Among the tall, shiny office buildings that flank both sides of Big Beaver Road in Troy are a growing number of restaurants of all stripes.
Thanks to updated zoning laws along the Big Beaver corridor and an effort from the city to make the area more walkable, tens of thousands of nearby office workers, Troy residents, and shoppers and employees of Somerset Collection have more dining options.
An ordinance adopted in 2011 changed laws to allow freestanding restaurants to be built on Big Beaver. Previously, eateries had to be attached to a strip mall or office building.
“We adopted the Big Beaver corridor plan which was an attempt to define or establish a vision for the Big Beaver corridor,” said Troy Planning Director Brent Savidant, who said he and other city planners wanted to develop the area into a “world-class corridor.”
“We established a vision in 2006. In 2008, we completed a comprehensive rewrite of our master plan — the first comprehensive rewrite in 40 years — and we rolled the Big Beaver corridor study into the master plan,” Savidant said.
As part of that rewrite of the zoning ordinance, planners established the Big Beaver zoning district, and in addition to allowing free-standing restaurants, Savidant said, the new law allowed structures to be built closer to the street.
“We had a lot of large, massive parking lots close to the street with the buildings set back far from the street,” Savidant said. “We wanted to turn that around and have the building and the activity closer to the street. That creates more of a sense of enclosure along Big Beaver, it creates a more walkable environment, and it creates more activity along the street.”
In addition to the change in zoning, Big Beaver Road is attractive to restaurant franchises because of the high number of offices in the area and the high volume of daily traffic.
One10 Marketing employee Kurt Meyland has noticed these changes. He worked in Troy in the late 1990s and early 2000s at another company and has worked in Troy at One10 for the past three years.
“I’ve been noticing and taking part in the recent changes taking place, particularly along Big Beaver where some older businesses and office spaces that were traditionally set back from the roadway have seemingly disappeared in favor of attractive, new structures that are built much closer to the road,” he said.
Meyland, who lives in Ferndale, said he’s been to Tom + Chee for lunch and Sedona Taphouse for dinner. He said he is pleasantly surprised by Big Beaver’s transformation.
“When I returned to working in Troy in 2014, I had expectations based on my previous stints in the area, and have enjoyed seeing the changes. Sedona Taphouse, in particular is interesting to me as I watched it quickly spring up after the tear-down of the previous business at that location.”
An initiative called Move Across Troy was created to make Big Beaver safer and convenient for pedestrians. Planners are designing street crossings and brightening up the walkway under Interstate 75 to make the area more attractive — less dark, less noisy and fewer pigeons — to walkers. The Troy Trolley also connects area workers to restaurants and businesses. The free service runs during the day from John R to Coolidge.
In the past five years, longstanding Big Beaver mainstays Morton’s the Steakhouse, Maggiano’s Little Italy and Benihana have been joined by an onslaught of national franchises such as Granite City Food & Brewery, Bonefish Grill, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Tom + Chee, Piada Italian Street Food, Naff Naff Grill, Sedona Taphouse and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood among others.
Soon the corridor will get Michigan’s second Shake Shack restaurant, and officials from two other national franchises — Yard House and Seasons 52 — will go before the planning commission this summer.
State Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, was an Allstate Insurance agent on Big Beaver for decades. For 18 years, his insurance agency was on a plot of land along East Big Beaver, about a quarter mile east of Livernois. Because of the new rezoning laws, he was able to build Sedona Taphouse on the property.
“I’ve seen the traffic patterns that are occurring on Big Beaver Road and have always believed that our particular location was ideally suited for a restaurant,” said Knollenberg, adding that he believes 60,000 cars drive past Sedona Taphouse each day.
Knollenberg wanted to franchise a Sedona Taphouse because he said Sedona, Arizona, is a special place with “a lot of positive energy,” and he liked the beer-heavy concept of the chain. “We offer 500 beers, and Michigan is at the forefront of beer, and we felt that was sort of a need,” he said.
Wine, cocktails and a diverse menu also are featured at Sedona Taphouse, which opened in January after being built from the ground up. While it’s one of six Sedona Taphouses in the country, Knollenberg stressed that it’s “not cookie cutter.” The design of the restaurant is unique from the other spots, and the Troy location connects with the community by selecting a local charity to help each month.
“We feel like we’re part of the community and not just this corporate thing,” Knollenberg said.
Another new restaurant in the vicinity is Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, which opened its first Michigan location just east of Somerset Collection in June.
Also built from the ground up, the fine dining spot can seat nearly 270 guests in the main dining room, private dining areas, bar area and an outdoor patio that faces Big Beaver.
The lavish restaurant specializes in fresh seafood, a large wine selection and attentive service. Managing partner Mark Flora said he believes the restaurant will fit in along the corridor because of its close proximity to high-end retail.
“We have other restaurants within our umbrella that have done very well,” he said, referring to the Capital Grille at Somerset, which has other locations across the country.
The new zoning laws coupled with the recovery from the recession is the likely reason the Big Beaver corridor has blossomed as a restaurant hub. Savidant said it’s reaching “critical mass.”
“People who come to Troy, who come to Big Beaver, are really starting to notice it,” he said. “It’s made a difference, and I think the developers like what they see ... I think it’s like the dominoes have started to fall a little bit.”
What is the appeal for restaurateurs?
“There’s the access to I-75, the vacancies in offices and industrial buildings have dropped, the traffic on Big Beaver,” Savidant said, adding that there’s also some buzz about possible activity at the former K-Mart headquarters at Big Beaver and Coolidge.
“There’s just a lot of positive energy and positive vibes right now related to Troy and to Big Beaver specifically.”
Restaurants along Big Beaver Corridor
Between Coolidge and I-75
Ocean Prime: Upscale steaks and seafood chain. 2915 Coolidge. (248) 458-0500.
McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks: The only Michigan restaurant for this 50-plus location chain. 2850 Coolidge. (248) 637-6400.
P.F. Chang’s: Chinese food franchise; located inside Somerset Collection. 2801 W. Big Beaver. (248) 816-8000.
J. Alexander’s Restaurant: Casual dining chain; inside Somerset North. 2800 W. Big Beaver. (248) 816-8379.
Capital Grille: Upscale chain located inside Somerset Collection. 2800 W. Big Beaver. (248) 649-5300.
Maggiano’s Little Italy: Semi-upscale Italian restaurant franchise. 2089 W. Big Beaver. (248) 205-1060.
Piada Italian Street Food: Fast-casual, build-your-own Italian food chain. 2038 W. Big Beaver. (248) 712-4189.
Mr. Kabob: Local Middle Eastern chain with counter service. 2008 W. Big Beaver. (248) 649-5555.
Benihana: Hibachi chain restaurant that has more than 100 locations worldwide. 1985 W. Big Beaver. (248) 649-6340.
Morton’s the Steakhouse: With locations in more than half of the states and several countries, this is the only Michigan Morton’s. 888 W. Big Beaver. (248) 404-9845.
The Melting Pot: Fondue franchise. 888 W. Big Beaver. (248) 362-2221.
Shake Shack: New York-based fast-casual restaurant with burger, fries and milkshakes. 888 W. Big Beaver. Coming later this year.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House: National chain known for serving steak on a sizzling 500-degree plate. 755 W. Big Beaver. (248) 269-8424.
Granite City Food & Brewery: American menu with craft beer brewed on-site. 699 W. Big Beaver. (248) 519-1040.
Bonefish Grill: Seafood-centric chain. 660 W. Big Beaver. (248) 269-0276.
Carrabba’s Italian Grill: Family-friendly Italian restaurant franchise. 600 W. Big Beaver. (248) 269-0095.
Naf Naf Grill: Fast-casual Middle Eastern chain. 624 W. Big Beaver. (248) 206-4254.
Between I-75 and John R
TGIFridays: Casual American chain. 591 W. Big Beaver. (248) 524-9489.
Kona Grill: American and Japanese food with plentiful seating. 30 E. Big Beaver. (248) 619-9060.
Tom + Chee: Seen on “Shark Tank,” this chain specializes in grilled cheeses and soups. 307 E. Big Beaver. (248) 729-7464.
Bahama Breeze: Tropics-themed restaurant with Caribbean-influenced cuisine. 539 E. Big Beaver. (248) 528-1674.
Sedona Taphouse: Upscale casual bar and restaurant, the first of the franchise to open in Michigan. 198 E. Big Beaver. (248) 422-6167.
Crispelli’s Bakery & Pizzeria: This Italian spot has locations in in Berkley and West Bloomfield, but is one of the few restaurants in this corridor that is not part of a national franchise. 645 E. Big Beaver. (248) 680-0066.
Hooters: Casual chicken wing restaurant with scantily-clad servers. 2950 Rochester. (248) 740-1574.