Changes to a Familiar Empty Property Could be Coming Soon
MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP - The Meridian Township Planning Commission discussed two special use permits requested by Okemos Retail Management, LLC to develop a new shopping center.
The site is located at 2085 Grand River Avenue near the Grand River and Okemos Road intersection. Those who are familiar with the area may remember the building most recently as Leo’s Spirits and Grub that closed unexpectedly in July of last year.
Because there is a building already in place, the applicant is proposing to demolish the now empty building and replace it with a 10,960 square foot shopping center that could hold up to five businesses.
The first special use permit up for discussion was in regards to a floodplain on the north west section of the property. The applicant is requesting that 940 cubic yards of soil be used to fill the floodplain and another 970 cubic yards be removed. The area that would be removed would be replaced with a pond.
Planning Commission Chair John Scott-Craig and Commissioner Holly Cordill said they see some safety concerns with the pond on the property for pedestrians who walk near or on the property. Scott-Craig suggested looking into putting a fence around the pond to ensure safety.
The second special use permit being discussed was the possibility of adding a drive-through window for one of the restaurant businesses that could go into the shopping center.
Commissioner Peter Trezise was the first to bring up the main concern of all the members; the traffic. Trezise said he doesn’t think that adding a drive-through window to the shopping center would be a good idea due to the traffic that already builds up in the Meijer parking lot behind the property along with the traffic that could build up along Grand River with the new drive-through Panera going in across the street.
Chair Scott-Craig agreed with the concerns of commission member Trezise saying he sees the convenience of having and using drive through windows, but the main concern is the traffic and how the commission can possibly lessen it at an already busy intersection.
One of the contributors to the project, Gabe Schuchman, said he thinks the drive-through window wouldn’t cause more traffic and is an essential part for the future of the new shopping center.
“The drive through window, and this one specifically, is more utilized as a pick up window,” he said. “It’s just a matter of how people are shopping and, you know, what they’re doing in today’s times.”
Schuchman went on to say he believes what they’re proposing would generate the least amount of traffic than anything that could be proposed or come to that property in the near future.
Commission Secretary David Premoe said this change could improve the property significantly. It has tried serving as a stand along restaurant several times and has failed to do well enough to stay in business on its own. Premoe said there’s a decision the commission has to make regarding the drive-through window on the property.
“Are we wanting to say at this time we’d really want to see this property improved and move forward knowing that the traffics not going to get any better,” he said. “Or do we want to wait for some other potential that may or may not occur? I think that’s the decision we’re looking at and that’s what we have to decide and this is one of those cases where you have to pick the lesser of the evils.”
Commissioner Scott Hendrickson suggested the applicants bring the traffic engineer to the next meeting to continue discussing concerns about the traffic issues.
Further discussion will take place at the next Planning Commission meeting on May 20 and a final decision should be made sometime in June.