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New addition to historic railroad depot proposed

By Grace Lovins


A new 420 square foot addition to Birmingham’s historic Grand Trunk Western Railroad Depot located at 245 S. Eton was proposed by Big Rock Italian Chophouse, garnering support from the city’s planning board during the Wednesday, February 28, meeting for recommended approval to the city commission.


Original plans for the new Cameron Mitchell restaurant were approved by the city commission last August. The new establishment will be one of 46 other restaurants across the country owned by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, LLC. Ocean Prime in Troy is part of CMR’s line of restaurants. The site previously was Big Rock Chophouse in Birmingham before closing its doors in 2019.


Last year, plans for the restaurant site showed minor cosmetic changes with the exception of two proposed outdoor dining facilities on both the north and south sides of the building.


During Wednesday night’s meeting, Big Rock officials came back to the planning board for a revised special land use permit and final site plan and design review. Big Rock officials are now proposing a 420 square foot interior addition on the south side of the building for an exclusive Club Room, according to planning director Nick Dupuis.


Noted in the meeting packet, the addition for the new club with be made of brick to match the existing elevator shaft, northern addition and dumpster enclosure along with metal mechanical screening that matches an existing part of the building.


Dupuis explained that there are also some changes to the proposed landscaping stemming from the shrinking of the outdoor dining patio on the south side of the building. The original design was shrunk down to now only have 11 seats and it will no longer have a pergola.


Mark Knauer, from Knauer Incorporated architecture, interior design and engineering firm, said they would “completely disrupt and probably kill” the ivy coming from the planting beds if they stuck with the original plan and number of seats.


While the restaurant presented plans to the city’s historic district commission (HDC) in 2023, Dupuis said they will still have to return to formally present the proposed changes. The applicants went to the HDC before coming to the planning board, but the new plans were not properly included in the agenda, said Dupuis. He explained that he doesn’t anticipate the commission making significant changes to the design.


The planning board voted 6-0 to recommend approval of both the special land use permit and final site plan and design to the city commission with certain conditions. Big Rock will have to go back to the HDC to get their recommended approval of the new design. Bert Koseck was absent from the meeting.

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