The Samurai Steakhouse, left, and the former Ginger’s Cafe and Gourmet Shoppe, right, are currently zoned as Central Business District, where restaurants and residential dwellings on upper stories of mixed-use buildings are allowed.

The Samurai Steakhouse, left, and the former Ginger’s Cafe and Gourmet Shoppe, right, are currently zoned as Central Business District, where restaurants and residential dwellings on upper stories of mixed-use buildings are allowed.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Apartments, steakhouse, sushi bar expansion plans discussed in Farmington

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published August 20, 2018


FARMINGTON — The Farmington Planning Commission unanimously approved a conceptual/preliminary planned unit development site plan review for Samurai Steakhouse Restaurant, 32905 Grand River Ave., Aug. 13.

The approval comes with a condition that the plan include more details on finding parking solutions.

The preliminary plans will be sent to the Farmington City Council; a final plan — pending council’s approval — would then be sent back to the Planning Commission at a later date.

According to city documents, plans for the proposed project — on two parcels comprising 0.76 acres — include changing the former Ginger’s Cafe and Gourmet Shoppe into a sushi bar; next to that, former Grand Bakery & Cafe, 32821 Grand River Ave., would be a Samurai Steakhouse and apartments. 

The former bakery currently has space for a restaurant and three apartment units.

According to city documents, the site is currently zoned as a Central Business District, where restaurants and residential dwellings on upper stories of mixed-use buildings are allowed. 

In an Aug. 6  engineering review letter to Farmington Economic and Community Development Director Kevin Christiansen, Livonia-based OHM Advisors detailed that the applicant, Samurai Steakhouse owner En Xie — who also owns a restaurant of the same name in West Bloomfield — with Michael Kemsley, a broker for the Plymouth-based Main St. Realtors, are proposing improvements to the existing building at the former Grand Bakery. The improvements include a 61-seat restaurant and the three residential units.

They are proposing a four-story building at the site of the former Ginger’s building as a planned unit development. It would house a 100-seat restaurant and 12 residential units, according to the report.

During a June 18 Farmington City Council meeting, City Council members unanimously approved Samurai Steakhouse obtaining a liquor license.  According to a city press release, Xie purchased the former Grand Bakery building and the next-door property to redevelop the site.  

According to city documents, Samurai Steakhouse is projected to open in October and will feature a hibachi grill experience, a sushi bar and craft cocktails. 

“The site plan features complete interior renovation of the first-floor restaurant space and second-floor residential units, an exterior façade improvement, and parking lot reconstruction,” states the press release. 

A proposed location for a crosswalk along Grand River Avenue for pedestrians and customers to access the proposed site and other off-site parking locations downtown was also discussed. 

The applicant also proposed to use existing on-street parking along the south side of Grand River Avenue, according to city documents. The plan includes the existing building and parking lot, as well as a proposed parking lot in the neighboring parcel, at 32905 Grand River Ave., the document states. The plan includes 30 proposed parking spaces, including two barrier-free spaces, in the neighboring parcel.

Marguerite Novak, of OHM, said during the meeting that the engineering review letter also addresses compliance with the city’s zoning and downtown master plans, and a downtown parking study.

She added that the developer’s plan generally meets requirements, with the exception of a few discrepancies in landscaped, pedestrian-oriented designs, building design and parking.

Novak said that further information is needed on the proposed crosswalk to ensure safety and feasibility.

“In terms of setback, the site setback is currently less than required under Central Business District zoning,” she said, “but it is compatible with adjacent properties’ existing development.”

She said that the city’s downtown master plan calls for an increase in pedestrian crossings along Grand River Avenue.

“We just felt that was important to note this plan did have potential,” she said of the proposed crosswalk.

The engineering letter added that the proposed design helps support the city’s goals to add more residential and commercial opportunities, with the encouragement of mixed-use developments downtown. 

The letter was intended to help the Planning Commission discussion, Novak said, adding that the developers are encouraged to work with the city to make any adjustments.

Planning Commissioner Steven Majoros said during the meeting that he was a “little surprised” by the plan.

“(The) last time we saw it, it was a two-story building with three apartments or four, and today it is a four-story (building) with 15,” he said. “Is there just some explanation of the change of the fundamentals of that building?”

Sal D’Aleo, project architect, said the change was “an economic move.”

“The idea is to — while we’re at it — maximize the potential for the site,” he said. 

The apartment rental rates would be about $1,000 per month.

D’Aleo said that the Grand Bakery & Cafe building is retrofitted currently to house the sushi bar.

“Ultimately, the idea of creating a second structure would be to house, basically, the second half of their business,” he said of the plan. “Ultimately, these two buildings would continue that urban feel of that street front.”

He added that, essentially, the plan is to take the adjacent site and combine it, creating one development. 

D’Aleo said that the first floor would be the hibachi restaurant, with apartments above and a patio space to provide connectivity to a rear parking lot.

“(We) want to create visual continuity and reinforce that kind of urban edge,” he said. 

Majoros also asked about the barn behind the Ginger’s building.

“What is up with the barn? … I would like to put that to bed,” he said.

A 1890s barn, about 30 feet tall, will make way for Samurai Steakhouse. It will be moved to Pontiac, under the direction of the Pontiac-based Oakland County Pioneer and Historical Society.

The barn is not located in the city’s historic district, and it does not have a historic district designation as protection from redevelopment. Earlier this year, there were questions about whether it would be torn down or not.

Kemsley said that, initially, they hired a contracting company for the barn for about $20,000.

“They walked away with our money — we are in litigation right now,” he said. 

The barn was slated to be moved the week of Aug. 20.

Majoros also addressed a concern with parking as it relates to the development.

Kemsley said that for the past three months they have met with surrounding parking lot and building owners to discuss parking options.

D’Aleo said that he is sure the Planning Commission is “well aware” of some deficiencies.

“Mainly parking — that is the biggest deficiency,” he said, adding that 70 parking spots are required, and the two establishments would only provide 39 on-site.

“We’re asking for approval of utilization of street parking to get the number required,” he said, adding that they could pick up another 31 parking spots on the street.

“We are certainly open-minded, and the owner is, to utilize adjacent properties. Again, agreements would need to be put in place … potential areas of shared parking that we would like to identify,” D’Aleo said, adding that the rear of the apartment development, directly behind the proposed site, might be a good spot for building residents to park.

He said that a crosswalk at the front of the building to connect to what seems like an “underutilized” parking lot across Grand River at the Farmington Village Commons shopping center could be an alternative.

Mike Liadis, who spoke on behalf of Farmington Village Commons, suggested that his potential across-the-street neighbor build underground parking.

“If they are 20 cars short and they are building a building, why don’t they put the parking under the building?” he said, adding that they are putting the parking problem onto surrounding neighbors.

Liadis also said that it is not “really appropriate” to ask business neighbors for their parking spaces when those spaces could be used by tenants who might leave their cars overnight or for days at a time.

Kemsley said a “simple fix” would be to do a one-story building instead of four stories, limiting their residential footprint. “That would solve that — I wouldn’t want to.”

Commissioner David Gronbach asked if the apartment dwellers would use specifically assigned parking.

“I’m assuming you’re not intending them to park down the street, across the street? You’re talking along the back of your property, whatever, having specific assigned parking?”

Kemsley confirmed with a “correct.”

Liadis said that the Village Commons has a new tenant coming in, and he is uncertain on how much parking they will use.

“I have no idea how much parking they are going to take but, hopefully, a lot, because they are going to be busy.”

Majoros asked if there is a strategy for having employee, patron and residential parking.

Kemsley said not to date.

“We haven’t really given that too much thought,” he said, adding that he is relying on the project engineer.

Bob Steinhaus, a Grand River Cruisers car club founding member, spoke during public comment section and said that the 10-year-old club meets seasonally on Monday nights at the Village Commons shopping center. He said that on Aug. 13 there were about 50 cars. Attendees come at about 4 p.m. and leave around 9 p.m.

He added that the nonprofit group “obviously” takes up parking spaces and has an arrangement with Village Commons management.

“I’m sure something can be worked out. Just wanted to put a face to the people at the car show,” he said, adding that “we’re not moving.”

Another commenter also brought up the possibility of ride sharing when it comes to dining out, especially in downtown Farmington.

Christiansen said that the Planning Commission is in step three of a five-step process regarding the PUD.

The next step after City Council deliberations would be coming back to the Planning Commission for a final PUD site plan.

“This particular step where we are at right now comes after a lot of coordinating and work sessions and a lot of preliminary work,” he said.

Christiansen said that the city does not get engaged with parking enforcement on private properties, rather in municipal lots and on-street parking.

“That is the city’s extent and responsibility of its role,” he said. 

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