ROSEVILLE — The dream of a walkable downtown area in Roseville is one small step closer to reality following a unanimous City Council vote May 13 to change the zoning ordinance around the Utica Road junction.
The ordinance creates the “town center overlay district” along Utica Road from Gratiot Avenue to Birmingham Street, which according to the ordinance, echoes urban development philosophies from the colonial era through the 1940s.
This is described as an area interconnected by roadways and pedestrian ways, which is walkable; it features social activity areas, landscaped streets and closer proximities between — and a mix of — residential areas and the commercial buildings themselves.
“What the city is trying to do with that area is create a sort of downtown Roseville — a destination where people can walk to or bike to or drive to that has multiple businesses that you could frequent,” Building Director Glenn Sexton said. “Such as, maybe, restaurants with outdoor seating, or a bar with outdoor seating — a bakery, coffee shops.”
The plans allow for multiple-family housing on the second floor above businesses, Sexton said. Along with the outdoor seating, these new additions to the area allowed by the overlay district help make the area more walkable, he said.
Sexton said the proposed downtown area germinated from an idea planted several years ago, when the city was working on updating its master plan. He said the city reached out to the community to get ideas for the city’s future, and one idea that came up was to have a downtown area. The Utica junction was the area that made the most sense to put one together, Sexton added.
“There’s quite a few vacant buildings along Utica, and I think this would spark a lot of interest in those properties,” Sexton said. “(The goal is) to give the city of Roseville an identity as far as a downtown destination point.”
The City Council wanted to develop the junction as a downtown, and Sexton said the Planning Commission developed the ordinance to make the zoning more flexible so that could happen.
“This came from the planning consultant — went to Planning Commission. They reviewed it and made the necessary amendments,” City Attorney Tim Tomlinson said at the council meeting.
Tomlinson added that the intention of the plan includes minimizing traffic congestion, infrastructure costs and environmental degradation by promoting a more “mixed-use,” pedestrian-friendly area.
City Manager Scott Adkins said that this ordinance is a part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s “redevelopment-ready communities” drive, of which Roseville is a participant.
“This will go quite a ways toward us putting forth the redevelopment of the area,” Adkins said.
While the overlay district helps set up a downtown area, property owners and potential business owners still need to do their part. Sexton said the city hopes to get the ball rolling by developing the former Tip-Top Bar property on Utica — now owned by Roseville — into something that fits this new vision.
“We are going to put out a request for proposals for developers to develop that property,” he said. “We have already developed a concept on what we would like to see with that property, so we’re going to shop that around to developers, and that should spark the downtown feel we want for the area.”
Once the city begins to market that property and solicits proposals from developers, Sexton said it would begin reaching out to businesses and “invite them to be a part of this process.”
The city also purchased a parking lot near the former bar, on the other side of the Roseville Theater, and hopes to use it to alleviate parking issues in the area, Sexton said.
Should the downtown effort become successful, he said the city is interested in extending it along Utica to 12 Mile Road, and possibly a block in either direction of Gratiot Avenue.
The council also had approved ordinances Jan. 14 to push for more sidewalks and bike paths, as well as amending definitions and provisions to make the area friendlier for outdoor cafés, Internet cafés and dog daycares. These apply both to the Utica junction area and much of Gratiot Avenue in Roseville.
Under those ordinances, business owners in the district can reduce the number of parking spots they have in favor of more bicycle parking or adding to their buildings.
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