by CYNTHIA KMETT
There are new buildings going up in the parking lot of 888 W. Big Beaver, with the popular Shake Shack opening just last Wednesday and Felicity not far behind. Six new retail establishments are planned for this corner by Unicorp, which bought the property last year.
Over at Big Beaver and Rochester Roads, there’s more building underway. There’s speculation that we will see new eateries here.
The trend started a few years ago when Granite City appeared in the front parking lot at 750 W. Big Beaver and Kona Grill came to life at 30 E. Big Beaver near the Post Office.
But until now, there’s been little activity in the parking lots of northern Troy, where the vast parking lots once intended to accommodate the many, many EDS employees, are no longer needed. Larry Goss of Tower Properties, LLC, new owners of the property at 901 Tower Drive, came to the Troy Planning Commission last week to seek approval for rezoning 11 acres of land from RC Research Center Zoning to OM, Office Mixed Use District.
The applicant proposes to rezone the property to develop an outlot restaurant/retail building. The current RC zoning does not permit the uses as desired by the applicant for the outlot building. The existing office building and existing uses within office building would remain, Goss noted. If the site were to be rezoned, all uses permitted within the OM, Office Mixed Use District would be permitted in the existing office building and the future outlot building. Permitted and Special Uses are set forth in Section 4.21.
The city’s Master Plan for this area calls for some changes, as times have changed. The plan would like to see the Northfield/North Troy district a little more vibrant after offices close for the evening.
As the 2017 Master Plan observed: In order to maintain this position as a business and employment hub for the future, the area must evolve to serve the future office worker. Providing a compatible mix of uses, increasing amenities, and creating a unique identity will help attract new tenants and keep employees and residents in the area beyond the work hour.
At the present time, if an employee on the east side of Crooks wants a bagel and coffee, they have to cross all lanes of the busy street, which is not always easy or safe. As Planning Trustee Don Edmunds observed, this would “eliminate the 300-yard dash across the street to eat.”
Goss explained that they want an outlot building with food and retail service. But before they look for tenants, the company needs rezoning that would give them permission to build such a plaza. If they get the rezoning, which also must be approved by Troy City Council, they would still have to come back to the Planning Commission for site plan approval.
He added their intention is for planning upgrades and that they’re “hoping to create a little more vibrant corridor” along Crooks and I-75.
The city’s planning consultant, Ben Carlisle of Carlisle Wartman, assured the planners that the “Master Plan calls for this type of zoning to use over-parked areas for in-fill.”
Planning Trustee Karen Crusse worried that with all the different ventures allowed in OM zoning, what were they supposed to do if they didn’t like a proposed development, like housing, or tearing down the office building for retail development?
While Goss assured the planners they had no intention of going out of the office building market, it was Planning Director Brent Savidant who pointed out that any building proposal still requires the planners’ site plan approval.
The rezoning request was passed unanimously and moves on to council.