Plans for new three-story Lavery Porsche okayed
By Grace Lovins
The Birmingham Planning Board approved a final site plan and design, along with a special land use permit amendment, for a new Fred Lavery Porsche dealership, located at 34350 Woodward Avenue, at their meeting on Wednesday, January 25, which also acted as a catalyst for a potential reconfiguration of Elm Street.
Back in October 2022, planners discussed the preliminary site plan and design of the proposed three-story dealership. The current dealership occupies two land parcels in the city’s Triangle District, where Elm Street meets Haynes Street next to Woodward Avenue. Fred Lavery, the owner, is proposing to demolish the existing dealership to build a completely new structure.
Proposed designs showed the building would be covered in metal paneling with ribbed louvers, mimicking the grille of a Porsche, on the north and south sides. The new dealership will have a total of 155 parking spaces with a two-story parking garage to accommodate car storage.
During the October session, planning staff explained they had concerns over the preliminary site plan due to a service drive that would open facing Elm Street. Staff was worried about traffic and circulation in that area given that the placement of the service drive was close to the pedestrian crosswalk. Although the preliminary design was approved, Lavery was required to meet with the multi-modal transportation board (MMTB) to discuss alternative options.
The MMTB met in December to review those options and recommended a reconfiguration of Elm Street that would suit the proposed dealership plans and follows the Triangle District’s plan. This reconfiguration would reduce Elm Street to one southbound lane with a new bump-out extending across Elm to Woodward Avenue. This would prevent a right turn from Woodward to Elm where the pedestrian crosswalk currently is, said senior planner Brooks Cowan.
Lavery, however, submitted the plans with a different idea: Elm Street would remain two lanes and a larger bump-out would be added next to the service door, so cars would still be able to turn right onto Elm. One of the issues with this design, Cowan noted, is that cars would need to make a sharp right turn, and the pedestrian crosswalk would still be too close for comfort.
Aside from the Elm Street reconfiguration, Cowan stated that the planning department recommended approval of the plan with a few conditions, primarily for more detailed plans on proposed landscaping and streetscaping.
Chairperson Scott Clein felt that it wasn’t quite the board’s purview to impose the reconfiguration on Lavery, and that the proposed plans shouldn’t be held up while the city works with MDOT, SMART and other necessary parties to finalize a design for Elm. He suggested changing the motion language to say that Lavery must continue to work with the city regarding the relocation of the pedestrian crosswalk and potential street reconfiguration.
Board members Bryan Williams and Jason Emerine concurred with Clein, saying that the safety issue need to be addressed but they don’t want to stall the development and impose the intersection issue on Lavery. With most planners on board, the motion language was changed to say the applicant will need to work with the city when the reconfiguration is addressed, also indicating to the city commission that they hope to see this done as expeditiously as possible.
Planners voted 6-1 to approve both the final site plan and design as well as the special land use permit amendment, with alternate member Jason Emerine voting in place of Stuart Jeffares. Before seeing the city commission, Lavery will need to obtain a lot combination for both parcels, provide updated plans for the location of a utility pole on the property, and provide updated lighting and landscaping specifications.
Board member Bert Koseck voted against both motions, arguing the dealership design does not meet the criteria for the planning board to waive architectural requirements, saying the design isn’t creative or innovative.