Entrance concept revealed
Posted on 06/16/2022
The gateway entrance at 7 Mile and Center is shown with a pillar and low brick wall with the city name and landscaping.The Planning Commission completed the discussion on roads, pathways, connections and parking at its June 7 meeting as part of the preliminary site plan/PUD review of the Downs redevelopment project.

There was consensus on several points:

• Commissioners favored street parking near the Central Park entrance off Cady St. rather than an 18-space surface parking lot.

• Commissioners said the allotted parking spaces in the site plan are sufficient. In the neighborhood section of the site plan (south of Beal St.), there are currently 145 on-street parking spaces.

South Center St. was a major topic, focusing on traffic speed and pedestrian safety. City Traffic Engineer Steve Dearing, of OHM, noted that state law requires a study to set speed limits. Commissioners discussed having the city conduct a traffic study to look at additional intersections that are currently operating poorly. Dearing advised waiting to see what the overall density would be and how the development impacts the wider-reaching street grid in the future. (A traffic study of the project has been conducted and reviewed by the City’s traffic engineers.)

Commissioners discussed adding street parking to S. Center as a traffic-calming device and to provide parking for visitors to Hines Park, which has an entrance/bridge just east of Center and 7 Mile. In that scenario, the bike path could be moved to Wing St., perceived to be a safer route.

The 22-ft. wide private driveways were described in greater detail. They would be positioned behind all attached residential units (townhomes, rowhouses) except for carriage houses, which have front-facing garages. The alleys behind the single-family lots are proposed as 12-foot wide, one-way alleys. Hunter Pasteur Northville (HPN) executive Seth Herkowitz said the alleys and driveways are designed for aesthetics, function and recreation. The multi-functional pavement allows cars to pull into rear garages away from the street, provides a discrete route for garbage pickup, and offers an additional pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Public comment voiced concern, offered solutions
Public comment not related to an agenda item was made by Nancy Darga, 516 N. Center, who chairs the Rouge River Restoration Task Force. She asked the Planning Commission to formally request City Council act on the recommendations of the Mobility Team report – hire a mobility expert to review the team’s findings and make recommendations for all streets in and around the downtown area and new development projects; create a funding strategy that involves the city, county, regional and state governments and the developers; and other action items – before ground is broken for the Foundry Flask project.

During public comment on the roads, pathways, connections and parking segment, three citizens spoke in person. No comments came from Zoom attendees.

• Jim Long, 400 Fairbrook Ct., said he is opposed to the round-about being considered at 7 Mile and S. Center, and wants to see some parking spaces near the Presbyterian church.
• Nancy Chiri, 661 W. Main, made several comments, including that the parking should be recalculated and checked against the zoning ordinance, and suggested directing traffic toward Griswold, perhaps with a street along the river park. She also noted that the lot size is too small within the single-family home area.
• Lenore Lewandowski, 119 Randolph, said Wing St. should be the minimum standard for street width in the new development where there is parallel parking. She concurred with Darga that the Planning Commission should make a coordinated effort with the Mobility Team for all developments. She also suggested adding designated drop-off areas in front of businesses.

In response to a commissioner’s question about how the infrastructure will be funded, City Manager Pat Sullivan said the Downs Project Advisory Committee (DPAC) is charged with examining all of the financial impacts of the project and making recommendations on funding mechanisms and development agreements relating to public improvements.

Architecture, landscaping presented
The second phase of the meeting focused on architecture, landscaping and aesthetics. HPN Herkowitz, architects Andy West of Elkus/Manfredi Architects, Robert Miller of M Architects, Greg Presley of Presley Architecture and landscape architect Randy Metz, of Grissim, Metz, Andriese Associates, presented their aspects of the project though renderings, charts and descriptions. Building partner Alex Martin, division president of Toll Brothers, was also present.

West shared the project’s vision for the apartment building and condominium building – stating they have an impressive scale and invite public interaction through park-facing private entrances for a portion of the units, large and small (French) balconies, and street-level retail space that will make the most of Cady as a commercial block that parallels Main Street. He noted the pedestrian promenade from Beal to Cady is another way the buildings and street design will serve the public realm. He also stated The varied materiality of the buildings and the way they face the park “create a rhythm along the street.”

Miller presented the portion of the project that began with the rowhouses on Cady, turned the corner and went down Griswold. He noted the townhouses on the south side of Beal are diverse – no two look alike in the same unit. The three-story rowhouses along Cady St. would have a sloped roof, front porches and first-floor flex space that could be used for a home office, retail space , a home gym or space for an optional elevator. The rowhouses along Griswold would primarily have the same style but would be differentiated through color, windows and porch overhangs/roofs. The site plan shows four units grouped together along Griswold.

Presley described the single-family homes south of Beal St., saying they have precedence in homes throughout Northville, especially in the Historic District. The styles are farmhouse, an asymmetrical house with a long porch; Four-square with two windows up and down, a hip roof and a porch that spans the front of the house; Arts and Crafts, with a wide porch; Queen Anne, shingle-style that’s asymmetrical; and a bungalow with a low-pitched roof and dormers. All the design styles are currently a work in progress and will be refined. He is working now on a one-story ranch and a 2-1/2 story larger-scale home for the four corners at Fairbrook and Hutton. He pointed out that Dunlap St. has five Sears kit houses of the same basic design, but with slightly varied features that make each seem unique. The same technique would be used in this development.

Metz designed the streetscapes (landscaping, sidewalks, lighting, etc.) for the Downs development. He said the streetscape south of Beal is reminiscent of a village on a small-town scale, with grass verge, street trees, pedestrian-scaled lighting, and sidewalks. He presented a concept for an “iconic” gateway to the city at S. Center and 7 Mile that shows twin tall pillars on each side of S. Center with a low curved wall and a stretch of green space in front. A round-about is depicted in the site plan with a tree and groundcover on an inner circle, surrounded by a concrete portion for traffic safety.

The site plan now shows 178 apartments, 42 condos, 7 row houses (on Cady), 8 row houses (on Griswold), 16 single-family attached units – all north of Beal. South of Beal, there are 31 single-family attached units, 38 single-family detached units, 28 carriage homes, 43 2-1/2 story townhomes and 55 3-story townhomes opposite the carriage homes. In total, the updated site plan still contains 446 units.

The PC meeting lasted more than 4-1/2 hours; view the meeting video here. View the HPN presentation here.