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November 29, 2012
By Brad Lindberg

Staff Writer

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Two neighboring storefronts on the Hill may be renovated next year in the style of an upper eastside Manhattan office building that looks more like a house.

“It’s a very, very significant renovation, a takeoff on the old Bank of New York office from the mid 1800s on [Madison/Lexington] (Avenue),” said Edward Russell, owner of Russell Development Company.

He tested his proposal, which requires a 5-foot height variance, this month to the Grosse Pointe Farms city council.

“This is all preliminary,” Russell said. “I want to make sure there is flexibility on the council because, if we’re going to spend significant money, we want to do the right kind of job.”

The prototype is a three-story, front-entrance, brick, Georgian colonial with dormers.

“Our client absolutely loves this building,” Russell said. “It is now a J.P. Morgan wealth management office.”

Russell’s client wants to represent the structure at 117 and 121 Kercheval, side-by-side locations of the former Greenhouse Salon and Talmer Bank and Trust.

Greenhouse moved to Mack. Talmer intends to move to 99 Kercheval on the Hill.

Russell proposes topping 117 and 121 Kercheval, which stand nearly 30 feet tall, with a 5-foot-3 false third floor facade and three dormers to hide roof-top air conditioning and other equipment.

“The screen should be integral to the design of the whole building,” said John Jackson, executive vice president of McKenna Associates, the Farms planning consultant. “I think the height is reasonable.”

Councilman Louis Theros wants third-floor treatments continued on the rear facade.

“This is more about architectural constancy than screening,” he said.

Russell asked council members if they saw “conceptual problems.”

“You’re finishing off the face nicely,” said Councilman Martin West.

“It’s consistent with what you’re trying to accomplish,” answered Mayor James Farquhar.

Although Russell didn’t name the tenant, he said the second story would be transformed into a family office containing three or four people.

“We’re not ready to announce any tenant for the first floor,” adding that it will be used for “general business.”

The proposed use would reduce demand for parking space on the Hill, he said.

A formal proposal is likely at the Janaury council meeting, tenatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14.

“We look forward to seeing it,” Farquhar said.

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