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January 7, 2013

Hotel, apartments among plans for former Fresard lot

400 N. Main development could include retail, restaurant, parking deck

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
A five-story office/retail building and an eight-story hotel is proposed as part of a mixed-use complex on the northeast corner of Main and University.

ROYAL OAK — It’s still several months down the line, and the project may not even break ground in 2013, but the latest plans for developing the former Fresard auto dealership lot at 400 N. Main are on the table.

Investor group 400 Main LLC and Krieger-Klatt Architects Inc. were among those before the Planning Commission last month to discuss a proposed $35 million mixed-use project at the unused lot. The group is proposing a complex consisting of four multi-level buildings and a parking structure.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved a preliminary special land use permit and special redevelopment site plan, with contingencies. The approvals will allow the developers to begin talks with potential tenants and hotel groups; Hilton is reportedly at the top of the list.

“This is just another step in the process,” Mayor Jim Ellison clarified during the meeting. “We’re not making any hard, firm decisions on anything tonight.”

Among the highlights of the proposed project would be an eight-story hotel and eight-story apartment building, plus three- and five-story retail/office spaces. To provide parking would be a four-level off-street parking deck.

As proposed, a three-story office/retail building would go on the southeast corner of Main and Pingree Boulevard, while the five-story variation would go on the northeast corner of Main and University Avenue. The proposed hotel would be attached to the north end of the five-story office/retail building.

The apartment building would be located east of the hotel and taller office building, off University Avenue, with the parking deck located behind it, with entry off University.

“I’ve seen a lot of plans over quite a long time, and you did a better job of an initial cut of a major project than I’ve seen a lot of people do,” Planning Commission Chairman Tom Hallock said to the developers. “I was a little shocked when I opened it up and saw the placement of the buildings, because I couldn’t complain about it. You did it right. You listened to what was being said to you. You placed the small where it belonged. You put the big where it belonged. You have a nice, unified-looking front.”

The Planning Commission had few issues with the layout of the plan, but questioned whether the complex would have enough parking. The 431-space parking structure and additional ground-level spaces would have to accommodate patrons of 114 hotel rooms, 82 apartments and then retail, restaurant and office employees and visitors.

“The only thing that concerns me, the only thing that we could get wrong, is the parking,” Planning Commissioner Clyde Esbri said. “And if we get that wrong, these people are going to pay the price. That’s the only reason I wish we’d reconsider that 1.5 (spaces per apartment rate, instead of two).”

Rich & Associates, who were hired as parking consultants by the developers, determined 526 spaces would be needed for the complex. The Planning Department initially recommended 732 spaces, but new parking studies by both sides will be done before more action is taken, which is not expected until June.

“We’ll see you back in six months and hopefully have all those issues worked out, but don’t not communicate with us over those six months,” Ellison said.

As opposed to being done all at once, the Planning Commission suggested developing the site in phases, beginning with the hotel. Located immediately north of the Main North lofts, the eight-story building would be shorter than their neighbors, alleviating some concerns about overshadowing smaller neighboring businesses.

“The proposed hotel and the restaurant are not the biggest monsters on the block here,” Ellison said.

After the Planning Commission approves final conceptual designs, they will need approval by the City Commission before developers receive the full go-ahead with the project.

Artistic renderings and blueprints for the proposed development are viewable at www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Chris Jackett at cjackett@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1110.