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RH receives zoning, site approvals from city

By Kevin Elliott

The final stages of project approval are nearing completion for the construction of a new Restoration Hardware (RH) at S. Old Woodward and Brown Street, as the project clears Birmingham’s planning board and city commission.

Birmingham city commissioners unanimously approved rezoning requests for the property ,as well as an application to add the site to the economic development license map at their meeting on Monday, July 12, while planning board members recommended approvals for final site plan, design and special land use permits at their meeting on Wednesday, July 14.

City commissioners approved rezoning the project site from D3 to D4 in the city’s downtown overlay district. The change allows RH to build a maximum building height of five stories. In particular, the change allows RH to construct a fourth-floor restaurant.

The company voluntarily limited the total height of the building to four stories, despite a five-story maximum allowed in the city. The city commission also approved amending the city’s economic development map to include the property in the district, allowing it to apply for an economic development liquor license, which can be available to entities investing $10 million or more in a property, or increasing its value by at least 500 percent.

The project calls for about $25 million in investment, and is expected to create about 130 permanent jobs, plus an additional 100 jobs during construction.

City commissioners unanimously approved both the zoning amendment and the economic development license map to include the site, with commissioner Clinton Baller absent.

Final site plans for the 50,000 square-foot, four-story RH site were recommended for approval on Wednesday, July 14, by the Birmingham Planning Board. Those plans will go forward for final approval to the city commission, along with a special land use permit that will allow for the sale of wine and beer at the new home store gallery. With the addition of a fourth-floor restaurant, the idea is to offer customers an immersive retail experience – imagine sipping from a selection of choice wines while perusing the latest design collections.

Birmingham architect Victor Saroki, who is overseeing the project with Restoration Hardware, said the building, gallery and grounds will be “first class” quality, with each element designed to complement each other and incorporate the full line of offerings from RH, presenting a lifestyle experience that is key to the company’s success. The fourth floor restaurant will double as a gallery for RH’s indoor/outdoor collections.

Planning board members unanimously recommended approval of the project’s final site plan and the special land use permit, with board chair Scott Clein abstaining.

Birmingham resident Paul Regan, an outspoken critic of the city’s approach to parking development, said he believes the project will cause parking conflicts in the residential neighborhood surrounding the RH building. Other residents had voiced their concerns about traffic and parking at the city commission meeting.

Saroki said the city commission discussion led the team to redesign the valet parking route, shortening the design to avoid neighboring parking lots or residential streets.

Attorney Richard Rattner, representing RH, said the plans include both a green roof and underground parking for at least two dozen vehicles. Further, RH peak traffic and parking times don’t coincide with the downtown parking garages. Rattner said peak parking usage after RH is constructed is expected to rise from 18 vehicles to 27 an hour during the weekdays, and from 20 to 36 on the weekend. For comparison, he said an office building would likely raise those numbers to 79 on weekdays and 98 on weekends.

“We have seen much larger buildings before this board, and at a time when construction costs are growing and there are buildings attempting to use lower quality products – this building is made from a wonderful pallet of high-quality materials. There’s nothing cheap about this building,” said planning board member and architect Bert Koseck. “The landscaping and hardscaping is an extension of the building and done beautifully.

“This is an important intersection within our downtown, and for me it completes that intersection. We have some one-story buildings and odd property lines, and this anchors that corner well and transitions well from the Daxton down to the Forefront. It continues our downtown to the south, and will hopefully help our retail. I just think it’s a great project. … this is a draw. I think it will benefit everything downtown.”


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