November 29, 2012By Brad Lindberg
GROSSE POINTE FARMS — In an era when the word, unique, is exploited to gin-up sales of the latest fashion ephemera, one of the Grosse Pointe’s emblems of architectural compromise is being changed with the times.
The old Grosse Pointe News building at 99 Kercheval on the Hill, constructed decades ago with a U-shaped front courtyard in deference to a preexisting American elm tree that withered and died years ago, will be renovated early next year with a flat facade.
A developer proposes to replace the roughly 410-square-foot open space into a glass-doored entryway, vestibule and a facade-mounted automatic teller machine to dispense dollar bills at rates greater than leaves could grow on a tree.
A site plan presented to the Grosse Pointe Farms city council this week on behalf of the building’s tenant, Talmer Bank and Trust, preserves most of the structure’s art deco limestone facade and monochromatic color scheme.
“Our plan is to fill in the courtyard and facade in the center of the building,” said Eugene Casazza, asset manager for Russell Development Co., based on the Hill. “Everything is staying identical, except the center is going to be glass.”
The development company owns the building.
A united city council accepted the proposal contingent upon the applicant detailing, at next month’s meeting, a satisfactory array of proposed exterior construction materials, color, signage and lighting.
“Awnings are going to be similar to what’s existing,” Casazza said.
“I’m assuming Talmer will be bringing the sign from their present location (at 121 Kercheval on the Hill),” said Ed Russell, owner of Russell Development.
“I’m enthused this will retain the two main sides of the building,” said Councilman Louis Theros, an advocate of preserving structures of various styles in modern settings.
The council’s final approval comes no sooner than its 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10 meeting.
Even with final endorsement, the council will forbid work on the exterior until January.
The delay prevents construction from hindering retail activity on the Hill during the holiday season.
Although Talmer’s office will operate by appointment only, expansion of the building requires one additional parking space on the Hill.
In lieu of providing an extra space, Russell was assessed $7,500.
The money is deposited in a municipal fund. Uses are limited to maintaining and developing parking facilities in the district.
Robin Dalby, a homeowner on Radnor Circle, one block south of the Hill, said he supports renovating the building “to make it more attractive to business.”
He’s concerned about overflow parking clogging adjacent residential neighborhoods.
Dalby wants Farms officials to enforce parking restrictions against people, often Hill employees, he said, using his side street as a free parking lot.
“It interferes with our trash and leaf pickup,” Dalby said.