By Lauren N. Shields
The Meridian Times
A concept for a new apartment complex was brought to the Meridian Township Board. The plan, as presented by Campus Village Communities on May 3, would be built on the south side of Grand River Avenue on land zoned to be commercial land. It would be a mixed-use development, meaning it would have residential and commercial components.
“The Avenue on Grand River is a project that we believe fits within this community,” said attorney for Campus Village Communities John Gaber. “Within the commercial zone there’s a Salvation Army store, the Foods for Living grocery store and then the State of Fitness, a fitness facility.”
According to Meridian Township Director of Community Planning and Development Mark Kieselbach, in 1997 this site was originally deemed to be a shopping center.
“The original plan showed three buildings,” said Kieselbach. “Since the original approval, they were able to develop two buildings, but were never able to develop that third building as part of this overall proposal.”
Campus Village Communities’ said that a part of its plan is to redevelop this site in order to benefit the community.
“We are looking at a proposal here to add a vibrant, active, multi-family residential community that will provide synergies to strengthen the existing retail and in turn benefit the residential,” said Gaber. “One of our big goals as part of this project is to promote – one of the township’s objectives as well for sustainability – walkability, bikeability and public transportation as part of this overall project.”
The Avenue on Grand River would include 219 residential units, a series of four pocket parks throughout the development, recycling facilities, a pool and bicycle storage shelters. It would also include access to an entrepreneurial hub within the clubhouse. This would include access to computers and copy centers as well as conference rooms and offices that residents could rent. The residents would also have a short walk to the surrounding retail.
“When we saw this site that has been sitting there for 17 years, essentially fallow, we saw the synergy of being able to put residential in a density here that justifies the cost of the land,” said Campus Village Communities Director of Design and Construction Ray Behling.
The plan faced questions and critiques from the board members, including Trustee John Veenstra who didn’t agree that the concept plan was indeed mixed-used.
“It seems to me that what you are proposing is an apartment complex, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I don’t know why it is mixed-use,” said Veenstra. “I mean, taking a map and drawing a line around an existing building and saying it is part of the project, therefore it is mixed-use – it seems to me it’s kind of abuse of what our mixed-use ordinance is supposed to be.”
Trustee Milton Scales had concerns with the township’s new distillery being too close to the proposed complex.
“This is a concept review and I am glad that we have this process and I am glad that you are taking full advantage of this because I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this concept right now,” said Scales. “The thing that sticks out in my mind the most is alcohol, a railroad track and students.”
Behling also proposed a retaining wall along the southern property line by the railroad tracks.
“A retaining wall stops a train a lot better than distance,” said Behling.