Site plan updates presented, public comments heard
Posted on 08/25/2022
New gateway depiction at 7 Mile and S. Center. (helicopter denotes there is also an aerial view)The Planning Commission finished discussing the final section of topics in the Downs preliminary site plan review at its Aug. 16 meeting and scheduled a special meeting for Monday, Aug. 29, at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall (also on Zoom). At the special meeting, commissioners will address unresolved items, discuss benefits and deviations, and begin preparing a list of conditions for their recommendation on the Hunter Pasteur Northville PUD/preliminary site plan.

During the Aug. 16 topic on infrastructure, financials, and phasing, commissioners discussed traffic concerns along 7 Mile and other areas; addressed whether there was sufficient, accessible parking; and asked the developer about the shape of the retention pond in River Park. Hunter Pasteur Homes CEO Randy Wertheimer noted if the pond can be designed to allow for an additional pathway along the back of the carriage homes, they would present that option.

Hunter Pasteur Northville (HPN) Executive Seth Herkowitz presented a PowerPoint with a history and overview of the preliminary site plan, noting the six guiding principles stated in the Master Plan are all part of the HPN plan. He said, “The plan has undergone a rigorous review and an extensive amount of community engagement.”

The newest addition to the plan is a revised south gateway at 7 Mile and S. Center featuring an Italianate design for the townhomes along S. Center, and a tree-lined entrance on each of the curved corners leading into the development. The low brick wall with signage shown in a previous version was eliminated to focus on the architecture and landscaping. The signage may become part of the roundabout.

New aerial views showed the interconnection between the condominium building, apartment building, Central Park and commercial space on Cady St. Other aerial views showed the residential areas, and River Park.

Herkowitz summarized site plan details, which includes 443 housing units; 18,580 sf of commercial space (with lobbies); 1,515 total parking spaces, with 328 being public spaces on streets for parallel parking; and 10.44 acres of total space (including the stormwater basin and river) in River Park. He noted the open channel length of the daylighted river would be the same as the distance from N. Center to Griswold along Main St.

The proposed timeline for the project was presented. Herkowitz said they would start constructing the apartment and condominium buildings in Spring/Summer 2023, the town homes along 7 Mile and Center (west side) in Fall 2023, and begin the housing units south of Beal in 2024 with completion in 2027. The Farmers’ Market would have a temporary home on the Downs site after the Fall 2023 season ends though its 2025 season.

Among the public benefits, Herkowitz cited increased tax revenues (for the city, schools and other public entities that rely on millages); Center St. setback of 20 feet on each side to prevent a canyon effect; a diversity of housing types; cleanup of the racetrack site through a brownfield; and a sanitary pump station. Previously mentioned public benefits include daylighting the river (now aided by the city’s committed grant agreement with Wayne County for $2.5 million); Central Park, River Park and pocket parks; contributing to the preservation and relocation of the historic log cabin; and adding connectivity to downtown, parks and existing neighborhoods through streets, sidewalks and other pathways.

Herkowitz said, “We’re at a tipping point. We’ve shown a level of transparency and openness and have the financial viability (to build the development).

“We have the opportunity to take an under-utilized property with significant challenges and integrate a mixed-use development that will include historic and generational, community and regional assets into the existing beauty and charm that is Northville,” he concluded.

The commissioners complimented and thanked the developers for their presentation, yet also questioned some aspects of the preliminary site plan.

The first round of public comment that evening, held prior to the developers’ presentation, focused on the topic of infrastructure, financials and phasing, and included the following comments:

Lenore Lewandowski, 119 Randolph, asked what the HOA fees would be for buyers and said that should be considered as a cost of ownership. She asked if the phasing portion of the project also took into account what was happening at the Foundry Flask site.

Michelle Aniol, 402 Yerkes, said the site plan is the governing document of maintaining street trees. She advised the commissioners not to allow private roads in the development because future homeowners could decide not to connect the Griswold extension (stub road) to 7 Mile. She said there has to be more than sidewalks alone to connect the development to Beal Town. She noted River St. will be a front street for the development and asked what improvements the developer should be expected to make there.

Dave Gutman, 903 Spring, said the Sustainability Team prepared a report for the commissioners on considerations involving the infrastructure of the site and encouraged them to read it.

Kathy Spillane, 487 W. Cady, said walkability goals correlate to traffic management goals. She would like to see future residents of the new development walk rather than drive to nearby locales, such as exercise places, the grocery store and the Farmers’ Market (proposed new location at 7 Mile). She stated that good connections can help revitalize the South Main, 7 Mile area.

After the developers’ presentation, Chair Donna Tinberg opened it up for public comment on the overall site plan. Two of the previous respondents spoke again.

Lewandowski said she doesn’t think there is a diversity of housing and wants to see more single-family homes and lower price points for first-time home buyers. She is concerned about connectivity to Hines and having a safe crossing at River St. and 7 Mile, site-generated traffic; and how the disabled would access the proposed River Park.

Aniol is concerned about traffic on Beal and River streets and says the new pump station will need to be maintained, which will likely become a city expense.

After the special meeting on Aug. 29, the next regularly scheduled PC meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 6, and commissioners may be ready to vote on a recommendation to City Council on the Planned Unit Development (PUD)/preliminary site plan. While timelines are important for this project, the commissioners have vowed not to rush their decision before they have completed their comprehensive review process. Chair Tinberg encouraged regular attendees to tell their friends about the final Planning Commission meetings on the Downs development to make sure there is the broadest possible community engagement.

View the video here.