Grosse Pointe City Council expected to vote next week on mixed-use development

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 7, 2022

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GROSSE POINTE CITY — A mixed-use development with apartments and commercial space could be coming soon to a long-vacant parcel of land adjacent to The Village in Grosse Pointe City.

At press time, the Grosse Pointe City Council was slated to vote during a Dec. 19 council meeting on whether or not to approve a planned unit development, or PUD, on a 1.9-acre plot of land located on the east side of St. Clair Avenue between St. Paul Street and Kercheval Avenue.


The plan
Southeast Michigan developer and Grosse Pointe native Mike Bailey, of Birmingham-based MTB Partners, hopes to construct a four-story residential building on the site — with up to 72 apartments and nine condominiums that will be rented out — and a maximum of 4,000 square feet for commercial use.

The City Council — which also serves as the Planning Commission — held a public hearing on the proposal during a Nov. 14 council meeting. Residents packed council chambers, with some in favor of the project while others voiced opposition to it.

City Planner John Jackson, of McKenna Associates, said this project is in keeping with the City’s master plan. The development includes the parking lot behind the CVS store; he said the lot will be renovated for more efficient use. Allowed uses on the site, which is zoned as a transition district, include apartments, senior housing and a hotel, Jackson said. The City also allows a structure of up to four stories on that parcel, he said.

“This property has been planned for years for a higher-density use,” Jackson said. “St. Clair is a major usage road in the City.”

Jackson said the developer has presented a “high-quality design” with brick throughout, and the project “significantly advances the City’s policies” to get more people living near, and shopping and dining in, The Village.

“The intent is to create an opportunity to bring more residents close to The Village,” Jackson said.

The commercial space would have its frontage on the parking lot, not on St. Clair, Jackson said. He said the space would allow for one to two businesses.

The incorporation of a commercial element “buffers future development of the site” and “contributes to the overall viability of The Village,” Jackson said.

He said the two top stories of the building would be set back 10 feet from the rest of the building. That’s more than what the City required, which Jackson said would be a greater setback for just the fourth floor.

“They’re really reducing the massing by setting the top two floors back,” Jackson said.

For the residential portion of the project, the City would require 126 parking spaces, and Jackson said the developer currently has 117. Jackson said the City is working with the developer on making up this deficit, possibly by the developer obtaining permits for tenants to use spaces in the parking structure across the street or by converting some of the one-bedroom apartments into two-bedroom units, which would decrease the number of required parking spaces. Some of the parking spaces would be covered because they’d be underneath the building, on what would otherwise be the first floor.

For the commercial space usage, Jackson said there’s more available parking than required, with the developer providing 19 spaces in front of the commercial area where only 13 are mandated.

Bailey said his proposal would bring “higher-end” apartments to the community — something he believes is “an unmet need” in the area. He said he also wants to build something that’s in keeping with the character of the City.

“I understand the community,” Bailey said. “I’m not some complete outsider coming in.”

At press time, he said he couldn’t say how much renters would be paying to live in these units.


Residents speak
John Deboer, a resident of the 500 block of Washington Road, said he grew up in the community and has seen many changes over the years, as businesses like Kresge and Cunningham Drug have come and gone from The Village. He recognized that “it’s hard to make changes” but said he’s friends with Bailey and believes the developer will create a positive project for the city.

“We as a community are really fortunate to have Mike as a developer, because he’s going to take care of us,” Deboer said. “We need to make some changes, and I think it would be really good for our community.”

Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak said a development like this will bring more customers to The Village, which should increase occupancy in the business district.

“This should solve the empty spaces in The Village problem,” Tomkowiak said.

Dee Steimer, a resident of the 500 block of Neff Road, was opposed to the project, as was her daughter, Terri Steimer.

“I’m very unhappy about the fact I’ll be looking at a four-story building,” Dee Steimer told the council. “I’m concerned about my property values. … I love it here. I don’t want to move.”

The building will be 59 feet tall at its highest point, with a primary height of about 55 feet to 56 feet, the project architect said. By comparison, City Manager Peter Dame said The Village parking structure is about 37 feet in height, Maire Elementary School is about 51 feet tall and Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe — now Corewell — is 57 feet tall.

Steve Cavera, of the 400 block of Neff Road, expressed reservations about the project.

“If your house was right next to this, would you vote for it?” Cavera asked the council. “I don’t think you would.”

He said he felt this was “the wrong location” for a project like this.

“It’s going to impact traffic substantially,” said Cavera, who disagreed with results of the independent traffic study.

According to the traffic study, conducted by Novi-based firm Fishbeck, “the proposed development will not result in any significant impact to the adjacent road network.”

“Our own traffic consultant has reviewed the Fishbeck study and agrees with its conclusions,” Dame said. “They believe it’s well done and accurate.”

Members of the local business community believe this project would benefit them and the City as a whole.

During a recent meeting of the Main Street Board, Main Street Grosse Pointe Executive Director Cindy Willcock said the board members “were all very supportive of the project and in favor of it happening.”

“It ties in with the (City’s) master plan and the Main Street (philosophy),” Willcock said, stating it will open up additional façade improvements in The Village.

As to water and sewer capacity, when the property was envisioned as a 79-unit Sunrise Senior Living facility, Dame said Sunrise paid for a new water main from Kercheval Avenue to St. Paul Street, and all of the sanitary sewer lines in the area have been lined. In addition, Dame said there’s a 72-inch storm sewer line under St. Clair Avenue.

Jackson said the developer would create a “green” roof to capture stormwater instead of sending it directly into the city’s stormwater system.

Dame said “lots more landscaping” and proposed bioswales in the parking lot will divert or slow additional stormwater from entering the stormwater system.

Dame doesn’t anticipate changing the parking rules on St. Clair as a result of this development.

“We would not allow commercial drop-offs on St. Clair,” Dame said.

Despite opposition from some residents living near the proposed development, there are a number of residents in favor of it, as well.

Brian Satterfield, who lives in the 500 block of St. Clair, said he was “very much (an) advocate of this facility,” but he did think 81 units was a large number.

Kurt Shuck, who lives in the 500 block of St. Clair — across the street from the proposed development — said he would be interested in moving there when he can no longer take care of his home, where his family has lived since 1960.

“I look to stay in this community,” Shuck said. “Being in walking (distance) from stores would be a huge asset to residents of this community. … The Village is the perfect place for this.”

Bob Sullivan, of Grosse Pointe Woods, said he and his wife are lifelong Grosse Pointers.

“After seeing these drawings, I’ve become more enthused about it,” Sullivan said. “My wife and I are for this, and we would be interested in living there.”


Site history
Dame said this parcel has stood vacant for many years. It was acquired by Sunrise Senior Living circa 2006, when it was slated to become a senior housing facility, but those plans fell through after the Great Recession hit in 2008. Sunrise held onto the property all those years, not selling it until Bailey purchased it last year for a development named City Center Apartments.

Around 2005, Dame said, the City purchased the six houses that had formerly occupied the Sunrise property and tore those down with the intention of creating a higher-density use next to The Village. He said the City has wanted to see redevelopment of the site since then, but Sunrise wasn’t interested in selling the property until last year. Dame said the City has envisioned a three- to four-story structure for that parcel since 2005.

“It’s not a surprise … and it’s very much been thought of as a way to increase the vitality of the City since 2005,” Dame said.

Because the project is a PUD, the City has more flexibility to impose certain conditions on the developer. Tomkowiak asked residents to “tell us what you want” so they could request modifications from the developer.

“Obviously, this is a commercial enterprise. … It’s not philanthropic,” Tomkowiak said. “They have to have economies of scale to do it.”

But if approved, “The tax benefits to the City are going to be huge,” Tomkowiak said.

Jackson said a recent market study showed there is great demand from empty nesters in the community for a development like this.

Some officials said that change is often preceded by opposition.

“There isn’t a project that we’ve ever considered that hasn’t had a room full of people who (didn’t want it),” City Councilman Christopher Walsh said. “We need to work for the vitality of the city. … We cannot look away … when people want to invest in the vitality of our city.”