Traffic study, site plan accepted for new building
By Grace Lovins
The community impact study and preliminary site plan for a proposed development at 34952 Woodward Avenue and 690 E. Maple Road was accepted and approved by the Birmingham Planning Board at its meeting on Wednesday, May 10.
The development will still need to return for final site plan and design review, with several traffic issues remaining unsolved.
Ryan Companies is proposing a six to nine-story, mixed use building for the corner pf Woodward and Maple that is approximately 406,000 square feet. Planning board members reviewed the community impact study on Monday, April 17, but postponed a decision given concerns with traffic and vehicle access and the request for additional information and models from the applicants.
Updated environmental information was submitted to the city which showed that the geotechnical bores that were completed indicated environmentally impacted soil exhibiting hydrocarbon odor, said city planner Leah Bublitz. The company has not submitted the soil for lab analysis, according to vice president of development Toby Veit, but he said the presence of the odor will be investigated and they are comfortable moving forward.
Board member Daniel Share said he expected to know more information about the potential environmental concerns. “When we have a draft report, usually we have final reports. … We’re now three months past when this thing showed up and I would’ve expected a plan of some kind for what further investigation there’s going to be,” he said.
Since the other issues with the community impact study were resolved, board chairperson Scott Clein suggested accepting the study on the condition that Ryan Companies submit the information about the environmental condition before a decision is made on the final site plan.
The board asked for the company to review the corner of Woodward and Maple to make the area more pedestrian friendly and accessible. New designs show that a pedestrian cut-through has been added to the first-floor retail space, so pedestrians are able to walk through and access the area instead of walking around. They also added a plaza at the corner complete with benches, greenspace, a curved hardscape and open area for a potential art installation.
At the board’s meeting on April 17, Brad Strader, the city’s traffic consultant, expressed multiple concerns over the development’s ingress and egress onto Maple Road and a proposed drop-off on the same street. Strader argued that an egress onto Maple wouldn’t be feasible given the amount of traffic but said that if the developers do choose to have an egress, it should be a right turn only.
Several board members said they feel the drop-off is a bad idea considering the amount of traffic on Maple. Robin Boyle and Janelle Boyce were concerned with the number of deliveries coming per day, saying that deliveries are only going to increase as time goes on and they don’t want the added traffic on the street. Boyce suggested that the alley would be a better location.
“I think the more complicated we make it the less likely these people are going to be able to find out where they’re supposed to go, and they’ll end up sitting in the right lane on Maple anyway with their hazards on,” said Matt Stevens, architect and project designer with Ryan Companies.
Chairperson Clein said he was comfortable moving forward with the preliminary site plan with conditions. He said there’s still more to be discussed with the drop off, and the developers need to look at the ingress and egress on Maple, specifically the left turn onto the street.
The community impact study was accepted by the board on the condition that Ryan Companies submits the environmental information before the final site plan is approved. Board member voted 6-1 to accept the study, with Boyle voting against the motion saying he was concerned about accepting the study with caveats.
Board members also voted 7-0 to approve the preliminary site plan. Board members Bryan Williams and Stuart Jeffares were absent so alternate members Jason Emerine and Nasseem Ramin voted in their place.