Meijer planning major remodeling, new retail/restaurant center planned nearby on US-31

Meijer is aiming for a major transformation of its US 31 store in Garfield Township, including a complete interior and exterior remodel, an expanded pharmacy drive-thru, a possible redesigned US 31 intersection and a project with The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay to Install green infrastructure as part of parking lot renovation to reduce stormwater runoff in Kids Creek. Business representatives will seek approval for the project plans at Wednesday’s Garfield Township Planning Commission meeting, where a proposed separate new retail and restaurant center near US-31 on Franke Road is also on the agenda.

Meijer has been subject to a Planned Unit Development (PUD) – or site-specific zoning plan – since 1997 for its property on US-31, which encompasses more than 44 acres (29 in Garfield Township and 15 in Traverse City). In order to make changes to the location, Meijer needs to get approval from the municipality to change its PUD. It has done so three times since 1997: in 1999 for adding a bank sign, in 2003 for adding a Starbucks sign, and in 2009 for adding a pharmacy drive-thru and signage.

This time, however, Meijer has a much bigger project in mind. According to documents provided to the municipality, the retailer, which operates a second location in Williamsburg, plans to “completely remodel the store interior” and “upgrade building facades” (image, renderings). Meijer will also reconfigure and expand the pharmacy drive-thru and resurface the driveways and main car park with 706 spaces.

As part of the car park project, Meijer is working with The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay to install green infrastructure, including a series of underground filter chambers and bioswales. The Watershed Center received grants from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) for the project, with about $650,000 coming from the state and Meijer raising at least another $500,000 to complete the improvements, according to the program director of the Watershed Center Sarah U’Ren. The goal is to reduce sediment and runoff into neighboring Kids Creek, which is a compromised waterway that the Watershed Center has spent years trying to restore to health.

“This project is going to be really great because it will reduce the amount of stormwater going into Kids Creek,” says U’Ren. “We are concerned about the amount – and also the quality – of the water going into the creek. This improves both, as runoff water seeps into the ground first. When it comes to parking lots, we’re concerned about pollutants like oil and gas, so this helps to filter out and clean them up. It will also prevent large bursts of rainwater from Meijer’s parking lot from entering the creek, which will contribute to erosion on the banks.”

With numerous hypermarkets and large car parks in Garfield Township, the Meijer project is, according to U’Ren, “a great example of a partnership between a private company and a non-profit organization to improve water quality. If a company is already working on a parking lot, they can do stormwater improvements at the same time. They are good stewards of the land.” According to U’Ren, Meijer contributed an additional $80,000 to install a surveillance program on site. The Watershed Center began monitoring the amount and quality of stormwater runoff on the property last fall and will continue to do so for a further three years after the green infrastructure is in place to compare and measure its effectiveness. According to U’Ren, a project timeline shared with Watershed indicates that Meijer will begin work on the parking lot and green infrastructure this fall, and then begin interior and exterior construction work in the winter, with a goal of completion by summer 2023 (Meijer representative did not return a request for comment).

Municipality documents indicate that Meijer also plans to redesign its main entrance intersection at the US-31 traffic light near the store’s gas station. This includes a new second left turn lane that will join the motorway north of Meijer. Municipality officials noted that “it has been observed that left turns can become congested at the site at peak times” and that Meijer’s original PUD permit required construction of a second lane for left turns. However, such a project must be coordinated with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), which has jurisdiction over US-31. Paradigm Design, a company working on behalf of Meijer, wrote in a letter to Garfield Township that MDOT is evaluating signal optimization throughout the US-31 corridor and that Meijer will coordinate with the state on improvements at intersections.

James Lake, MDOT North Region Communications Officer, narrates The ticker that the Meijer traffic light received an upgrade in 2020, including new sensors, cameras and communication equipment. “We also plan to upgrade the signal – installing new signal heads and a box-span design in place of the current diagonal guy wire – tentatively planned for 2024,” he says. “This is separate from any project Meijer is working on.” Lake says MDOT “was contacted by a designer representing Meijer who mentioned that Meijer might want to explore a reconfiguration of the store entrance intersection, but we don’t have any further detailed discussions.” and saw no proposed plans.” Municipality officials recommended that planning commissioners condition Meijer’s plan approval on the condition that the company, in collaboration with MDOT, complete a study and design of the intersection by January 2023, and by January 2024 all those recommended in that study Improvements made to the junction.

Garfield Township planning commissioners will also review another project in the US-31 corridor at their meeting on Wednesday. Garfield Retail Management LLC is seeking approval to construct a new mixed-use restaurant and retail center at 3566 North US-31 North near the intersection with Franke Road. The location is currently vacant and was formerly part of the Bill Marsh dealership. The two-acre lot will house a multi-tenant building with a drive-thru restaurant, a retail store and another restaurant. The specific companies that would occupy these spaces have not yet been identified. The community staff outlined some potential concerns that need to be addressed at the property, including crosswalks, landscaping, cross access easements and traffic. Employees said planning commissioners could either submit the application Wednesday to give Garfield Retail Management LLC more time to address those concerns or approve the site plan with several conditions to ensure those issues are resolved before construction.

Photo credit: Paradigm Design

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