2018-02-01 / News

Holy family proposes big changes to their campus

By Paula K. Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pschmidt@mihomepaper.com

The orange building in the upper left is proposed to be the location for the new maintenance garage and the lower left building will be a proposed school addition. 
Photo provided The orange building in the upper left is proposed to be the location for the new maintenance garage and the lower left building will be a proposed school addition. Photo provided GRAND BLANC — A nine-acre site in the heart of downtown could see some changes that would improve not only the Holy Family church and site, but could bring changes for neighbors and other residents in general.

First erected in 1946, the present church site was proposed in 1951 and dedicated in 1953. According to their website, Ground was broken for a school in 1955 and the Sisters of St. Joseph from Nazareth, Michigan staffed it when it opened in September of the following year. The first building was expanded in 1960, again in 1966, and finally in 1995. The current school enrollment is about 350, grades Pre-K through 8.

The main site contains the church, school, rectory and parish activities center, but the church owns property on the adjoining Orchard Street, at least one home of which is that of a staff member.

Architect Brad Klein said their proposal, which must be approved by the city council, will essentially be converting an existing development into a Planned Unit Development (PUD) in order to have better control over what Holy Family sees as a long-term, phased plan of improvements.

Enhancements which benefit the public as a whole would be the addition of drainage so water flow does not go out onto S. Saginaw Road, which is especially problematic during freezing weather.

In addition to parking lot expansion and improvement the next main proposed change which is planned to start this summer if approved, will be the addition of a covered drop-off area and expansion of the public gathering space of the church. The existing south drive on Saginaw will be moved north 50 feet to accommodate this.

While the church wanted a new electronic monument style sign, those are currently forbidden under the current sign ordinance and will likely be proposed and debated at a future meeting. A house in the parking lot was demolished last summer and another containing the outreach center will also, as well as several of the Orchard Street residences as Holy Family wants to “get out of rental business” according to Klein. He added that much of that area they plan to reclaim as “mostly green space”.

The planning commission expressed concerns about revising the proposal to include significant buffering via landscaping or other device, especially for residents on Sawyer Street to the north, and in the parking lot to abate drainage issues from a large impervious surface area. The site is too small to include a retention or detention pond as would be required if it were a new development of this size officials explained.

A new maintenance garage is planned as the current structure is at the end of its life Klein said. The new building will also be able to store maintenance equipment and vehicles which are currently stored outside and deemed unsightly.

Other phases include the possible addition of a small hall to accommodate for banquets and funeral dinners; and if growth continues, the last phase is would be a school addition that might include an auditorium or further classroom space.

As required by current landscape ordinance, additional planting of trees and other growth would be expected along S. Saginaw as well as ornamental fencing, and it was suggested this might be an improvement on the west/ southwest side of the campus as well.

That and other suggested changes to the proposal are to be incorporated into a revised PUD and presented again to the planning commission at their Feb. 19th meeting at which time it’s likely they will proceed on a vote to recommend approval or disapproval to the city council.

It was proposed all suggestions be incorporated in to the PUD contract so as to make clear the city’s expectations of the development. Each individual phase would likely be subject to additional site plan review as they near commencement.

There is currently no timeline set for the PUD, but Klein indicated they would probably be willing to accept one if the city made one.

A few neighbors spoke and expressed concerns about increased traffic but Project Engineer Paul Tulikangas of Nowak and Fraus Engineers said they expect the changes to result in negligible or minor increases given the planned increase in parking spaces and the removal of the houses which will allow for additional stacking of cars in the parking lot versus the street.

Commissioner Don Becker asked how the PUD will help the neighborhood and said people have asked him what's the advantage to them.

Klein said the landscaping added to both the parking area and surrounding border and plans for green space will be a significant improvement.

“They want this campus to be a gem in the city,” he explained.

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