TMP Architecture created this rendering of the proposed downtown Baker College campus in Ferndale from the perspective of East Nine Mile Road and Bermuda Street. The project was discussed at a Planning Commission meeting April 3.

TMP Architecture created this rendering of the proposed downtown Baker College campus in Ferndale from the perspective of East Nine Mile Road and Bermuda Street. The project was discussed at a Planning Commission meeting April 3.

Rendering provided by the city of Ferndale


Baker College campus architects hear ideas

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 9, 2019

 This rendering by TMP Architecture shows an overhead view of the proposed downtown Baker College campus on East Nine Mile Road, which includes green space on top of the building.  All renderings are not final.

This rendering by TMP Architecture shows an overhead view of the proposed downtown Baker College campus on East Nine Mile Road, which includes green space on top of the building. All renderings are not final.

Rendering provided by the city of Ferndale

Advertisement

FERNDALE — The proposed Baker College campus in downtown Ferndale returned for a discussion at the April 3 Planning Commission meeting.

Baker College’s proposed campus would be located at the northwest corner of East Nine Mile Road and Bermuda Street, and on a parking lot near Como’s Restaurant.

At the beginning of the meeting, TMP Architecture representative John Miller discussed some changes made to the project. One such change, he told the Woodward Talk, was that they discovered the location of the right of way and the sidewalk were not where one would expect them to be.

“Usually the property line is back from the sidewalk,” he said. “It’s right in front of the sidewalk, so we had to move the building back. There’s also buried electrical lines. So that whole face of the building along Nine Mile Road has to be adjusted to accommodate the underground electrical, and the way the setbacks are very unusual for a CBD, central business district. So we have to properly locate that building in terms of addressing Nine Mile Road.”

Miller also mentioned how the zoning ordinance is very specific, and they wanted to make sure that they met the letter of the law for all of those zoning requirements.

“Our building generally met them, but not specifically last time around, so we made sure that we were absolutely locked in with the zoning requirements,” he said. “Once you do that, then you can start adjusting the aesthetic, but we wanted to make sure we were correctly within the zoning ordinance requirements.”

At least a dozen people came to speak to both developers and the commission about the project, as Ferndale residents have been heavily involved in the conversation of potentially having a college campus in the downtown.

Sharon Chess commented on the design of the campus building. She said that while Baker is looking to come to Ferndale, a city she described as “a wonderful, creative, entrepreneurial and giving community,” the design that its architects presented is “very cold and restrictive.”

“(It) doesn’t add to the appearance of the community or to the welcoming of the community,” Chess said. “With all of the architects that are serving on the Planning Commission, I think they could advise Baker towards a different design, or a more definitive design that better fits our community, not just the space that it takes up.”

A common complaint has been the location of the campus in the downtown. Resident Rich Kennedy said that while he’s not against Baker College, he has a hard time seeing the campus in the downtown.

“I have a hard time seeing this downtown, especially if we break ground soon, before (the development on Troy Street, known as ‘The dot’) project is done,” he said. “There’s no place to park. There is just going to be congestion everywhere and irritating to the people who live closer to Nine Mile than I do.”

In regard to the building’s design, resident Jordan Smellie talked about how the dumpster and a driveway for the building would be what people see first from the Nine Mile Road and Woodward Avenue intersection.

“Most people who are visiting our community, especially nonresidents, are hitting Nine and Woodward before they hit any other part of our downtown, and they’re going to see dumpsters, loading docks and driveways when they see Baker College, not the entrance on Bermuda,” he said.

In response to what residents said at the meeting, Miller said that moving forward, the architects will meet to take in the city’s and the public’s comments and respond to each one of them.

“As architects, we’re agents of the owner, so we don’t make the final decision, but when there’s things that are different than, say, what we have planned, we’ll present options to the owner and say, ‘OK, to address this concern, these are your architectural options.’”

On the comment of changing the design of the building and making it fit a “Ferndale aesthetic,” Miller said what that means has to be further defined.

“The words are very colorful and interesting, but when you actually have to translate that to materials of color on a building, you have to become more detailed about that,” he said. “But yeah, exploring options and looking at different ways to design a building is something we do constantly. … We know basically where the building is, the size of the building and the functions within, but actually the detailing of the building is something that’s really the next phase of design, and all this input goes into that.

“What we will do is just lay out options for our client, and they will make the decision and take it back to the city. It’s kind of a back-and-forth, back-and-forth.”

Ferndale residents also brought up the criticism of how Baker College has yet to release plans for a parking structure, which is proposed for the project; a traffic study; and a community benefits list.

Baker College Chief Operating Officer Jacqui Spicer said in a text message that the college is being responsive to the community’s concerns regarding parking and, as a result, is seeking alternative solutions. Baker College previously discussed building a parking structure in the lot between City Hall and the Ferndale Area District Library, but Spicer said the college is evaluating the original three options laid out in the exclusive negotiating rights agreement, or ENRA.

Another option involved private properties on the south side of Vester Avenue, between Bermuda and a nearby alley, and a third option involved a privately owned parking lot on the north side of Vester, adjacent to Valentine Distilling, and potentially a portion of the city’s East Breckinridge Street parking lot.

“Unfortunately, until a final parking structure location is selected, the site plans and traffic study cannot be completed,” Spicer said. “Baker College continues to work closely with the city to seek a mutually beneficial solution.”

After the meeting, Community and Economic Development Director Jordan Twardy said it’s clear that more information is needed, and that input is going to be influential on whether or not Ferndale extends the ENRA.

“That was loud and clear. People want more information,” he said. “They feel like they need more to make a decision. So that’s going to weigh heavily on whether or not, you know, the staff has a recommendation to extend, or whether or not we even do so. No one’s going to make a decision without all the information they need.”

Twardy was scheduled to give an update on the process of the project to the City Council at its April 8 meeting, which occurred after the Woodward Talk went to press.

Advertisement