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Fresh Farms Market expansion qualifies for brownfield plan

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 7, 2016

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Wayne County approval of a brownfield plan is going to be a big boost to the Fresh Farms Market expansion and renovation.

On Sept. 1, the Wayne County Board of Commissioners voted in favor of a brownfield plan that provides what the store’s owners say is needed funding for environmental remediation. Located at 355 Fisher Road in Grosse Pointe City, the store is an anchor in the City’s small but vital Fisher Road business district.

Through the brownfield program, the county is supplying $75,000 toward the project — $50,000 for site and building demolition, $10,000 for asbestos abatement and oversight reporting, and $15,000 for soil testing and excavation. 

“It helps us a lot,” said Steve Najjar, who co-owns the store with his brother, Larry Najjar. “The project wasn’t that viable without the brownfield money the county is giving us.”

The brothers are investing roughly $15 million to tear down shuttered neighboring businesses and eventually the current store in order to build a larger, new, two-story store with additional offerings such as cooking classes and special events. There will also be an outdoor dining area that will be open when weather permits.

In addition to a proposed restaurant at the store — which has long offered prepared foods for customers — Steve Najjar said they’re planning on having a wellness/vitamin/nutrition store with scented candles and related products.

According to Wayne County officials, the brownfield designation was warranted because an adjoining property acquired for the expansion housed a dry-cleaning business that closed in the early 1970s, and soil testing showed the presence of a number of hazardous chemicals on the property, along with an undocumented underground storage tank. Special cleanup is now required on that site. The Fresh Farms Market expansion also took over property that once housed a fitness club. 

The new store will be built around an existing Subway sandwich shop at 341 Fisher Road.

A press release from the Wayne County Commission states that this project “is estimated to retain 40 positions and create nearly 40 full-time and 50 temporary jobs” in the process of merging the current Fresh Farms Market property with the adjacent property the store owners acquired for the expansion.

“The whole purpose of the (Wayne) County Brownfield Authority is to aid in the creation of, or redevelopment of, properties that increase business and jobs in the county,” said Wayne County Commissioner Tim Killeen, D-Detroit, in a prepared statement. “This project in particular will aid in maintaining a strong business community in the Pointes.”

Killeen’s district includes the five Grosse Pointes, Harper Woods and a portion of Detroit’s east side.

The current store is about 6,000 square feet. When the renovations and expansion are completed, it will have about 27,560 square feet of usable market space. The upper floor will be primarily mezzanine, so Grosse Pointe City Planner John Jackson, of McKenna Associates, said it’s “not a full two stories.”

Previously known as Farms Market, the business was opened by William Moir in 1939 as a specialty store whose services included home delivery. Steve and Larry Najjar purchased the business from Bill Moir Jr. in 1997, and not long after that, they changed the name to Fresh Farms Market. The brothers conducted a previous remodeling effort in 2006, but the project underway now is considerably more extensive.

Steve Najjar said they hope to be done with work on the new store by next spring or summer. At press time, he said they don’t anticipate needing to close the store at any time during the construction process.