A final site plan proposal and special land use permit to allow patrons to be serviced in their vehicles at Tide Dry Cleaners on Woodward at a new strip center currently under construction was unanimously approved by Birmingham city commissioners at their meeting on Monday, December 4.
Birmingham Planning Director Jana Ecker said the site of the new dry cleaners is on the site of the former Tuffy garage, and the zoning ordinance does allow for a dry cleaner. She said the building under construction, located at 33353 Woodward Avenue, is owned by Barbat Holdings, and will be a mixed use building. Tide Dry Cleaners will be at the northern most location of the building with four dedicated parking spaces.
“They are asking to provide a service to patrons in their vehicles called ‘valet service’ – it’s where a customer service representative comes out to the car,” Ecker said, and picks up and drops off the patrons’ cleaning.
A canopy shelter attached to the building, a requirement from the city’s planning board, was designed to go over two of the four parking spaces. Ecker said the planning board considered it a drive thru because a representative would come out to cars.
“This is not a drive-thru, this is a drive-in,” noted commissioner Pierre Boutros said.
Shannon Marklin, a real estate representative from Tide, said other stores are in both urban and suburban areas, with 60 locations across the country. This would be the first location in Michigan, she said, although they have a signed lease in Shelby Township.
“We have done studies, and our transaction time is between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. We typically service two cars at a time,” Marklin said, to questions from commissioners concerned about the effect on the adjacent neighborhood.
“The concern I have is the canopy design is inadequate...there’s no documentation here...in a word, it is incomplete,” said commissioner Mark Nickita.
“If the canopy is approved, we would provide sealed drawings from an architect. We think it’s a huge improvement over what was there in the past, the automotive use,” said owner Duane Barbat. “It’s not really a drive-thru. It’s just covered parking spots where attendants will come out and service them.”
Marklin said that Tide Dry Cleaners smells like Tide detergent. “It’s environmentally safe. It’s completely green. We don’t perk like the older dry cleaners,” she said.
“This sounds like a great plan, but I’m still concerned. I read it’s a 24/7 operation,” said mayor pro tem Patty Bordman.
“The 24/7 access is at the front of the building at a kiosk, after hours or before hours,” explained Marklin. “If your credit card is on file, you can swipe your card and retrieve your clothes. In the back, there is a drop box, as well as on Woodward.”
“This is my neighborhood. We don’t have a record of there being a problem of people cutting through the neighborhood,” Nickita said, noting higher volume tenants on Woodward, such as the Original House of Pancakes. “If it does, we could address it then. I don’t really see the precedent.”
Commissioners voted 7-0 to approve.