City asks residents for input on new public safety building

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 20, 2018

 The former Alger’s Deli & Liquor store at the corner of St. Clair Street and Mack Avenue will be torn down to make way for a new Grosse Pointe City Public Safety building.

The former Alger’s Deli & Liquor store at the corner of St. Clair Street and Mack Avenue will be torn down to make way for a new Grosse Pointe City Public Safety building.

File photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Grosse Pointe City officials are seeking input from their residents as they come up with a design for a new public safety facility, which will be constructed at 17320 Mack Ave., on the site of the former Alger’s Deli & Liquor store.

On Feb. 6, the City unveiled possible architectural styles for the building during a special meeting that was attended by a handful of residents. At press time, a special council meeting to present a potential design was slated to take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 26, although that date could change.

David Gassen, a principal with Partners in Architecture, said that they’re looking at creating a new 17,000-square-foot facility, which includes 4,500 square feet for vehicle bays. The building containing public safety offices would be two stories tall and would include a basement, Gassen said. They’re looking at putting the two-story building closer to Mack and stepping down the height of structures for public safety vehicles and other needs as they get closer to residences. The architects want to make sure the tallest portions of the facility aren’t looming over homes in the adjacent neighborhood.

“We’re looking at the heights of buildings (in conjunction with) where the houses sit,” said Lauren Gallinger, project manager with Partners in Architecture.

Architectural styles were still being discussed at press time.

“Contextually, we’re trying to fit in” with the community, said Gassen, noting that they’re looking at using classic architectural elements, such as brick masonry. They’re also exploring the prospect of giving public safety vehicle bays along Mack more of a carriage house appearance, he said.

Considerations include creating flexible spaces for training and other activities, and an efficient flow of movement so that officers can get out of the building and head to an emergency scene within 60 seconds, Gassen said.

He said they’re looking at present needs “and needs going forward 20 years,” trying to make sure that whatever is built will remain functional in the future. As part of that, a training tower is contemplated as part of the public safety facilities.

Gassen said they could do the project without the tower, “but it’s really desired in helping your team prepare to serve the community. It’s really a desirable part, not just for today, but for future preparedness for your firefighting.”

Visitor parking is likely to be located along St. Clair Street — where the Alger store had several off-street spaces next to its building — and along Mack, in front of the public safety building. Gassen said they anticipate having about nine spaces total — five on St. Clair and four on Mack — “which is more than enough,” he said. St. Clair wouldn’t need to be widened for parking, because cutouts for off-street parking already exist, Gassen said.

As to whether the City would be using the Staples store parking lot next door, Mayor Christopher Boettcher said there were no plans to do so.

“We don’t need it,” he said after the meeting.

However, should circumstances change or should the City need additional parking, Boettcher said they would work with Staples to possibly share some of that lot.

Partners in Architecture is also working on the new Jim Saros Real Estate Services building; the former building was destroyed during a 2016 fire. Because the new public safety building on Mack is only a couple of blocks away, the architects are keeping the appearance of both buildings in mind as they come up with the design for public safety.

“The Saros building is going to make a huge impact on the (Mack) streetscape,” Gassen said.

Jimmy Saros, the vice president of Jim Saros Real Estate Services, voiced support for possibly using red brick on the new public safety building.

“I think it’s a great design,” Saros said. “I think Grosse Pointe is more of a red brick community.”

Saros said he feels his building and public safety will both “be huge in creating some momentum for Mack.”

Residents likewise seemed pleased with the design ideas.

“I’m happy with what I saw,” said City resident Debbie Fox, wife of retired City Public Safety Director James Fox. “It’s going to fit well with the neighborhood.”

Former City mayor Dale Scrace, who served until last November and worked with City officials on the bond that paved the way for this project, praised the architects for their efforts to make the building fit in with the community.

“It doesn’t give you the look of a fire hall,” Scrace said at the meeting. “It almost gives you the look of an office building. … I like the use of the brick and stone — materials you’ll find throughout our (city).”

At press time, Gassen said they didn’t know yet when the Alger store would be demolished to make way for the new building. He said construction on the public safety facility is slated to start circa late summer or early fall this year. If that schedule stays the same, Gassen said, the new facility would be completed in roughly a year.

To see if the special meeting is taking place Feb. 26, check the City’s website later this week at www.grossepointecity.org.