Traverse City News and Events

Starbucks, More Retail/Restaurant Uses Planned for Cherryland Center; Rennie School Road Development Eyed

By Beth Milligan | Jan. 10, 2023

Adding to growth that includes a new curling center and indoor go-kart racing track, the Cherryland Center could soon be home to a new Starbucks drive-thru and several other restaurant and retail tenants. Real estate firm Alrig USA will seek site plan approval from Garfield Township planning commissioners Wednesday to build a new outlot building with multiple tenants – including Starbucks – on Garfield Avenue next to Wendy’s. Township planning commissioners will also hold a conceptual review Wednesday of a proposal from the Oleson Foundation to rezone 150 acres along Rennie School Road/US-31 to create a mixed-use development with commercial, industrial, and multi-family residential uses.

Cherryland Center
The Cherryland Center could soon boast a new Starbucks drive-thru and other new tenants if township planning commissioners approve a site plan application Wednesday. According to project documents, Alrig USA is planning to construct a multi-tenant building with up to four spaces for retail, restaurant, and drive-thru uses. The one-acre site on property fronting Garfield north of Wendy’s is currently owned by the Traverse City Curling Club, which told The Ticker in November that a buyer was lined up for the property but couldn’t disclose more details at the time.

According to a listing on the Alrig USA website, the south half of the building will be home to a new Starbucks drive-thru. That leaves up to 4,725 square feet of space still up for lease in the north half of the building, which could accommodate a mix of tenants. The listing notes that Garfield Avenue and South Airport Road represent “one of Traverse City’s busiest retail corridors, with up to 40,000 cars per day.” The outlot building could be ready for occupancy by the third quarter of this year, according to the listing.

Starbucks would be the third drive-thru coffee shop planned for the Cherryland Center, with a Biggby Coffee recently opening next to Burger King and a Seven Brew approved next to Biggby on the former Hometown Pharmacy site. While planning commissioners don’t typically consider specific companies or brands as part of their site plan approval – they’re supposed to focus on the overall uses and whether an applicant meets the zoning standards for a site – Township Planning Director John Sych acknowledges three coffee drive-thrus at one mall property “seems excessive.” But at the same time, he adds, tenants can sometimes change over the course of developing an outlot building, and real estate developers have a different understanding of the market than municipalities.

“We do know that certain businesses will congregate together,” he says. “For example, fast food will often congregate together to serve a certain market. On the east side of town there, it does seem like there’s an opportunity for more businesses to come in.” Sych also points out that the Cherryland Center is zoned for - and anticipates – having drive-thrus and other high-traffic commercial tenants, so the review process is different than at other locations where drive-thrus are a special use with more extensive review required. That’s why, for example, Seven Brew sailed through its application approval for a drive-thru at the Cherryland Center, but had a much more rigorous and extensive review for a drive-thru on US-31 near Best Buy.

While township leaders have long desired to see new life come to the Cherryland Center, the incoming new growth does require some planning considerations, according to Sych. When planning commissioners approved a new indoor go-kart racing center for the Sears building last month, Sych said he wants to try and get an updated “comprehensive plan” in place for the entire Cherryland Center, as the mall property is supposed to operate as one site. With three different property owners at the Cherryland Center – and the possible future renovation of the Younkers building, as well as more tenants coming to the part of the Kmart building not being used for the curling center – making sure the mall functions as a “complete development” will be crucial going forward, according to Sych.

That also includes traffic flow and entrances/exits at the Cherryland Center. While there are six access points to the mall – three off Garfield Avenue and three off South Airport Road – none currently have a functioning signalized light (the sole Garfield signal is currently operating as a blinking light). Sych says the signal – which was fully operational up until a few years ago – is under the jurisdiction of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission, which will ultimately decide if and how it’s reactivated. “We did mention (Cherryland Center traffic) to them in a recent conversation,” Sych says. “We’ll defer to the Road Commission and continue to have conversations with them as more of the property gets repurposed.”

Rennie School Road/US-31 Development
Garfield Township planning commissioners will also hold a conceptual review Wednesday of a potential mixed-use development on 150 acres owned by the Oleson Foundation. A conceptual review is an early informal conversation between planning commissioners and developers to give feedback on a project before a formal application is submitted (no decisions will be made at Wednesday’s meeting).

The Oleson Foundation property is bound by Rennie School Road on the south, North US-31 South on the east, Meadow Lane Drive on the north, and large farmland parcels to the west. The group is looking to rezone the property in phases to create a mixed-use development comprised of commercial, industrial, and multi-family residential uses, according to project documents. The rezoning would put commercial tenants along US-31 and near the Rennie School Road/US-31 intersection, an industrial park layout with multiple business spaces of different sizes in the interior, and high-density/townhouse housing in the northwest corner of the site.

An interior road system would be built with a north-south connector that would connect Rennie School Road to Meadow Lane Drive, along with some interior private and/or public drives to connect to different areas of the development. The site would be serviced by public utilities – with a new pump chamber and gravity sewer installed on-site – with the intent to “construct the roads, water, sewer, and stormwater management areas as part of the initial construction to service units and then having the individual unit buyers to develop their space,” according to project documents. “The initial phase of the project will be the southwest corner (40-acre parcel) and then head north with (multi-family residential) zoning,” the documents state. “The interior industrial area and (commercial) units will follow as interest and sales happen.”

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