Fitness use to be added to new Saros Building in Grosse Pointe City

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 7, 2018

GROSSE POINTE CITY — A non-office tenant is coming to the forthcoming new Saros Building at 17108 Mack Ave.

Despite some concerns from neighbors, the Grosse Pointe City Council — sitting as the Planning Commission — voted unanimously July 16 in favor of a special use request to allow an as yet unidentified fitness tenant to occupy an estimated 2,500 square feet on the first floor of the building. The building will have a garden level and two floors.

Todd Sykes, a real estate agent for the proposed fitness tenant, said the business owner is a Grosse Pointe Park native and resident, and a Grosse Pointe South High School graduate, who opened her first fitness business in 2012. He said that business has been successful, and she intends to follow a similar model here, creating a yoga and cycling studio with contracted local instructors. He said she also plans on having a boutique with clothing, jewelry and other items as part of the business.

There are “no other boutique cycling spaces in Grosse Pointe,” Sykes told the council.

Jimmy Beauman Saros, the vice president of Jim Saros Real Estate Services, said the average class would have about 15 students, and there would be one class at a time.

“In general, we feel that a fitness use makes sense,” said Brian Keesey, a principal planner with the City’s planning firm of McKenna Associates, noting that the fitness center portion would occupy about two-thirds of the usable space on the first floor.

City Councilman Christopher Walsh called the addition a positive for the building and the community.

“We’d like to see more revitalization on Mack Avenue,” he said. “It’s a very important part of Grosse Pointe.”

Keesey said parking needs for the fitness use are expected to be similar to those for office use. Since there are no industry standards for fitness facility parking, Keesey said they looked at how other communities have regulated parking requirements for these types of businesses.

The Neighborhood Club was required to have one parking space per 200 square feet, while other communities have mandated one space per 150 square feet, he said. For the 7,700-square-foot size of the building, Keesey said they originally determined a parking need of 39 spaces; a site plan approved by City officials in 2017 showed 40 parking spaces in the plan.

Even if they assume a greater parking demand — McKenna Associates offered a possible parking requirement of 45 spaces for the building — Keesey said there is on-street parking for 11 vehicles on Mack, within 500 feet of the building. In cases where on-street parking has been available, as was true for the Neighborhood Club, Keesey said the City has reduced its parking space requirement by 10 percent.

He added that fitness facility users might also walk or bike when weather permits, and that peak usage times would be outside of normal office hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Based on those findings, we don’t think parking is going to be a problem for this site,” Keesey said.

Saros’ business, which would be on the second floor, will grow from 15 full-time employees to 23, but he said that because they’re real estate brokers, the employees are always coming and going, so he didn’t anticipate parking would be an issue, despite the increase in staff.

“In terms of noise, it’s a low-impact use,” Keesey said.

City Councilman Andrew Turnbull, who did express some concerns about the potential impact of this change on Lorraine Street residents, echoed Keesey’s observation about peak usage periods.

“I would imagine, with a yoga studio … you’re going to have distinct times that are going to be heavy,” he said. “These are services that we are looking for to be more appealing to new residents.”

Some residents living near the new building voiced opposition to the change. In a letter to the City Planning Commission, Lorraine Street resident Kathleen Quigley wrote that a yoga studio “seems unnecessary when the Neighborhood Club is four blocks away and offers yoga and fitness.”

She also expressed concerns about traffic on Lorraine, with one of the building’s entrance and exit points feeding into the residential street, which Quigley wrote has “a number of young children and preschoolers.”

Kristin Hart, another Lorraine resident, wrote that she had “strong objections” to the changed use.

“I am concerned with both the potential increase in traffic and the loss of residential property value,” Hart wrote in a letter to the Planning Commission. “The Saros plan to raze houses on Lorraine in order to create a parking lot endangers the homeowners, particularly their children, on our narrow residential street that adjoins a grade school.”

Keesey said he didn’t believe fitness facility users would need to park along Lorraine.

City resident Diana Parlove criticized the proposed change in use and what it might mean for the building and the community.

“They presented it as a gateway to our community,” she said of the initial site plan, which was approved previously. “Are they taking out windows to put in Soul Cycles and two-for-one banners?”

Keesey said that as part of the application, there were no proposed façade changes, and if there were to be future changes, those would need council approval.

“Exterior banners are banned citywide,” City Manager Pete Dame added.

Saros told officials he had a “really good” potential tenant for the space.

“I think this is an important corridor and an important corner,” he said of the building, situated at the intersection of Mack Avenue and Cadieux Road. “This is going to lead to additional momentum.”

City leaders agreed.

“I would hope the residents around there are ecstatic because they’re getting a rebuild … and this is good for the City as well,” Walsh said.