Residents Organize and Speak Out Against Pelham. Owner Responds.
Dexter area residents filled Dexter City Hall on Monday, May 22, to speak out against a proposed residential development, "The Pelham."
“The Pelham” is the name of the condominium concept proposed for the 1.57-acre parcel at 8180 Main St. in Dexter, across Mill Creek from the fire station. The proposed multiple-family development project consists of three five-story buildings with eleven condos and fourteen ground-floor parking spaces. Each building is planned to have five three-bedroom units and six two-bedroom. Additional surface parking is proposed.
KLA Development, based in Ann Arbor on Wagner Rd., is behind the project and found inspiration for the name in Dexter’s nearby stone viaduct, famous for having trucks stuck underneath. The structure was built in the early 1890s by 25-year-old engineering genius Frederick Pelham.
In its proposal, KLA states, “Fredrick Pelham's famous stone viaduct is an inspiration and we believe our project incorporates details of the historic homes (crown with a double corbel), and this stone viaduct that is still standing after 134 years. Our goal is to create a project that bridges the historic Main Street, and this engineering accomplishment. The Pelham will incorporate a cast stone base, and an arched entry with glass and steel canopy. The upper floors of the building will be reminiscent of the historic homes that define the city's charm and character.”
No formal plans of the concept have yet been submitted to the city, but the council did hear an informal presentation at its May 8 meeting. Area residents filled city hall’s meeting room at the council’s next meeting to voice their opposition during public comment. Most comments regarded the ascetics of the design, particularly the height. Other concerns involved increased traffic at an already tricky intersection and how the new units would change the town's character.
Public comments included:
“I really feel like the proposed development is detracting from the charm of our downtown. One reason that my family moved here was to live in a nice cute, at the time, it was a village, but a cute downtown area and not something that’s overcrowded and not very aesthetically pleasing.”
Another speaker questioned the capacity of the city’s water treatment plant to handle the added demand and the ability of our fire trucks to handle a five-story building. The speaker also questioned the developer's motives, who they said was not a local person.
“I think what the people here are talking about is how it looks is why they moved here and want to stay here and raise their families.”
“I think when there’s a need like for recreational facilities, and there’s a need for businesses in the downtown area, you have a beautiful park that has again been a central figure in bringing people to this community and starting to only respond to developers who have a particular interest in their properties being there and being a luxury high rise or whatever doesn’t really fit with a thoughtful plan of looking at how the City of Dexter looks over the course of several years.”
The property owner, Nate Pound, also spoke.
Mr. Pound bought the property after Mill Creek Sporting Goods shut down and abandoned the building. He razed the deteriorating structure, which housed an indoor pistol range and cleaned up the lead contamination. He told the group his investment in the property is now close to $1 million. The proposed Mill Creek Brewery concept pushed another $3 million in investment.
In a follow-up email with the Sun Times, Pound stated, “The property at 8180 Main St. is extremely complex and expensive to develop. Our Concept of a Restaurant/Brewery/Bike Shop hit some financial feasibility roadblocks last year. There were some additional hurdles as well. Residential development absolutely makes sense here, and it is likely the safest and most financially feasible option for someone investing in developing it.”
Pound also pushed back against critics of the buildings’ appearance, saying, “I do not believe the residential buildings there will detract from the downtown. On the contrary, the proposed residential plans are beautiful, and the developers are tying the design to the historical aspects of the city. One could argue that it will greatly add to the downtown charm.”
He also noted that every new development gets pushback, including Westridge, Huron Farms, Dexter Crossings, Grandview Commons, and the Jeffords Street condominiums.
Regarding adding more traffic to a troublesome intersection, Pound firmly believes a residential development will add less traffic than a popular city park facility or a brewpub.
“There’s no argument that the ease of condo living and proximity to downtown is valued by all,” said Pound. “I believe the largest demographic is the baby boomer generation, and they are looking for easier condo living closer to amenities.”
KLA has not yet submitted plans to the planning commission for review.