Developer presents, commissioners discuss
Posted on 10/27/2023
Two and 1/2 story townhomeThe Downs development project came into sharper focus at the Planning Commission’s Oct. 17 meeting when Seth Herkowitz, of Hunter Pasteur, presented the developer’s final site plan that showed refined renderings of detached and attached single-family homes. He also shared an updated timeline for the mixed-use project. While this meeting was expected to focus on conditions of the preliminary site plan approval and new elements of landscape, lighting and signage, Herkowitz noted that the presentation would need to be split over the course of two meetings due to the amount of content that he and his associates plan to present.

City Planner Sally Elmiger provided a point-by-point assessment of whether the developer’s final site plan matched the conditions put forth when the Planned Unit Development (PUD) and preliminary site plan were approved by the commissioners on Sept. 7, 2022, as well as whether certain items met ordinances.

Among the conditions or ordinance requirements that need further consideration or were not met:

• There is a reduction of 900 ft2 of retail space in the apartment building, which the developer said would be added to the condominium unit. (Elmiger recommended that should be noted in the final site plan prior to approval.)

• Bury all infrastructure powerlines. The developer noted there are existing above-ground power lines on Beal that they would move across the street instead of burying, due to the $1 million price tag cited by DTE. The developer insists that this requirement applies only to new infrastructure lines, which they do intend to bury.

• The HDC will need to review façade changes made to the apartment building and row houses in the Historic District. If the HDC requires substantial changes, the PC will need to review and vote on those changes.

• There are now 15 fewer parking spaces in the final site plan for the apartment building. Depending on which ordinance is applied – the CBD requirements results in a one space surplus, the Racetrack District requirements results in a 46 space deficiency – the developer may still be in compliance if the CBD ordinance is used. The PC has the ability to modify the number of parking spaces, by a vote among commissioners, if the developer shows a reasonable need.

• To adhere to the basic standards of LEED, Elmiger advised that the developer show LEED compliance documentation to the city’s building inspector before the developer can obtain a building permit.

Elmiger also noted If there are any additional deviations from the ordinance in the final site plan that were not in the preliminary site plan and approved by City Council, any deviations must be approved by City Council.

To see the complete review by the city planner, refer to the video posted below or view the report in the Proposed Redevelopment section of the city website.

Historic log cabin – The final site plan shows the log cabin situated in the river park on the west side of the daylighted river; it currently fronts River Street. If matching funds to relocate the cabin aren’t raised by March 1, 2024 (with the developer committed to paying up to $125,000 toward relocation), or the log cabin is not removed from the project site by April 15, 2024, the development agreement permits the developer to demolish the cabin .

Farmers Market
The original offer to relocate the Farmers’ Market on a portion of the Downs land during construction was deemed unfeasible by city administration (and the Farmers’ Market Task Force). The city is looking for a new temporary location and can apply up to $300,000 committed by the developer (the first capture of brownfield funds) for the temporary site or use that allocation for the final site of the Farmers’ Market. This condition has been met.

Roundabout on 7 Mile and Sheldon (Center)
The developer will deed the right-of-way to the city. An historic “reference” of Northville, such as a piece of art or an artifact, is planned for the center of the roundabout to enhance the southern gateway to the city.

Single-family detached homes in the neighborhoods south of Beal
The final site plan showed refined architectural details of the 38 single-family homes and how they vary in style and lot size to become an extension of Northville’s walkable neighborhoods. Northville-based architects have designed these homes, which will be sold and built by Toll Brothers.

Architect Greg Presley, of Presley Architecture, presented the “individuating” styling of homes that are patterned after much of Northville’s traditional homes: cottage, bungalow, upright and wing (farmhouse), stacked and super stacked (four-square), and manor estate. They range from 2,000 ft2 to 3,100 ft2 and most have a primary suite (bedroom/attached bathroom) on the first floor.

He noted of the nearly 48 contiguous acres of the Downs site, the single-family detached homes comprise 34% of the total developed area. While these homes comprise only 8% of the total residential units, he said, walking on the land through that neighborhood will provide an experience that feels like Northville, with a grid pattern of streets that are tree-lined, sidewalks (but no driveways), a variety of homes – all with front porches, and garages in the back (accessed by an alley).

For single-family homes, buyers will be able to choose their style, elevation and colors. The builder says that, due to market demand, larger lots will be used for larger homes. Toll Brothers applies an anti-monotony code where the same color or style of single-family detached homes can’t be used for homes next to or directly across the street from each other. Elevations offered for several of the models are transitional, Queen Anne and Italianate. Varied roof pitches add to the individuality of these homes.

Attached single-family homes
One of the most significant changes to this part of the Toll Brothers development is that the former 3-story townhomes on the southern-most part will be reduced to 2-1/2 stories, noted by Robert Miller, of M Architects. The change to 2-1/2 stories means the height of these buildings is no longer a deviation from the Master Plan. On a services level, a ladder fire truck is no longer required to put out a fire in the 2-1/2 story structures, but it would have been if the building was three stories. Commissioner Thom Barry asked whether the designated 22 ft.-wide alley at that location could be reduced to 18-feet since the additional width is no longer required to turn the larger fire truck.

Miller said there are 23 different unit elevations south of Beal. North of Beal, there are 10 buildings with eight different unit elevations and 15 different color palettes. All townhomes will have diversity in the use of siding or brick, many will have a stone base and pillars, and several corner units will have wrap-around porches and four-sided design, where materials used in the front will be extended to the back.

Toll Brothers will also build 22 single-family attached homes west of S. Center Street, which are estimated to be ready for sale beginning in July 2025 and completed in October 2026.

Daylighting the river
The project team estimates it will take 12 months from the date of application to approve the permits on a local, regional and state level that will permit daylighting of the river that is currently buried under the Downs property. It’s estimated 70 percent of the river will be daylighted in 2024 and the remaining 30 percent in 2025. This timeline is based on approval from the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to permit funds for this purpose. The developer noted the river will capture 30,000 gallons of stormwater annually and the underground detention basin will provide additional infiltration at the site.

The final site plan shows two 12-foot wide bridges across the daylighted river. City Planner
Elmiger requested the developer show the proposed bridge design at an upcoming PC meeting.

Parks development
Central Park will be developed in conjunction with construction of the apartment building and will be in place at the time the apartments are open for leasing. A general contractor will be hired by the developer to work on both projects simultaneously.

Signage in the parks will mirror that used throughout Downtown Northville after the developer sought recommendations from the Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

Barr Engineering will develop the environmental components of the daylighted river, and Sieber Kiest will design the stormwater management system. Per Wayne County standards, there will be a 25-foot vegetative buffer around the detention pond behind the attached cottage homes. The pond will be maintained by the HOA, and is not included in the acreage of river park.

Among the questions/comments made during public comment:
• The need for more diverse colors on single-family detached home. Rather than a range of grays and tans, add some blues and reds to the selection. (Lenore Lewandowski, 119 Randolph)

• The need for more clarity on the log cabin. (Kevin Clark, 777 Spring)

• A request to look at a southern connection along 7 Mile that has a “better partnership with the neighborhood.” And add a second roundabout (John Roby, 511 W. Dunlap). The southern connection was also addressed by Nancy Chiri, 661 W. Main, who wants to see the stub road connected to 7 Mile as part of the construction plan.

• Actual plan for traffic mitigation (not calming) that reflects the Bealtown neighborhood requests, including completing the stub road connection to keep unnecessary traffic out of Bealtown and make it more convenient for those living in the new Downs development. (Jonathon Hair, 318 Yerkes)

• How will the HOAs be held responsible for maintaining the pocket parks, especially if some homeowners don’t pay their fees? (also from Lenore Lewandowski)

• Where will the mechanical elements of the housing units be placed on the properties? This should be shown in the elevations. (Kevin Clark, 777 Spring) This was also a concern of Commissioner Barry.

The next Planning Commission meeting discussing the Downs will be Thursday, Nov. 9, at 6 p.m. at City Hall and Zoom. The developer will finish his presentation and take clarifying questions from commissioners, then the meeting will move into public comment regarding the final site plan application.

View the Planning Commission meeting video.