Residents don't want restaurant at fire station

Candice Williams
The Detroit News
Tim McKay, 70, a local resident of Corktown stands with a petition in front of the fire station.

Detroit — For 33 years, Barbara Prusak and her husband, John, have lived in their Bagley Street home in an area of historic Corktown residents describe as generally quiet.

But the Prusaks and other neighbors are now concerned their peaceful street will be riddled with traffic, noise and fumes if the city’s zoning board approves a request that would allow an old fire station on a nearby corner to become a restaurant.

“The whole thing with the restaurant you have to have venting, you have to have delivery space, you have to have garbage pickup, you have to have parking,” Prusak said. “You can see there’s no space for parking. We know that’s going to be a problem for the people who live here.”

According to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals, the owners of 1201 Bagley want to change the 7,816-square-foot building from non-conforming office space to non-conforming restaurant with a liquor license. The request also includes a total of four residential units on the second and third floors. 

"We’re very excited to get to work on renovating and restoring this building," said Brian Ellison of Intersection Consulting Group, which represents the building's owner. "It’s one thing we’re excited about. It’s a fun thing. We believe it to be a very important piece of the community. We’re happy to bring it back."

The zoning board is expected to discuss the request Tuesday, however, Ellison said Monday they will seek additional time.

"My plan is to submit for an adjournment so that I have time to speak with the community and answer questions I received late last week," he said. "Also for us to discuss internally concepts we feel will work there that we will feel will be well received by the community."

The former fire station at 1201 Bagley Street in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood.

Ellison said the format of the restaurant, such as if it would be a place for breakfast or a coffee spot, has not yet been determined. He said discussions are taking place regarding offering valet parking at lots in the area. The owners are also sensitive to the fact that there will be exhaust from the restaurant, Ellison said. 

"We will also be looking into systems to reduce emissions," he said. 

According to city records, the building is owned by Byzantine Holdings LLC. The company is managed by Christos Moisides, whose family owns London Chop House.

“I think the record of that restaurant speaks for itself,” said Ellison who added that owners plan to invest $2 million in the venture.  

The former fire station, known as Engine Company No. 8, was open from 1918 to 1982. It most recently housed law firm Gregory Reed and Associates. 

Residents in the neighborhood were in favor of that change in use in the mid-1980s to prevent the building from becoming a victim of blight, said Jon Strand, who for 21 years has lived in the Sixth Street Lofts, 12 feet from the old fire station. 

Strand points out city zoning code that states that a new proposed use "will be less injurious to the surrounding area than the previous nonconforming use." 

Strand said he considers the potential parking issues, noise and fumes from a restaurant to have more of a negative impact than a law office.

"We’re not against business," Strand said. "We not against growth or progress. You got to understand that this doesn’t make any sense.”

Prusak said that she’s in favor of the second floor being converted to residential lofts. 

“We are so glad that somebody is going to restore it because, obviously, it needs help,” Prusak said. “It’s a super cool building. We’re very happy that people are going to live here. That means more people in the neighborhood. But the first floor we’d prefer to have something quieter than a restaurant.”

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN