The Architectural Board of Review is not lovin’ McDonald’s preliminary site plan proposal for the property currently occupied by the shuttered Detroit Theatre.
On Thursday a near-capacity audience in the auditorium at City Hall heard the Board offer its first informal public critique of McDonald’s site plan concept.
Proposed site near market oversaturation point
McDonald’s project manager Michael Lewis began the session and explained the fast food behemoth’s desire to relocate from its “somewhat obsolete” location of 47 years on Sloane Avenue to Detroit Avenue, where there is a higher concentration of traffic.
Lewis said the proposed location is 2.25 miles away from the W. 117th McDonald’s, right on the cusp of what is considered market oversaturation.
McDonald’s construction manager Dave Natowski described several of the general efforts made to make the site blend with the neighborhood, such as limiting nighttime light glare, moderating the volume of the drive-thru speaker, concealing the dumpster, etc.
Architect Jim Larson pointed out that the footprint of the proposed new building would be in the same location as the Detroit Theatre – which would be demolished – but smaller.
He described the site plan, which calls for a small outdoor café area in front of the building along Detroit Avenue. The location would be equipped with a double-lane drive-thru and 27 parking spots.
All automobile traffic would enter off of Detroit Avenue and exit at two different points on Woodward Avenue. The entrance off of Detroit Avenue would be more than 100 feet wide.
Board’s biggest worries: traffic congestion and safety
Board members were most concerned about the traffic congestion and safety issues created by the traffic routed onto Woodward Avenue, especially in light of the pending removal of the nearby traffic signal at the intersection of Hall Avenue and Detroit Avenue as part of the resignalization project.
“You’re going to have a logjam in your drive-thru,” said board member John Waddell.
Board member Michael Molinski felt the site design needed to be more welcoming for pedestrians. “You could find yourself a walking destination,” he said.
Another of the Board’s major concerns was the building’s setback from the street and lack of presence along the Detroit Avenue.
The Board has consistently sought to have new construction placed as close as possible to the road in order to continue the commercial district’s streetcar era look and feel.
Board member Jeff Foster cautioned that the loss of building volume on Detroit Avenue contained in the site proposal “gives us some heartburn.”
Carl Orban, a board member who recently traveled to the western United States, said he’s seen McDonald’s structures elsewhere that are very well done and adapted appropriately for their settings.
A McDonald’s representative said the plan could be adjusted to bring the building the closer to the street, but probably not as close as the Board wants.
The physical appearance of the proposed building was not discussed because design revisions are still underway. McDonald’s typically begins a project with a generic-looking structure and negotiates various design changes with the city. The project architect observed: “It’s not easy to get a non-prototypical building approved” by McDonald’s.
Due to the absence of a formal application from McDonald’s seeking board approval, the public was not offered an opportunity to comment on the proposal. Public comment will be permitted during a future design review.
Developer gets approval for proposed Sloane Avenue townhomes
Andrew Brickman’s 19-townhome proposed Sloane Avenue development, tentatively titled “Le Metro,” received approval from the Board.
They were impressed by the use of quality materials, and sensitivity towards parking demands. “It’s a great looking project,” said one board member.
As part of the approval process, the Board asked Brickman to submit plans detailing how the property will be maintained at each of its various stages of development. The Board made a deliberate attempt to avoid a repeat of the Foran Montlack fiasco that angered the neighborhood.
A Sloane Avenue resident said she liked the project, but wondered if construction would wreck the recently repaved street and if Tax Increment Financing (TIF) would be utilized.
Dru Siley, assistant director of planning and development, said the city did not make TIFs available. He said an approach to minimize the impact of construction on the street would be given consideration at a point later in the project.
West Clifton Boulevard Rick Sicha inquired about the townhomes height. A representative from Dimit Architects said each town home would be 34 feet tall to the top railing and 40 feet tall at the highest point, all within the zoning code limits.
Le Metro will next head to the Planning Commission to gain permission for lot consolidation and to the Board of Zoning Appeals for approval of two or three minor variances.
One side note, the resident who lives directly next to the proposed development walked in late and missed the presentation, which was moved up from the back end of the meeting.