Portion of pivotal Village building getting a new look

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 3, 2023

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GROSSE POINTE CITY — A prominent Village structure is getting some interior and exterior renovations that officials believe will be positive for the retail district.

The multi-tenant, mixed use structure 17000 Kercheval Ave. — aka Kercheval Place — is getting some façade changes, new landscaping, outdoor seating for a tenant and two new retail spaces. City Planner Gage Belko, of McKenna Associates, noted during an Aug. 21 Grosse Pointe City Council meeting that this is a “cornerstone building” in The Village; it’s also home to one of the district’s major retailers, Trader Joe’s.

Sitting as both the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Commission, the City Council — which functions as both of the aforementioned — had to rule on a variance and a site plan, both of which it approved unanimously Aug. 21.

The variance, which pertains to the St. Clair Avenue side of the building, was to deviate from the required 70% of window frontage for the new retail spaces.

“Overall, we do support this design,” Belko said. “We think it’s really going to activate this side of town.”

Belko said the plan will replace two large black marble insets with windows. Project architect Jeff Klatt, of Krieger Klatt Architects Inc., said there are windows on that part of the building now, so this is actually adding transparency, not reducing it.

“I think this is a huge upgrade from what is there now,” City Councilman Seth Krupp said.

As to the site plan, it includes the creation of an outdoor café for a new and improved Village Starbucks location, Belko said. The current Starbucks, located across the street, will be closing once work on the new space is done.

Starbucks will be one of two new retail spaces created by this renovation.

“There’s good interest in the space,” said the project’s director of construction, Dale Scrace. An architect whose office is in Kercheval Place, Scrace is a former Grosse Pointe City mayor and council member.

The façade design includes wood trim details, traditional light fixtures and awnings, Belko said.

“Overall, we do recommend approval,” Belko told the council. “We find this to be an excellent design.”

A portion of the existing landscaping wall will be demolished to make way for the entrance to the new tenants, and Belko said right-of-way landscaping and streetscaping will be modified.

Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak said the existing plantings are “a little bit tired” and she would like to see some upgrades and a landscape design that didn’t appear lopsided.

Kercheval Place representatives said that’s what they have planned.

“The idea is to balance that out,” Klatt said.

He said they’re working with Tocco Mannino Landscaping and their landscape plan will be reviewed by City administrators to make sure it’s cohesive with the district.

Scrace said they’re considering adding pink Knock Out roses, boxwoods and maybe a yew.

The adjacent plaza will remain open.

“This plan doesn’t encroach on any (part) of the existing plaza,” Tomkowiak said.

Site plan approval came with several conditions, including that the outdoor seating area not be in use between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and that the railing around the outdoor seating area be stored when not in regular use.

Scrace said they hope to begin interior demolition in early October.