By Jim Newell
A new restaurant is coming to downtown Lake Orion at the site formerly occupied by The Wagon Wheel restaurant, though which restaurant will inhabit the proposed building has yet to be decided.
Dia Zaraga, who owns the property and also owns Sagebrush Cantina, plans to build a two-story restaurant on the 0.13-acre lot at 102 S. Broadway St., between Paint Creek and the Verwood Apartments.
The Wagon Wheel Bar and Grill collapsed in January 2014 after being vacant for almost 10 years. Since then the property has been empty, a large sand lot on the downtown landscape.
The Lake Orion Planning Commission approved the site plan review at its Aug. 7 meeting.
The proposed building is 6,100 square feet and will have 2,118 square feet of open-air outdoor dining on a portion of the second story.
The restaurant also features a second-story covered seating area, a serving area on the second floor and full kitchen, dining area and bar on the main floor, according to the site plans submitted to the village.
The planning commission site plan approval came with conditions that a few outstanding façade and architectural adjustments would be worked out administratively between village officials and the owner.
The outstanding items included lighting, garbage enclosure and streetscaping and landscaping features to meet village design specifications.
Other items included increasing the size of the bandwidth on the second story, the size of the first floor windows adding a wood front door and aluminum awnings.
“What I want to do is build a beautiful building and hopefully we get an operator in there,” Zaraga told the planning commission.
The property is in the Downtown Center zoning district, which permits restaurant, retail or office space at that site.
Marler Harlow, the project contractor and builder, was at the Aug. 7 meeting where the planning commission gave site plan approval.
Harlow said he and Zaraga had hoped to begin the project by now, and would be ready to start “Right away” once all the outstanding details are ironed out.
“We’re hoping 3-4 months. We’d like to at least get up the shell before winter. We’re trying to beat that,” Harlow said. “We’ll have contractors lined up as soon as the final project’s approved.”
The new building will have a similar brick style and color as the Sagebrush Cantina restaurant on Broadway Street. “It will look sharp when it’s all done,” Harlow said.
In September 2015, Dia Zaraga received preliminary site plan approval for a new 5,028 square foot two-story building at the property. The proposed building is approximately 6,100 square feet, said Laura Haw, principal planner with McKenna Associates, the village’s planning consultants.
“Marler Harlow previously submitted a similar site plan for a two-story building at 102 S. Broadway Street in 2014 and this was reviewed and approved with 13 conditions by the Planning Commission on September 1, 2015,” said Haw in her site plan review.
“Due to the length of time since the original approval and the changes to the original site plan the current application requires site plan review and approval from the Planning Commission.”