Village planning commission to hold public hearing on the redevelopment of the former Lake Orion High School/Ehman Center building

Village planning commission to hold public hearing on the redevelopment of the former Lake Orion High School/Ehman Center building

By Jim Newell

Review Editor

The Lake Orion Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on a proposed Planned Unit Development (PUD) Preliminary Plan for 55 W. Elizabeth St., the old Lake Orion High School building, also known as the Ehman Center.

The public hearing begins at 7:30 p.m. Monday in council chambers at Lake Orion Village Hall, 21 E. Church St.

The proposed Planned Unit Development (PUD) Preliminary Plan is to redevelop the site into a mixed-use development, which would have 89 residential units and up to 5,000 square feet in total of commercial and community space.

“The public needs to know that’s (the public hearings) the opportunity for them to come and share concerns, share their positivity, negativity, whatever it may be. But bring it and let’s talk about it because this is a pinnacle development in our community,” said village council President Ken Van Portfliet.

Kyle Westberg with West Construction has proposed the redevelopment.

The proposed redevelopment includes the Lofts at West Village – the Ehman Center building – which would have three levels, 30 loft-style apartments and would be 41,643 square feet. There would be an event space of 3,992 square feet at the south end of the building with a capacity for 200 people, according to plans submitted to the village.

The Flats at West Village, the second proposed building, which would be a new building, would be four levels with a total 65,660 square feet and have 59 one and two bedroom apartments.

There would be a parking lot on Elizabeth Street, south of the Lofts at West Village (the current building).

The first formal step in the PUD process is for the Planning Commission to review the application and concept plan at a regularly scheduled meeting to determine eligibility. After consideration, the Planning Commission shall make a recommendation to the Village Council on whether the proposed development satisfies the eligibility criteria in Section 11.02 of the Zoning Ordinance.

The planning commission previously had a Preliminary PUD Review – PUD Eligibility review and discussion during its Sept. 7 meeting and recommended that the village council grant eligibility approval.

The village council then accepted the planning commission’s recommendation at the council’s Sept. 13 meeting.

“This is the second of really five steps needed to finally adopt the PUD ordinance,” said village Manager Joe Young at the Sept. 13 meeting, adding that “once eligibility is approved, they have to go back and do the final preliminary site plan, which has to go back to the planning commission.”

The planning commission could then recommend approval to the council and the council would then have a public hearing and first reading of the PUD ordinance and a “second reading and adoption of a final PUD ordinance,” Young said.

West Construction would maintain the historical restoration of the former high school, Young said. “This project would maintain the historical character of that building, which is certainly a benefit.”

“We’re historical preseveration people. We’ve been doing this for about 15 years now,” Westberg said, adding that the school has been underused for years and is now becoming blighted and has graffiti on the building. “So, we’re looking at it as the benefit to the community is to clean up an old building and get rid of the blight, but also preserve an historic structure.”

The former high school building was established in 1927 according to village documents.

Westberg said they would also do some “public space improvements.” The public lot on the corner of Elizabeth and Lapeer streets, across from the Ehman Center, will be repaved and rebuilt with curbs and landscaping.

“Beautify that parking lot as part of our expenses, not the village’s,” Westberg said.

There also are improvements planned for the sidewalks and curbs around the area.

The cost of the project would be around $19.8 million according to documents in the village council meeting packet.

Planning commission agenda documents are available at lakeorion.org under the “Boards” tab.

 

4 Responses to "Village planning commission to hold public hearing on the redevelopment of the former Lake Orion High School/Ehman Center building"

  1. Carol Louden Reyes   October 4, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    I am not saying no to the plan but do not think we need EIGHTY-NINE apartments on this too small piece of property…it is just too many for this area ! and just where would all those cars park ? Underground ? I live right across the street and have a sump pump over here !!!! So what abut the water table ? Plan sounds way to big for this area to me ! But something also needs to be done with that beautiful building. They did make apartments out of Central High School in Flint, but did not disturb the surrounding neighborhood, and it looks good too. Just not that many..Greed is a terrible thing these days….

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  2. Lynn Wiseman   October 5, 2021 at 12:13 pm

    This is the WORST idea I have ever seen. Other than the developer, who will benefit from this? This will put hundreds of people on residential streets trying to get to M24 which is already a traffic problem. Would any of you enjoy two apartment buildings holding 90units on your neighborhood street plus a bonus event space? Perhaps you are unaware that there is a parking problem in our village already. This won’t be good for the businesses either. Nobody wants to walk around the downtown district with cars lined up waiting to turn at the light or dine outdoors drowning in car exhaust.

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  3. Cory Johnston   October 6, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    I was at the meeting and there were the usual comments about traffic, parking, and losing a historic building, even though the plan is to keep the building and restore it, not tear it down or or alter the exterior.
    Based on comments made at the meeting, it has been empty for over 60 years with no other viable plans other than letting it deteriorate until it will have to be demolished. That would be a shame and a waste of a valuable resource.
    Oh yes, there would also be a huge increase in property tax revenue and people using local businesses if this were allowed to move ahead.
    I hope the neighbors, and perhaps the planners, get over their obsession with parking and traffic, instead looking at hopefully affordable housing for people that could work in the Village and not need to drive everywhere. I understand that’s a lot to ask anywhere in Michigan but Lake Orion has started to make some good moves in that direction. If you want to live in suburban sprawl and have free readily available parking everywhere you go, there are many other areas that provide exactly that.

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  4. Denise Bruin   October 7, 2021 at 9:58 am

    I think this is a terrific idea for use of an old building that badly needs to be refurbished. True, the number of units (89) does seem a bit much.. Therefore, I would hope the developer might consider a mix of two and three bedroom units. With more and more people working from home, this would afford small families the opportunity to rent and work from home. While not a necessary reduction in actual people living within the structure, it could potentially reduce the number of actual cars per unit. I realize there are exceptions to this, ie., high school aged kids who drive. Just my two sense on the matter.

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