Expect a New Look at Rochester & I-75

Looking east on Rochester Road between Henrietta and Owendale

by CYNTHIA KMETT

Things can change when your parcel is in the Big Beaver Form Based Zoning designation.

For example, you’re only supposed to be 10 feet from the road, for a more urban look, and heights can vary drastically from adjoining buildings. There’s a problem with that idea right now, down at McClure and Big Beaver, with an apartment complex that wants to be several stories higher than the neighborhood. But that’s in the courts, so we’ll have to wait for a decision.

We don’t have to wait for a decision on the Springhill Suites Hotel proposed by Stellar Hospitality Troy for the site on Rochester Road, sandwiched between Big Beaver and I-75. Proposed in April was a 123-suite, five-story hotel. Planners were concerned about traffic from the freeway, the height of the hotel (54 feet), and the fact that it is between two much older residential streets in Owendale and Henrietta. The hotel is part of the Marriott family of hotels. You may remember the site as once home to a kitchen table store and then a Halloween shop before going empty for years. The developer even bought a large parcel between Ownedale and I-75 for employee parking. Unlike some hotels, they don’t need parking spaces for meetings and banquets as this is not a venue intended to have food, expect a continental breakfast for guests.

Last week, the planners generally liked the architectural changes made to the building, especially eliminating all E.I.F.S, building material which they really don’t like, as it doesn’t hold up like brick or stone.

Consultant Ben Carlisle of Carlisle/Wartman expressed “overall support of the demolition of underutilized properties for the proposed development and finds the site plan to be a workable solution for a very challenging site.”

In addition, hotels now require special use approval from the planners. They continue to ask, “How many hotels can Troy handle?”

Jimmy Asmar of Stellar Hospitality observed that the large hotel chains – like the Hiltons, Holiday Inns and Marriott – are very careful about selecting sites that need more rooms. He noted there had been a lack of new hotels in the last ten years by these chains adding new venues – there was a recession and he thought they had been catching up and might have enough new rooms now that cities like Troy will see the ending of this building cycle.

Planning member Michael Hutson did not believe that a five- story building would look good here since all the surrounding buildings are just one story.

But, as Planning Director Brent Savidant noted, if this was an apartment building and not a hotel that requires special use approval, they could building this high and taller, by right, In addition, he pointed out that the city’s traffic engineer and the city’s traffic consultant, OHM, believe that when the entrances and exits at I-75 and Rochester are completed, and another lane of traffic is added, movement in the area will improve. Plus the Planning Director added, the one-story buildings across Rochester Road are 40 feet high.

The developer only wanted one real change from the Big Beaver zoning, and that was to be 30 feet from the road, so they could have outdoor seating. This is a provision the planners can grant and it is not a variance that must be sought from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The approval for the Springhill Suites Hotel was granted by a 7-2 vote, with Hutson and Sadek Rahmao voting no.

Bet they’re already breaking ground.