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Woodward/Maple development plans postponed

By Grace Lovins

The decision to approve the preliminary site plan and community impact study for a new six- to nine-story building, to be located at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Maple Road, was postponed by the Birmingham Planning Board on Monday, April 17, to resolve outstanding traffic and access issues.

Ryan Companies, a national construction, development and architecture firm, submitted plans for a nine-story, mixed-use building to be approximately 406,000 square feet. According to city planner Leah Bublitz, the development will consist of 210 residential spaces and a large retail area on the main level. Plans also show a three-level parking structure with a surplus of 67 spaces, Bublitz said, and an additional five spaces intended for compact car parking.

Plans for the building show there will also be amenity decks available for the residents living in the building. Matt Stevens, architect and project designer with Ryan Companies, shared that the decks will possibly house a fitness center, club room and potential sky lounge on the upper deck, and the lobby amenity space will likely have seating, a mailroom and leasing space, and a bike room.

Because the proposed development is over 20,000 square feet, a community impact study is required. Bublitz said that the community impact study had no significant issues to highlight, but the applicant will need to submit details for certain elements — the location of bike racks, how they’re going to mitigate noise and debris during construction — before the board is able to approve the final site plan and design.

Although most of the study showed no major areas of concern, the city’s traffic consultant, Brad Strader, noted that the Transportation Impact Study needs revisions. Strader said the developers need to submit new simulated traffic models, or synchro models, and will have to provide an answer to the problem with traffic exiting on to Maple.

Currently, the plans show both an entrance and exit on Maple, but Strader argued that the exit wouldn’t be feasible given the street’s traffic. He suggested an entrance only or creating an exit that would only allow cars to turn right onto Maple.

Developers will also have to meet with MDOT and SMART given that they are planning to relocate the bus stops on both Woodward and Maple. According to Strader, the applicant also needs to provide the SEMCOG Crash Analysis in the final site plan, given the number of accidents on Woodward and Maple, and also the pros and cons of relocating the bus stops.

Chair Scott Clein and board member Bryan Williams explained they were also concerned with the traffic leaving on to Maple and are uneasy about accepting the plan and study without an answer as to what the developers are planning on doing. Other board members also shared their concerns over a proposed drop-off area on Maple, noting the traffic on the street wouldn’t make this concept a good idea.

Stevens explained that the drop-off was partly intended to help ease the flow of deliveries from freelance drivers like Grubhub and Uber. He says it may also help with bigger delivery companies like Amazon or FedEx, given the size of the public alley way in the rear of the building.

Planning board members voted 7-0 to postpone a decision both for accepting the community impact study as well as approving the preliminary site plan and design because of the concerns with traffic and vehicle access. The applicant will be returning with the necessary information at the meeting on Wednesday, May 10.


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