Livonia as a major commercial thoroughfare with retail, dining and services.
- 7 Mile Road is a primary east-west artery through Livonia lined by local businesses.
- Middlebelt and Inkster Roads also carry high traffic volumes across Livonia.
- Amtrak and commuter rail lines stop at the Livonia Station.
- Local bus service is provided by SMART bus system.
Major highways like I-96 and I-275 experienced congestion during peak periods, leading to some redevelopment of service drives and improvements at major interchanges.
The availability of multiple parallel roadways provides alternative routes for navigating metro Detroit. Livonia maintains over 1,800 lane miles of road.
Some of Livonia’s major landmarks and points of interest include:
- Laurel Park Place – Large upscale shopping mall off 6 Mile Road built in 1989, encompassing 1.4 million square feet and over 140 stores.
- Greenmead Historical Park – 19th century farmstead with historic homes and buildings from Livonia’s early settlement. Hosts community events.
- Ford Transmission Plant – Major manufacturing plant that has produced transmissions since the 1950s employing thousands of workers.
- Livonia City Hall – The historic municipal building constructed in 1953 from limestone quarried in Livonia.
- Livonia Recreation Center – Large public recreation complex with indoor and outdoor pools, gyms, fitness center, walking track and more.
- Schoolcraft College – Major community college campus spanning 122 acres with instructional buildings, sports facilities, and walking trails.
- St. Mary Mercy Hospital – Branch of Trinity Health hospital network and a major employer in Livonia.
- Kirksey Recreation Area – 300 acre park site containing ball fields, playgrounds, ice arena, picnic shelters, and the Jack E. Kirksey Community Center.
- Livonia Public Library – The Civic Center Branch built in 2001 houses over 200,000 items and serves as the main public library.
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