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Planning approves Birmingham Tower site plan

By Grace Lovins

Birmingham Planning Board members approved the final site plan and design review of a proposed five-story, mixed use building, to be located at. 469 and 479 S. Old Woodward Avenue, on Wednesday, March 22.

The property owner, Doraid Markus, has been working on plans to construct a new building on the lots for about three years, but has run into several issues with parking. Back in 2020, Markus received site plan approval for the original design with two levels of underground parking and retail, restaurant and residential uses. The underground parking ended up a miss, which Markus has attributed to engineers being uncomfortable with the structural integrity being so close to the foundation of Birmingham Place.

Last year, Markus petitioned for an ordinance amendment that would allow D4 zoned properties outside of the former parking assessment district to request a parking waiver from the city commission subject to a special land use permit. The amendment was adopted in December 2022, and in January, Markus returned to the planning board with a new design. Board members asked Markus to revise the plan, considering the building would still be short over 50 parking spaces.

Markus returned on March 22, with a new design featuring similar elements to the plan proposed in 2020. The building will again have two levels of underground parking for a total of 64 spaces. There is additional ground level parking and lifts, as well as one floor of retail with a small restaurant, office space on the second and third floors, and residential uses on the fourth and fifth floors.

According to city planner Brooks Cowan, the proposed plan would only be short 11 parking spaces – the plan provides 87 out of the required 98 spaces. Markus could also request two parking spaces located on the street from the city commission to count towards his requirement. With the change in the design, the building no longer needs to obtain a special land use permit, Cowan noted.

While Markus’ ordinance amendment request was approved, he told the board he did not want to put it to use yet. Cowan and Markus both noted that the first choice is to return to the board of zoning appeals to request a waiver of the 11 spaces, which board members stated they were in favor of. If the BZA does not approve the variance, Markus could also be able to enter a shared parking agreement with Birmingham Place or the 555 Building to make up for the spaces. If both choices were to fall through, he said he would then pursue a waiver from the city commission under a special land use permit provision.

Board members were all in agreement that the lack of 11 spaces was something they were comfortable recommending to the BZA to provide a variance. They each noted their appreciation to the owner, designers and staff for working to minimize the number of spaces so the plan could finally move forward.

“Wonderful project, I’m happy to support it and I appreciate the work to get it here on all parts,” chairperson Scott Clein said. “As far as the variance goes, I think it’s a small number [of parking spaces] and while I’m not on the board of zoning appeals, to me, I don’t see it as being an issue of land use that would cause dogs and cats to live together.”

The board voted unanimously, 7-0, to recommend approval of the final site plan and design review. Jason Emerine voted in place of Daniel Share.


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