The Birmingham Planning Board gave its approval to a proposal to build a Fiat dealership and showroom at the northeast corner of Woodward and Bowers.
Representatives from the proposed dealership—including Golling Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram and construction management firm Atwell Anderson—presented a revised final site plan to the Planning Board on Wednesday evening after their plans were sent back during the Jan. 26 meeting because of a disorganized presentation and a lack of detailed floor plans.
The board chastised the Fiat representatives at the Jan. 26 meeting, especially after it was unclear how the interior of the building would be used, how cars would enter and exit the showroom and whether they would be serviced on site. Planning Board Chairman Robert Boyle complimented the group Wednesday on its new presentation, pointing out that it makes their case that much stronger with the City Commission.
“It’s not our role to rearrange the deck chairs, so to speak,” Boyle said. “But it is our job make sure the building will work.”
Fiat hopes to move into the former Baker Furniture location, at 34500 Woodward Ave., which has been vacant since March 2009.
If approved by the City Commission, the new dealership would be one of the few locations to sell Fiats in southeastern Michigan. The Italian automobile manufacturer merged with Chrysler in January 2009 and began introducing its Fiat 500 to the U.S. market for the first time in 25 years this month. The proposed Fiat of Birmingham would be under the umbrella of Golling Chrysler, located at Square Lake and Telegraph. The majority of stock would be stored at the Bloomfield Hills location, and the cars would receive major repairs there as well.
The dealership would be made up of a front showroom, facing Woodward. Cars would be stored in a back room as well, facing Elm Street. Windows wrap all four sides of the building, as per the request of the Planning Board because the building abuts a neighborhood. Architect Bob Ziegelman also has plans for a small café and outdoor seating area along the Woodward sidewalk for customers shopping or waiting for their car.
At the Jan. 26 meeting, Planning Board members were initially concerned at the presence of a limited service area in the dealership’s back room, wondering whether cars would be serviced on site. Golling representatives said the dealership would be able to handle light maintenance on site—repairs covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, for example.
“We will have a mechanic there for quick service,” Matt Anderson, of Atwell and Anderson, assured the board.
Discussion at the Jan. 26 meeting also revolved around having a car dealership in the Triangle District. Several residents claimed having a car dealership in their backyard wasn’t what they were bargaining for when they moved to Birmingham. Board member Gillian Lazar agreed at the time. Currently, the Fred Lavery Porsche dealership operates down the street, at 34602 Woodward Ave.
“I feel like we’re letting down the Triangle District plans,” Lazar said, referring the city's strategic plan to guide development in the neighborhood south of Maple, east of Woodward and west of Adams so as to complement downtown and enhance the character of the city.
Board member Bert Koseck said every plan that passes through the Planning Board deserves the highest level of attention. Every decision it makes, whether it’s the number of windows facing a residential street or what the building is made out of, reflects back on the city.
“I think the Triangle District is the new frontier for the city of Birmingham,” Koseck said. “This building (will be) in Birmingham because of the principles we have.”
Presented with the new plans Wednesday, the board unanimously agreed to pass along the plans for the dealership. It now moves to City Commission for final approval.