Plans for the Fenton Fire Hall restaurant include the addition of a third floor (on top of the current roof) with a retractable glass roof, long communal tables, its own bar — and a fire pit in the center, said Curt Catallo from one of the owners.
At Thursday’s meeting, the planning commission held public hearings on a proposed rezoning and special land use for the restaurant, to be located in the old fire hall, and approved a site plan review for it. The proposed rezoning and special land use, which is for outdoor seating, will go to city council for its approval. The rezoning would be from Parks & Cemeteries to Central Business District/Planned Unit Development, like the rest of the downtown, said Fenton planning consultant Carmine Avantini.
Catallo said it might not be possible to begin the foundations and outdoor work for the project until the season changes.
Making an historical building into a restaurant, and preserving and celebrating the building, is something he and his partners have done before with their other businesses, he said. These include Clarkston Union and the Union Woodshop.
Plans for the Fenton Fire Hall Restaurant have the main entrance at the back of the building, he said. Patrons can enter there and go into a lounge on the lower level for a small bite to eat, or take the elevator or stairs to the main level. From the lounge, people will be able to see the beer cooler system mechanisms.
They will restore and preserve the old garage doors on the lower level that were part of the fire hall, Catallo said.
On the main level (street level), there will be bar seating at the kitchen where patrons can see the kitchen staff at work, he said. It also will include the main bar.
The added floor on the roof top, with the retractable glass ceiling, will be open year-round, Catallo said. It can be used for wedding receptions and other gatherings, and the top floor will be set back a bit from the edges of the second floor.
The old jail area of the building, when it formerly housed Fenton’s police department, will become the restaurant office, he said.
After five years, the developers’ agreement with the Fenton Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is for the developers to own the building, Avantini said. The city attorney believes it’s best to rezone the property to match the rest of the downtown, and Avantini also recommended approval of the rezoning.
Actual ownership of the old fire hall property will be split between the restaurant owners and the city, he added. The restaurant owners will eventually own the building and part of the land around it, while Fenton will keep ownership of the parking lot.
Fenton Fire Hall Restaurant owners will wait to see whether any additional lighting is needed, after the Fenton Streetscape Project is completed, Catallo said. The outdoor patio area, in front of the building, will receive some light through the windows of the building, from a lamppost nearby and candles on the tables.
In addition, due to Streetscape construction, the outdoor patio will be added during the restaurant’s second year, in 2014, he said. Until then, the restaurant will use an outdoor deck behind the building. A patio is something he wants the restaurant to grow into, Catallo added.
Planning Commissioner Mike Morey asked about the noise from music for the outdoor seating, since there are homes nearby.
Erich Lines, one of the partners for the restaurant, said there would only be very small speakers for music, which would have the effect of a small radio.
Avantini said Fenton has a noise ordinance that governs it, and representatives for the city have discussed the issue with the restaurant owners.
The owners plan to add a walk-in cooler for food and beverages alongside but not touching the building, up against the walkway railing leading into the park, Catallo said.
In addition, the restaurant owners have asked to be able to maintain a lawn area along Ellen Street, which the city will keep ownership of, said Michael Burns, DDA director and assistant city manager.
The planning commission voted 7-0 (with two members absent) to grant the site plan approval, depending on rezoning and easements from the city, review of the final construction drawings, and city administrators’ approval of a dumpster location.