October 12, 2017CITY OF GROSSE POINTE — A burgeoning voice of opposition to the proposed hotel in the Village is beginning to gain momentum.
An online petition began circulating late last week detailing issues residents have with putting a Cambria Suites hotel in the Village. At press time, the petition had more than 500 signatures.
No. 1 on the list of concerns is child safety, said Malerie Behm, the City resident who started the petition. The proposed hotel would be a stone’s throw from Maire Elementary School, The Neighborhood Club and the Rotary Tot Lot on Waterloo.
The original elevation drawing submitted by Pedersen Development in January. The final design has not yet been submitted. Since the agreement was signed in February, alternative plans have been explored by the developer and city officials after parking concerns were raised.
“A hotel of the size being proposed will reduce visibility and create more vehicular traffic in an already busy area with lots of children on foot and bike,” Behm wrote in an email.
The aesthetic integrity and atmosphere of the Village also are at stake, said Behm.
“A huge draw for me and my husband to move here to start our family was the walkable, quiet and relaxed atmosphere,” Behm said. “I truly believe shoehorning a budget hotel chain in the middle of the Village will be an eyesore that diminishes all of those qualities people love about living here and will make our neighborhood less attractive to people looking to relocate in our area.”
Mayor Dale Scrace is well aware of the concerns raised by residents. He said the developer, Pedersen Development, and City Manager Peter Dame are working diligently with stakeholders to ensure the issues are addressed. They are exploring alternate plans because of issues already raised by area businesses, said Dame.
“The concepts are preliminary at this point,” Dame wrote in an email. “The initial version of an alternative concept would involve building the hotel above a public parking structure. More recently, Pedersen Development has been examining a scenario for a five-story development including a hotel and parking structure on Lot 2 (between Marais and Chase Bank), with no development on Lot 3.”
An updated, alternative proposal from Pedersen Development submitted in August. The new site plan calls for a hotel and parking structure on Lot 2, between Notre Dame and St. Clair, north of Kercheval.
Scrace also said the city has a good relationship with the school district and would work closely with them to ensure children’s safety. Assuming the hotel project proceeds through the process, Scrace said the city would have discussions with the school board and public safety, “not just about safety, but about safety with traffic and turns and ‘do we need to change a pattern a little bit with the cars.’”
In regard to the aesthetics of the project, Scrace said nothing is set in stone. In fact, the only thing council has approved so far is the preferred developer.
“At this point in time, it’s all back at Pedersen,” Scrace said. “They are updating market studies, updating financial projections, feasibility studies, construction costs.”
After the updates are complete, if the developer feels a hotel is no longer feasible, they could pull out of the deal, said Scrace.
However, if everything checks out, Scrace is confident the developer will build a hotel fitting of the Village. Scrace admits it probably won’t be like The Townsend in Birmingham, which carries room rates around $300 per night. But, based on past projects, Pedersen will design a hotel that fits in the Village, said Scrace.
“They are going to work the design of (the hotel) to fit into the character of the Village and Grosse Pointe,” Scrace said. “It’s unique to this site.”
Scrace said the developer should have a better idea how to move forward by mid-December.
For Behm, she hopes the city and council will listen to residents and their concerns about the project.
“What I’d really like the city council to consider when looking at these proposals is the voices of the people who live here and what direction we would like our community to go in,” Behm said. “The Village is our ‘main street’ and I don’t believe very many of our residents want to see the proliferation of more generic chain brands. It erodes the unique individuality that sets where we live apart from everywhere else.”
Scrace assures there will be plenty of opportunity for public comment during the process.
“There’s multiple public hearings,” Scrace said. “Site plan approvals, the development agreement. There’s multiple opportunities for the public, not just the stakeholders, but the public, to have input.”
A lot of work has yet to be done, Scrace said.
“Just keep an open mind,” Scrace said, “follow the process. We’ve only approved a preferred development agreement.”
To view the petition, visit change.org. To see the hotel proposals, visit the city website, grosse pointecity.org.