Luxury townhomes proposed on Elm and Forest
By Grace Lovins
A preliminary site plan for a new three-story development, to be called Forest Townhomes, to occupy space once housing an office building and a surface parking lot on the corner of Elm Street and Forest Avenue, was reviewed by the Birmingham Planning Board during their meeting on Wednesday, August 24.
Forest Townhomes, will feature six attached single-family units with internal parking. Each proposed unit will have a private two car capacity garage where residents of each unit with more than one vehicle will park front-to-back as opposed to side-to-side. Planning director Nick Dupuis noted that all entrances to the actual units will be located on Elm Street, but the internal parking would be located on the east side of the building in an existing alley off of Elm,, currently curbed off from Forest, preventing through traffic.
While the preliminary site plan provided most of the necessary information, Dupuis pointed out that he hoped to hear the board’s input on a proposed screen wall – essentially asking if a non-masonry screen wall for the development would suffice – as well as some proposed streetscape elements. With minor changes to the design, including the screening of HVAC units on the roof of the building and the inclusion of bike racks to accommodate bicycle travel, the planning division recommended approval of the site plan.
Board member Bert Koseck stated that he had trouble understanding the relation of the development in the context of the surrounding buildings and residential areas as they were not included in the provided information, which he said was necessary to formulating a decision about the property. Koseck’s concerns were shared by board member Bryan Williams, who noted that he wished to see the surrounding buildings or residential areas from the east side of the building.
John Marusich of Marusich Architecture affirmed to Koseck and the rest of the board that he will include a complete view of all surrounding properties on each side of the proposed development in the final site plan and design review. After announcing the development would not gain his support because the necessary information was not provided, Koseck stated that he thinks the development is a good project and one that the board envisions, but the information that should be presented at a preliminary hearing was just not provided.
Residents living on Forest also voiced their concerns over the new development, stating that the street already faces issues with non-residents using the street for parking as well as the possible implications the development might have on property values.
“With the building of the new addition of the All Seasons, which is currently underway and the building of this proposed building, [it] will very effectively box us in. … Currently we enjoy sunsets and a view of the city from our deck, kitchen and upstairs living areas, and that will be completely eliminated. We feel that the building of this building will affect our property value in a negative way,” said Richard Geraghty, a resident on Forest Avenue.
Allison Everett, also a resident living on Forest, supported Geraghty and echoed the issue of parking residents currently face. According to Geraghty, the residents of the street already have issues with patrons from the commercial buildings using the street for parking, where the residents have to pay to park on the street since it is residential permit parking only.
Everett added to Geraghty’s statements, noting that if the families or individuals living in the residential units have guests, there is no additional parking located at the townhomes for those individuals to park, which will most likely lead to more people occupying the street spaces on Forest.
Ultimately, the board voted 6-1, with Williams dissenting, to approve the preliminary site plan and design review of the development with the conditions that the applicant submits a revised roof plan that shows adequate screening and specifications of rooftop equipment and prepares a footprint and massing showing the neighboring structures in all directions.