By DREW HOWARD
The Rochester Hills Planning and Economic Development department is moving forward with construction on the Winchester District that will bring new life into the empty Kmart parking lot.
On Monday, January 22, the Rochester Hills City Council approved several plans that will shape the future of the Winchester District, including the relocation of the Burger King to the northern end of the parking lot. The new building will include an updated facade, a drive-thru and added green space. There are no plans to incorporate a play place found in the original building.
Plans also include the development of an Art Van store in the building previously occupied by Kmart. The Art Van will feature a PureSleep Mattress Store and occupy 50,000 square feet of the building, leaving two remaining tenant spaces open.
But that’s not all. The Planning and Economic Development team also outlined plans for an Aldi grocery store and an Art & Jakes restaurant on the southern end of the Kmart parking lot. City council members were quick to praise the project.
“I’ve lived at the intersection of Avon and Rochester roads for 14, 15 years now,” Deel said. “And to see development now after seeing an empty Kmart store for many years is very, very welcomed. I thank you.”
Mayor Barnett also shared his excitement for the project, noting that it’s been a long time coming.
“Perhaps one of the most asked questions I’ve had in the past year is what’s coming to Kmart,” he told the audience. “This will be much more attractive, creating jobs and investment in the area certainly breathing some life into that corner.”
The new Aldi grocery store marks the first location in Rochester Hills, and will take over the spot occupied by the original Burger King. Art & Jakes, a sports bar and grill known for serving traditional American food, has other locations in Shelby Township, Sterling Heights and Washington Township.
Kristen Kapelanski, planning manager with the Planning and Economic Development team, shared more details about the project with the Gazette.
“The drive will exist on Avon Road closest to Genisys Credit Union – it’s going to be straightened out and lead toward the PetSmart,” she said. “There will still be a central drive coming from Rochester Road that will dead end at that Avon Road drive.”
Kapelanski doesn’t have any specifics on when development will be completed, though she sounds confident that construction will begin this year, possibly in the spring or summer.
The Winchester District has been home to the Rochester Hills Carnival for many years now. With the added buildings and new pathways, Kapelanski said there it’s most likely that the carnival will not be held in the lot in the future.
The new developments mark a much-needed change as the Kmart building has remained unoccupied since the store’s closing in December 2014. Mayor Barnett went so far as to describe the lot as a “giant sea of asphalt” at the city council meeting.
You can find more details about the Winchester District development by visiting the Planning and Economic Development page at rochesterhills.org.
The Rochester Hills City Council will hold its next meeting on Monday, February 5. You can watch all of the Rochester Hills City Council meetings in full on the YouTube Channel “Council Meetings – City of Rochester Hills.”