With direction to provide more information and a specific parking plan, Farmington Planning commissioners on Monday approved a preliminary conceptual plan for Samurai Hibachi & Sushi.
The unanimous vote followed a public hearing that drew a handful of comments, mostly about parking.
The sushi restaurant will be located in the former Grand Bakery & Cafe at 32821 Grand River, with three second floor apartments. A new, four-story building to the west would house a 100-seat restaurant on the main floor with 12 apartments on three floors above.
Project architect Sal D’Aleo of D’Anna Associates said the buildings are designed with the “urban feel” of a storefront. In addition, he said, a patio between the two buildings would “bring some outdoor life to the streetscape” and provide a connection to a parking lot at the rear of the buildings.
The plan shows 39 parking spaces onsite, with an additional 31 spaces of adjacent public parking. That falls short of the city’s combined minimums for restaurant patrons and apartment residents.
Planning and engineering reviews by OHM did not turn up any “earth-shattering, show-stopping” concerns, consultant Matt Parks said. He cited the need for more detail in the plans and said changes to painted parking spots on Grand River and the proposed Grand River crosswalk between the restaurant and Village Commons mall would require Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) approval.
“I think these are all things that can be worked on with the engineer and architect,” Parks said.
Planning commissioner Steven Majoros asked why original plans changed; the first proposal had both buildings at two stories, with four apartments in each.
“We’re just curious, because it’s a pretty big change,” he said.
D’Aleo called that an “economic move,” to maximize potential for the site. He said the market-rate apartments will rent for about $1,000 per month. Xie Zheng LLC partner Mike Kemsely later pointed out that condo and apartment buildings surrounding the property are all at 100 percent occupancy.
Majoros also asked about outreach to neighboring property owners for reciprocal parking. Kemsely said he has been unable to reach any firm agreements, but may be able to gain eight spots in a deal with Farmington West apartments to the south. He hopes employees will be able to park in a large lot on the south side of The Groves shopping center to the west.
Economic and Community Development Director Kevin Christiansen said that the city code allows for convenient public spaces to be counted when a project can’t meet minimums with on-site parking.
“The initial interest … was to see if there was an opportunity to achieve some connectivity with adjacent property owners,” he said. “They’ve exhausted those opportunities. So they went to the next step, utilizing municipal parking and on street parking to offset requirements.”
The barn moves
“What’s up with the barn?” Majoros asked, referring to a historic barn on the site.
Kemsley explained that the company is partnering with the Oakland County Pioneer & Historical Society (OCPHS), which has a five-acre property in Pontiac. He said a contractor who received a large sum of money to start the moving process didn’t follow through, and “we’re in litigation right now.”
“Obviously we weren’t expecting a lot of this.,” Kemsley said. “We had to come up with another $20,000 to get this barn moved.”
OCPHS board member Dave Decker said an experienced barn preservationist is expected to begin taking down the barn on August 20 and, weather-permitting, will finish by the end of that week. The barn will be taken to the OCPHS property, where it will be stored until it can be reassembled.
“You guys have my word and my partner’s word that the barn’s getting moved,” Kemsley said.
During public comment, Mike Liadis, agent for the Village Commons mall, suggested putting additional parking under the new building. While the mall’s parking lot is described as “underutilized,” he said he has no idea how much parking a new restaurant, Sidecar Sliders, will take up when it opens later this year.
Representing the Grand River Cruisers, Bob Steinhaus said he wanted to “put a face on the organization.” The club puts on a Monday evening car show from May through September in the Village Commons parking lot. A charity fundraiser, the show is celebrating its 10th year.
Resident Chris Hollis pointed to the increased use of ride sharing services Uber and Lyft, which could reduce the need for parking. He said the city may want to look at current parking requirements, “when those requirements were drafted, and how the world has changed.”
“There probably would have been a time in Farmington’s history when they said we probably wouldn’t put in a restaurant without a hitching post,” he said.
Christiansen said following city council review, the Planned Unit Development (PUD) plans and a PUD agreement will come back to planning commissioners for final approval.
View the plans in the meeting agenda packet at farmgov.com.