Royal Oak developed initially as a suburb after Detroit boomed as a major industrial city. People began to move to the suburbs for newer housing, especially after World War II. It had a compact, traditional street-side shopping district, which runs along Main Street and Washington Avenue downtown. During the 2000s, this area was redeveloped with numerous new businesses, and is now considered a trendy, upscale, urban-chic district, featuring restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. A number of mixed-use high-rise developments have been constructed — mostly condo “lofts” with retail and office space on the lower levels.
Points of interest include the Detroit Zoo, a major regional tourist attraction, the William Beaumont Hospital, the Royal Oak Music Theatre, the Main Art Theatre, the Baldwin Theatre, Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle, Emagine Theater, and shops, cafes, and restaurants. The main offices of Hour Detroit media, which publishes Metro Detroit’s lifestyle magazine, are located in the city.
The National Arbor Day Foundation has awarded Royal Oak the distinction of “Tree City USA” every year since 1976 as a result of the city’s commitment to tree planting and preservation.
The Gilda Radner Hereditary Cancer Program is a foundation set up by Detroit-area native Gilda Radner, who is known for her work as a comedian of Saturday Night Live. In 1998 the Program created a free cancer support community for people with cancer, their families, and friends. Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit operates a three-story non-residential house in Royal Oak. It has served more than 3,000 members for social and emotional support through a variety of activities.
Major employers in Royal Oak include William Beaumont Hospital with 7,147 employees, The City of Royal Oak with 465 employees, Royal Oak Public Schools with 482 employees, Oakland Community College with 448 employees, Consumers Energy with 351 employees, Flex-N-Gate with 350 employees, the Detroit Zoo with 301 employees, Holiday Market with 300 employees, and HHI- Form Tech with 290 employees.