Shake Shack shakes out

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 31, 2017

Photo by Stocksnapper/


TROY — One piece of the development at 888 W. Big Beaver Road — the Shake Shack restaurant — didn’t fall into place as easily as the concept plan did.

The Troy Planning Commission asked for more details on the plans and how the restaurant would segue with the higher-end restaurants on Big Beaver Road and the adjoining Fidelity Investments office building in the complex. 

The Planning Commission unanimously approved conceptual plans for a development and an eight-story parking deck on 12.8 acres at the City Center Building, 888 W. Big Beaver Road, east of Crooks Road, Feb. 28. 

Unicorp National Developments purchased the building for $21 million in an auction in 2016. The Melting Pot and Morton’s The Steakhouse are currently located in the approximately 24,000-square-foot building.

Unicorp President Charles Whittall told the Planning Commission at its Feb. 28 meeting that the company was investing $150 million in the mixed-use site for a development that would include a five-story, 250-unit apartment building; a decorative internal street; retail space; and restaurants — including Shake Shack, Yard House and Seasons 52. 

In October, the Planning Commission approved plans for new construction for the two-story Fidelity Investments office building, now under construction, at the site. 

Shake Shack officials will not alter their signature signage, although one Planning Commission member voiced strong objections. Shake Shack officials received a variance for the 181-square-foot sign, larger than the 141-square-foot signage allowed, from the Building Code Board of Appeals before they submitted preliminary site plans for the restaurant to the Planning Commission May 9. 

As it has been approved, the sign lists menu items — frozen custard, fries, shakes, hot dogs, floats and cones. 

Chris Piper, construction manager for Shake Shack, told the Planning Commission that the restaurant would be the company’s second location in Michigan — the first being in downtown Detroit, near the First National Building on Woodward Avenue — of the 100 locations across the country. 

Piper said the sign with the menu items is an important part of the restaurant branding. 

He said that there are signs on Shake Shack restaurants in New York City, Dallas and Chicago that do not have the outside lettering denoting menu items. 

Troy Planning Commissioner Karen Crusse voiced strong objection to the menu items being listed on the signage on the Big Beaver Road “golden corridor” and said that “it’s not going to match with Fidelity.” 

She noted that it would not be the first time a franchise modified signage. 

Planning Commissioner Padma Kuppa said the signage listing menu items would be helpful to the diverse population in Troy, and that she thinks the restaurant is a place “that young people could enjoy.” 

“It’s not something we can ask the applicant, as part of the discussion, to consider changing,” said Troy Assistant City Attorney Julie Quinlan Dufrane.

Planning Director R. Brent Savidant said that most applicants seek sign approval after the site plan is approved, but this was an “intricate part of the brand. It was important. We’ve heard the attorney’s opinion — it’s essentially a done deal ... but we can ask,” he said, referring to using signage that leaves off the menu items. 

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to postpone consideration of the site plan so the developer could submit a lighting plan, sighting elevations relative to the Fidelity building, and renderings of materials used in the building, which Shake Shack representatives produced at the May 23 meeting. 

The Planning Commission approved the preliminary site plan 7-0 at that meeting. Planning Commission members Philip Sanzica and Karen Crusse were absent. 

“It’s a very unique, modern building,” said Jason Krieger, of Krieger Klatt Architects, spokesman for the developer. “It’s exciting to have it come to town.” He added that the restaurant is slated to open in September.