Coffee shop gets approval for former Subway space on Woodward

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published June 21, 2023

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FERNDALE — The Ferndale City Council gave its approval for a special land use for a coffee shop to take over the home of a former Subway.

At its June 12 meeting, the council approved 4-1 an application for a space at 22132 Woodward Ave. that would turn the building into a Caribou Coffee with outdoor seating and drive-thru lanes.

Community and Economic Development Director Roger Caruso stated that while in the planning stage, the biggest concern with the space, which has been vacant for two years, was an increase of traffic and vehicles backing up on Woodward.

“We had the applicant work with (the Michigan Department of Transportation) on a traffic study. … They do propose a double drive-thru that fits about 16 vehicles or so. That passed MDOT’s standard, and MDOT is signing off on the permit,” he said. “The next question for staff is, ‘How does that affect the adjacent side street as people are exiting?’ We required a supplemental traffic study on that, and that traffic study showed that there (were) not concerns of any stacking, that there’s enough pulsating on Woodward that the cars can exit or go east on the side street.”

The applicant, Jeff Parker, of Jeffrey Parker Architects, who is the development manager for Caribou Coffee, said they want to fix up the former Subway, which is not looking too good as of now.

“We’re going to redo the parking a lot — cut out a lot of the parking lot and put in landscaping, paint the building and redo the building a little bit,” he said.

Parker explained that the business will not have indoor dining, and that the focus is on patrons using the patio and drive-thru.

Something that was included in the project, he said, based on a recommendation from the Planning Commission, was to move the patio next to the sidewalk.

“So if people want to grab a cup of coffee, there’s a nice spot to sit and watch the traffic go by and have some plants around,” he said. “In terms of the drive-thru, we worked extensively with MDOT to make sure that they were comfortable with how our traffic might pan out. We think we’re not going to have nearly that much traffic as what they’re thinking. … We’ve been collaborating with everybody, and we think we have something that will work well for Caribou and the community.”

Council member Greg Pawlica, who also serves on the Planning Commission, felt the move of the patio would be more attractive for people walking down Woodward, as opposed to parking spaces.

“I just think it’s going to be a really great addition to that area, which has kind of been inactive for several years,” he said. “When Subway and Tim Hortons closed down, that whole couple of block area has kind of been very, very inactive.”

The “no” vote on the project was from Mayor Melanie Piana, who commented on the plan for the traffic flow.

“It’s significant on that corner,” she said. “I know the reasons why we’re doing it is to handle more of the high peak demand times of coffee-goers who are transient traveling through, as there’s really not many places to sit at the Caribou — and I like Caribou Coffee myself — but to me the cons here cancel out the pros, and I don’t love it. And it’s because our community has said they don’t want more drive-thrus specifically in our master plan, and when you double the lanes, you create more traffic.”