2018-07-05 / News

Fortino Drive condo proposal explored

BY LANIA ROCHA
810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

SWARTZ CREEK – City officials will move forward with a plan to develop property on Fortino Drive despite mixed reviews from members of the City Council.

RBF Construction proposes to build 15 condominiums on two city-owned parcels on the north side of Fortino Drive. Each unit would measure about 1,300 square feet and will have a twocar garage.

Some of the units would face Morrish Road.

Two years ago, the Downtown Development Authority began exploring options for all of the vacant lots the city owns downtown. The city also owns property between the post office and cemetery, and south of the bank.

The DDA considered both retail/ office and residential uses, but felt the site was not viable for commercial space.

City Manager Adam Zettel said he is enthusiastic about the prospect of adding “housing that matches the blossoming downtown markets.”

But Councilman John Gilbert disagrees. He said many people park there when there are concerts at the amphitheater or ceremonies at the Veterans Memorial.

“That lot fills up,” Gilbert said. “Where are you going to put those people? Check out the veterans who go up there. Check out the age and how they get around. And now you want to move them further from the memorial? It looks like we’re trying to gobble up all the green space we get. I don’t believe we should have housing in there.”

Councilwoman Rae Lynn Hicks seconded Gilbert’s sentiment.

“I like the green space,” she said. “There’s a fire station right there. Who wants to live by that noise? If you’re in a big city, you might expect it. But this is a little city. It’s our city center.”

Hicks added that the conceptual designs RBF provided looked “crunched.”

But Zettel said downtown is where the city should have “diversity and vibrancy.”

“It makes sense to have enough services, activities and people to make (this community) thrive,” he said. “Downtown needs people. Some people thrive on being downtown.”

Zettel said such housing would appeal to a “very important demographic” that includes young couples with ample disposable income. That demographic is seeking housing in city centers where they can walk to boutique shops, farmers markets and community events.

“It’s textbook urban planning,” he said. “The location is stunning. This is a housing style that is in demand.”

DDA member Todd Beedy said the DDA proposed the idea of housing on those parcels after conducting multiple workshops, in which residents participated.

“The consensus was that housing should go there,” Beedy said.

Eric Jamison, who co-owns The Smoothie Shop, called the housing plan “the perfect mix of urban with a nice community feel.”

Eric and Dawn Jamison recently purchased the old Trecha building and the adjacent residence on Holland Drive, where they plan to operate businesses, he said.

“We fully support having people within walking distance of downtown,” Eric Jamison said. “I love green space, but I think we would be missing out if we don’t accept this. We may miss a little grass, but the trade off is a vibrant downtown.”

The City Council approved the concept of the housing plan, authorizing Zettel and the DDA to further research its viability. Hicks and Gilbert cast the dissenting votes in the 5-2 decision.

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