Grosse Pointe CityFebruary 5, 2014
Former Village ACE to get facelift and new tenants
By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer
GROSSE POINTE CITY — The Village may not be getting another hardware store — at least not at the moment — but it will soon be getting at least one new retailer inside the former ACE Hardware store at 17101 Kercheval.
Calico Corners, a national fabric, furniture and home-items store, which currently has a retail location in St. Clair Shores, is looking to move from that storefront to a new, 3,234-square-foot section of the ACE building, where it will occupy space at the corner of Kercheval and St. Clair.
During a Jan. 27 City Council meeting, Jim Bellanca, who represents Kercheval Company LLC, which owns the ACE buildings, presented a proposal to repurpose the building in a way that he hopes will attract new tenants to the space and new businesses to the Village.
Bellanca told the council that about 7,000 square feet are already leased — which includes Calico Corners — and the other 22,000 square feet are “up for grabs.” The building’s interior has been reconfigured so that, for example, they can fit three 1,500-square-foot retailers in one corner, he said.
“The (belief) is … if we build it, they will come,” said Bellanca of what he has admitted is a “leap of faith” by the Kercheval Company. It comes in the wake of nearly a year and a half of searching for an appropriate big-box tenant for the ACE space, which announced plans to move in 2012. The large storefront has been vacant since January 2013, and Bellanca said they’ve spent the last 16 months trying to find a retailer to fill the void left by that longtime anchor.
“We just couldn’t find the right big-box (store),” Bellanca said.
The entire building is getting a massive upgrade, and Bellanca said they’re dividing it into 12-14 spaces for different uses. Some along the back, facing a parking lot and the Neighborhood Club Recreation and Wellness Center, have been designed for possible commercial use. Although it had not been identified at press time, Bellanca said there was at least one commercial user for part of the rear of the building.
City Planner John Jackson, of McKenna Associates, said the exterior renovations include a façade that can accommodate a range of different tenant configurations, and he praised the proposed use of materials such as stone, brick and limestone veneer, Fypon and Azek for trim and synthetic slate for the roof over two of the retail spaces. These materials are “consistent with our ordinances and consistent with the character of the Village,” Jackson said of the conceptual renderings, done by Mertz Design, of Grosse Pointe City.
“This will be a tremendous asset to the community and a tremendous improvement to the building,” Jackson continued. “They’ve introduced a lot of variety, but it still all ties together.”
City officials echoed that sentiment.
“It’s going to be a huge improvement to the look, to the feel of that building, that corner,” City Council member Andrew Turnbull said. “It all looks great, and it’s going to be nice to have that flexible space. … I think it’s going to be a vibrant area of the Village.”
City Council member Jean Weipert called it “a substantial improvement over what’s there,” and Mayor Dale Scrace agreed.
Like Turnbull, City Council member Christopher Walsh said dividing the space was a clever idea.
“It’s exciting to see,” Walsh said of new development at the site. “It’s more workable (divided among many tenants) than (one) 30,000 square foot space.”
Another possible tenant is a restaurant that could offer some outdoor seating along St. Clair, but details about that weren’t available at press time. Jackson said the City is “in support of outdoor seating on a conceptual basis,” but they would “reserve the right to review it in the future” to make sure it didn’t create parking or other challenges, make sure the furniture met certain standards, and address any other possible concerns.
At press time, Bellanca said they were in talks with several other prospective tenants, including a pub/bar group for the St. Clair location.
Aside from who the future tenants might be, one of the remaining questions was how the development would meet the City’s demand for access to loading from the alley at the back, facing the parking lot. Bellanca said they were hesitant to cut a corridor through the center of the ACE building because that would cost them about 1,500 square feet of otherwise usable space.
“It could be a considerable expense over the years,” he said.
Bellanca said they’re now in talks with neighboring St. John Providence Health System — which took over the old Borders store — about entering into an agreement with them that would enable tenants of the ACE building to use their corridor to the alley.
“Our position is … there shall be no loading from Kercheval,” City Manager Pete Dame said. “All loading shall be from the alley. … It’s our standard and expected practice. … We don’t care how they do it.”
Dame said that could mean the creation of a service corridor, if an agreement can’t be reached between St. John and Kercheval Company.
The council unanimously approved the overall site plan concept, as well as signs for Calico Corners, with several conditions, including coordinating with the City over removal and replacement of trees on St. Clair, providing more information about outdoor seating capacity and furnishings, offering more details about architectural features for the rear façade, and evaluating parking needs as future tenants become part of the development. Jackson also recommended a master plan for signs for the whole building, so that they’d all be harmonious with one another.
Any single use that isn’t retail, that calls for more parking than the building offers or that is larger than 5,000 square feet would require individual site plan approval by the council, the planners said.
Work is expected to start almost immediately.
“As quickly as I can get a permit issued, we’re breaking ground,” Bellanca said. At press time, he said they were hoping to have a June 1 opening for Calico Corners and the other as-yet unnamed tenant that has thus far committed to the building.