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Drayton Lofts Coming Back to Ferndale Planning Commission with Revised Plans

Drayton Lofts Coming Back to Ferndale Planning Commission with Revised Plans

(Crystal A. Proxmire Sept. 18, 2018)

Ferndale, MI – A company seeking to convert the former Drayton Avenue Presbyterian Church into apartments will go before the Ferndale Planning Commission Wednesday with revisions to their concept in hopes of securing a zoning change.

The 2.46 acre property at 2441 Pinecrest could support up to 25 new homes, which would not require a zoning change.  However, developers and those selling the property are hoping to save the building by re-purposing it into apartments.

Neighbors have had mixed responses to the adaptive reuse project. At the July 11 Planning Commission meeting over 30 residents spoke against the zoning change because of the impact of more traffic and of having renters as opposed to home owners. On social media some applauded the idea of saving the unique building and adding more rental units to satisfy the growing demand, while others preferred houses to keep with the character of the neighborhoods.  And others expressed hope that another church might come along to purchase the space.

In December the congregation of Drayton Avenue Presbyterian moved to a building in Berkley that is shared with two other congregations. There was a time when DAP had over 2,000 members.  Hundreds of kids filled the youth program and resources flowed to support the church and its ministries. But like many churches across the county, they’ve experienced loss in population and involvement, reducing their membership to even fewer people than when they first opened in 1924.

“In 1924 we had 137 members.  Now we have 80,” said Pastor Dr. J. Scott Miller when the move was announced “We had to face that our building no longer fit the size of our congregation.” The money used from the sale of the church will help them continue community service such as youth mentorship programs, supporting FernCare Free Clinic, support groups and other charitable projects without the financial drain of an aging building.  “This building has served our community quite safely for years, but we are called to do more – to be good stewards of the resources we have and to grow in partnership with those that share our ministry and mission,” Pastor Miller said.

The proposal by Drayton Avenue Lofts, LLC has been refined since initially proposed. The original concept called for apartments in the church building, plus townhouses in an area now used for parking. The town homes were removed in an effort to preserve greenspace and parking.  The layout of the building has been changed so that apartments face towards the inside of the building with an interior corridor.  Garages have been added to ensure there are 30 garage spaces – one for each unit – plus additional parking for guests.

Greenspace will be increased 19%, and surrounding properties will be buffered by deciduous and evergreen trees.  An area at the NE corner of the site adjacent to the public sidewalk is also being designated for public use and will include several benches and new landscape areas under existing mature shade trees.  Unnecessary asphalt and hardscape will be removed.

An R3 zoning designation would allow for up to 35 units per acre.  However, Drayton Lofts LLC is keeping the density to 12.1 units per acre and offering multiple apartment layouts and sizes.    

A Designhaus Architecture letter regarding the project addresses several aspects of the project that were concerns for residents and planning commissioners.

In their letter they stated that the project is consistent with the Master Plan which includes a desire for greater housing choice, increased green space, and features like rain gardens, curbless infiltration swales, energy efficient features, bike racks, benches, and recycling opportunities.

They also had a traffic study done to address neighborhood concerns. “It was determined that with the change of use, the number of trips generated is lower than that of a typical church use.  In addition to weekly church services, there would also be weddings, funerals, organization meetings, and many others all having a significant impact on local traffic.”

The developer is only seeking to qualify for conditional rezoning.  A site plan approval, which would include more specifics, would be the next step. The Planning Commission did not vote on the zoning during the July meeting, giving the developer the opportunity to revise plans and return.

The property is currently zoned R1 residential which allows for single family detached dwellings, home business, manufactured homes, residential apartments as part of a garage or accessory structure, state licensed residential facilities, state licensed residential group day care facilities, public parks, bed and breakfast facilities, cemeteries, educational institutions, essential services, institutions for religious worship, libraries, nursery schools, public buildings including police or fire stations and community centers.

The City of Ferndale has information about the project online on their main website, and the Planning Commission packet can be found by clicking here.

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