By Matt Mackinder
Clarkston News Editor
The Waldon Village II development in Independence Township took the next step in getting a Meijer store as part of the project when it was approved at the Nov. 15 Township Board of Trustees meeting.
The market will be on the eastern portion of the development, which is on the north side of Waldon Road between Sashabaw and Walters roads, and will be approximately 50,000 square feet with parking, outdoor patio, and plaza space on three sides of the building.
“The project is what Meijer terms a ‘hometown market,’” said Independence Township Planning and Zoning Director Brian Oppmann. “It’s a different concept. They have markets right now in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Royal Oak, and also in Detroit. This would be the first one in a suburban environment. This isn’t your typical Meijer Superstore that you see in Auburn Hills that’s over 200,000 square feet. This is much more focused in terms of having concentration on food, beverages, other products similar, and more in a user-friendly format throughout the store.
“One of the key features of these stores is they get a local tenant to provide coffee, pastries, bakery, etcetera., which they are currently working on.”
Township trustee Ron Ritchie noted that the store manager will have discretion over what products are carried in the store, those “that local people want,” and also the programming of the patio areas and public gathering areas.
“This is a store director’s store; this is his store,” said Meijer spokesman Chris Jones. “It’s his store to place the products in that he chooses and feels will sell best in this community. He makes it his own store. He has a lot of autonomy in helping us with the tenant for this store, for example. We’ll have three or four different choices for him for a tenant for the store. As far as the programming for the spaces, it’s big and unique. This is a large area.”
Jones noted some of the programs offered could be Easter egg hunts for kids and pumpkin carving stations during those respective seasons.
“We will have organics bins where any food waste goes into those bins and we allow farmers to come pick up the food wate to use in their farms to feed their livestock,” said Jones. “It’s that kind of operation that’s just different than big stores, big buying power. It’s more local-based.”
New trustee Sam Moraco also chimed in and noted how he was involved in the Waldon Village project when he was a member of the Township Planning Commission.
“The development itself, although I’m not a fan of the layout of it, was that the density of the housing was approved as a PUD (planned unit development) because of the amenities that were going to be provided to the township,” said Moraco. “That was the park which ended up not being in the middle for everyone to share and then reduced by 50 percent from the beginning. Then the food truck and gathering area that we were promised for art shows and other vendor-type things was outside of the realm of the Meijer and it was part of the amenities that got them the density of the housing. In my opinion, we granted them high density because these amenities are coming and now, to me, they’re putting all of the amenities are based on one retailer that has to provide the community amenities to the township, which was not part of it. It was the developer’s responsibility to provide the community amenities because he (Buzz Silverman) asked for the density in the housing project, which Meijer is not part of.
“The regulations say that the development needs to stay under one ownership, which made it possible for the developer to be the one responsible to provide the community amenities. In my opinion, I’m going to take the Meijer first. I think it’s a market that resembles what we were expecting and I think it has the amenities that the residents have asked for. Architectually, I think it’s fine. I don’t have issues with the market, the patio and all that. It’s fenced in and can only be used by people using the market. I feel it’s a little unfair we are making Meijer provide the community amenities when the developer was the one who promised it and he’s not providing anything for the community.”
The planning commission unanimously recommended approval to the board of trustees for the market at the Nov. 10 meeting.
Moraco asked land planner Jim Eppink to detail what amenities will be part of remaining sites, saying right now they are “generic.”
“I would disagree with the term ‘generic,’” said Eppink. “I guess if they are generic, we’ll work to continue that they’re not. As has been discussed the last year or two, we look at this as a very public village with all five components, sidewalks throughout the whole thing, meeting areas. You can compare this to downtown Clarkston, the village. Other than Depot Park, Main Street has patios, sidewalks, passageways, gathering areas. It’s a very public space.
“At the end of the day, we have to make sure that it balances from an economic point of view, an engineering point of view, a business point of view, and a community point of view.”
More than two hours into the trustees meeting that overall went more than four and a half hours, the market was approved unanimously by the board.