Peabody preliminary site plan approved

September 23, 2017

After two postponements, a proposed five-story mixed use development for the former Peabody Restaurant site was approved by the Birmingham Planning Board on Wednesday, September 13, despite representatives for the neighboring Greenleaf Trust and Balmoral buildings voicing complaints about close proximity of the proposed project and the impact it could have on their buildings.

The proposed building, at 34965 Woodward Avenue, to be developed by Matt Shiffman of Alden Development, would also include the site of the former Art & Frame Shop on Peabody Street. Birmingham planner Matt Baka said the site is a total of .597 acres, and the building would be 161,910 square feet. 

“The applicant wants to construct a five-story mixed use building with two levels of underground parking,” Baka said. He said the first floor would be retail, second and third floors office, fourth floor a mixture of commercial and residential, and the fifth floor, residential. There would be 90 onsite parking spots, with about 15 designated for residential. The proposed building is in the city’s parking assessment district, so only parking spaces for residential units are required. It would be constructed of stone, possibly terra cotta.

Architect for the project, Chris Longe of Birmingham, presented fuller schematics of the building to the board at their meeting on August 23, with the address of 124 Peabody, with all of the information requested on July 26 by the board, specifically the elevations of the new building in context with the entire block.

“It shows how the building interfaces with other buildings, where they touch,” Longe explained. 

He said the main floor ceiling is very high as they are hoping to attract a retail user, while the adjacent buildings are “knitted together. There are relationships between our buildings and the adjacent buildings. The condition of buildings in most cities, including Birmingham, is they are abutting. Almost all buildings, on Woodward, Maple – they touch, on the alley side as well.”

He noted that other buildings he had done around Birmingham were designed so the residences had windows in the front and rear, understanding that the side windows would not have views forever. “We anticipate having other buildings in the future,” he noted.

As at previous planning board meetings, representatives for the Greenleaf Trust and Balmoral buildings spoke out against the proposed building. Tom Phillips, the architect with Hobbs and Black, which designed the Balmoral, said, “I disagree with Chris (Longe). It’s not a typical infill site. Because of the two developments, we’ve created the opportunity to create light-filled, stepped elevations, providing more light and air to tenants who want to use the building.” He urged Longe, and Shiffman, to step back from the property line.

However, both Greenleaf and Balmoral are built to the property line, with step backs at their peak floors.

“The real estate brokerage for the two buildings said the design of this building would diminish the values of these two buildings,” said attorney Alan Greene, representing the Balmoral Building. “We’re scared to death.”

“The Peabody proposal satisfies the requirements of our ordinances,” noted board member Janelle Boyce. “I’m not sure what we could do to get the building owners to work together better, but that may not be our battle.”

“I may be naïve, but I always assumed there would be a building build there,” said board member Stuart Jeffares. “We don’t build in alleys. By doing this building in this way, it makes the other two buildings pop.”

Board member Bryan Williams said on September 13, “The concerns of the adjoining site owners are weighty, but do not justify denying the site plan. It is consistent with our zoning and master plans.”

Planning board members voted unanimously to approve the preliminary site plan.

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