Mixed-use development would be at former Lake Orion Pet Centre site
By Jim Newell
LAKE ORION — Another apartment complex could be coming to the Village of Lake Orion, this time at the site of the former Lake Orion Pet Centre.
The proposed mixed-use development at 44 E. Flint St. – on the corner of Anderson and Flint streets across from 313 Pizza Bar – is currently a free public parking lot under a shared use agreement with the property owner and the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority.
Jeff Klatt, an architect at Kreiger Klatt Architects, presented an early concept plan to the Lake Orion Planning Commission on Monday, giving an overview of a potential three-story building with retail spaces on the bottom floor and 16 apartments total on the remaining two floors.
“We’re not seeking formal approval, we’d just like to get your high-level thoughts, which will help button up our project for the next round, for a formal presentation,” Klatt said. “We feel that this is a project that makes sense from a development standpoint and we hope it makes sense from a downtown standpoint as well.”
“Since the building they’re proposing is only three stories it does not trigger special land use, they’re not requesting a PUD (Planned Unit Development) this is just a mixed-use development on one of the downtown center blocks,” said Laura Haw, planner with McKenna, the village’s planning consultants.
“I’m happy to see a three story, not a four-story attempt. That would be really out of place with that immediate residential area right there,” Commissioner Ken Van Portfliet said.
Apartment size and price range
The development proposes 14 single bedroom apartments and two two-bedroom apartments, eight apartments on each floor. According to the drawings presented, single bedroom apartments would be around 800 square feet and two-bedroom units would be 930 square feet.
Commissioner Michael Lamb asked the price range for the apartments and how much the developer was anticipating spending on the project.
“The apartments are fairly small, 800-900 square foot, less units, larger apartments, higher rent. What’s your target rent?” Van Portfliet asked.
Klatt said they were too early in the process to specify rental prices, but estimated the potential total investment to be “north of $3 million.”
“I’m excited,” said Lamb, adding that he appreciates that it is a three-story building and not four stories and that it fits in with the downtown. “Right now, we just have an ugly corner. It’s used, though, very nicely for free parking. A nice building would look nice there.”
Retail space and façade design
The first-floor plan calls for a 1,196 square feet residential lobby area and 3,062 square feet of leasable retail space. Twelve of the 23 on-site parking spots would be covered.
“I think that the retail component on the first floor is a must,” Van Portfliet said.
Design styles for the building façade would “respect existing downtown language” and would be in a “traditional/transitional style” with a “timeless appearance/not trendy,” according to the concept plans.
The façade examples show brick and stone buildings with glazing and metal accents.
Commissioners said they have heard from the public on multiple occasions that they want to keep the brick and masonry components of future developments to blend in with the current downtown building architecture.
As with most developments in the village, parking was an area of concern for commissioners.
“We have a bit of a shortage on the parking based on what the ordinance requires,” Klatt said.
Under the village’s current ordinance, developers are required to have two parking spaces for each apartment, meaning that the development would require 32 designated parking spots for tenants.
However, under the plan presented by Klatt, the project would only provide 23 spaces on site, a 1.4 ratio of the number of parking spots to the number of apartments.
Klatt said the developer would be asking for “relief for nine parking spots.”
The proposal did not address parking for retail store employees or customers.
The plans would also eliminate the entrance on Flint Street, creating two on-street public parking spots, said Haw, and the commission could consider giving the developer “credit” for creating the spots when considering any parking variance request.
Klatt broached possibly reconfiguring the parking on Anderson Street, and removing the wall between the development and the public parking lot to the south to create additional parking spots.
Van Portfliet questioned the proposed parking plan.
“That’s one thing that the public has said many times over — (it) is they complain about parking, parking, parking, parking,” Van Portfliet said. “It’s a high note of interest. Probably needs some more work and consideration on that. They are mostly single bedroom – 14 and 2 – I was a little surprised at, but I would like to see something happen with that corner.”
Klatt asked commissioners if “there was any appetite to pursue sharing parking spots with the DDA lot to the south” referring to the adjacent lot on the southeast corner of Anderson and Front streets.
Klatt also proposed “buying” spots from the village or DDA, especially since the apartment building would be close to the DDA financed Slater Street parking lot.
“We’ve really pushed hard for two (parking spots per unit), and we had a project that got turned down because they couldn’t reach two,” said Commissioner Hank Lorant.
“I don’t see the possibility of the street parking being dedicated to the building. To me, that represents a problem,” Van Portfliet said. “The shared possibility with the DDA lot in the back possibly, but maybe your retail could be a bit smaller, I’m not sure, but you guys have done your due diligence.”
The Lake Orion Pet Centre building caught fire on Jan. 28, 2017. Demolition of the burnt rubble began in June 2017.In March 2018, developer Jeff Schmitz made a bid on the property and it went under contract but the purchase had not closed.
After Schmitz closed on the property, he later proposed building a mixed-use retail space and parking deck and a mixed use four story retail space and apartments but could never get enough public and council support.
He then turned the lot into a parking lot, entering into a shared use agreement with the DDA to recover the taxes on the property in exchange for public parking access.
Schmitz currently still owns the property but it is under contract with a developer to redevelop the site.