Planning board stalls plans for triangle building
By Kevin Elliott
Plans for a new four- and five-story, mixed-use building in Birmingham’s Triangle District were stalled on Wednesday, January 26, as the city’s planning board requested additional information from developers about traffic and first-floor retail use.
The proposed building would span an entire block, bound by Worth Street, Haynes, a public alley and Adams to the east. The project aims to combine parcels, currently containing Citizens Bank, 1000 Haynes, and a two-story office building at 770 S. Adams. The project does not include the corner parcel at 720 S. Adams, formerly the Plant Station.
The project, if approved, would total 222,771 square feet, and include 138 expansive residential units, with about 5,000 square feet along Haynes Street dedicated to commercial use on the first floor. The plan also calls for an on-site parking garage for residents. The project is proposed by FHS Birmingham, which includes the Forbes Group, Hunter Pasteur and Soave Enterprises.
Randy Wertheimer, CEO of Hunter Pasteur Homes, said the project aims to establish a level of high-end luxury units with a level of amenities that doesn’t exist in Birmingham or southeast Michigan.
“We are talking about a state-of-the-art workout facility and work from home spaces where people can leave their unit and go in a private Zoom or conference room in a common area,” he said. “The pool deck with BBQ stations and gathering spots can be used eight months of the year. There are fire pits and interior amenity spaces, room for wine tastings, club rooms and tremendous gathering spaces.”
Planning board members reviewed a community impact study (CIS) for the project, and reviewed a preliminary site plan. However, board members postponed final decisions on both issues until February to allow the developers to address questions and concerns from board members.
Two key points of contention board members discussed included a transportation study related to the impacts of the project, as required by the CIS. Board members indicated additional information was needed by the applicant before approval of the full impact study could be made.
Planning Board members Janelle Boyce, Robin Boyle, Stuart Jeffares, Daniel Share and Bryan Williams voted to postpone the decision. Board members Scott Clein, Jason Emerine, Berk Koseck and Nasseem Ramin recused themselves from the issue due to potential conflicts of interest.
Board members took larger issue with the lack of retail space on the first floor of the project along Adams Road. The city’s long range development plans for the area call for first-floor retail space in mixed use buildings, with few exceptions.
Nico Schultz, senior vice president of real estate for Soave Enterprises, said the parking limitations along Adams pushed the design to favor first-floor residential units along Adams, rather than retail.
Planning board members recommended shifting some retail planned along the first floor of Worth Street, which also includes several interior amenity spaces.
“I’m not sure how this is different than what we have at All Seasons, which on a daily basis frustrates me and some other board members when we drive by and say, ‘we got that one wrong,’” said board member Stuart Jeffares.
Williams also said he was uncomfortable approving the preliminary site plan without the transportation issue in the CIS being resolved. Further, he recommended the applicants consider suggestions about increasing retail space along Adams.
Boyce said the lack of any retail along Adams was a “deal breaker” for her.
“It will end up being a sidewalk with a block wall for the entire length along Adams,” Boyce said, referring to the raised elevations and stairways to the first-floor units. “I don’t think we could have a less inviting streetscape.”
Board members voted to postpone consideration of the preliminary site plan until February.