Green space for vacant Mill Street lot approved

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The vacant lot that was the 408 E. Mill St. building will become a courtyard for tenants of the two neighboring buildings.

The Plan Commission gave final approval to that proposal Thursday and gave their thumbs-up to Plymouth Alliance Church’s plans to create a park setting at their Fairview Drive property.

“We’re looking at a grassy area for our residents,” Brian Sippel, representing the owner for redevelopment of the site, told the commission. “We will put up a fence along East Mill Street and make it for tenants only.”

Sippel had presented preliminary plans for the narrow lot at the June commission meeting and returned with final plans this month.

The building on the site, a six-unit apartment building, was destroyed in an early-morning fire last November that resulted in one fatality.

The building was constructed in 1910 as a vaudeville and lecture theater, then was converted into a movie theater in the 1940s. After the movie theater closed, it was converted into apartments on both floors.

There will be several paved parking spaces at the rear of the area as well, Sippel said.

After the earlier plan showed decks, sidewalks, tables and more in the green space, the final plan showed no improvements in the area.

“At this moment we’re going to leave it up to the tenants,” as far as any furnishings in the green space, Sippel said.

Building Inspector Pete Scheuerman noted that the lot had been filled in nicely to bring it up to the level of the sidewalk on Mill Street. The parking spaces will be lower, at the level of the alley behind the buildings, with steps up to the green space.

A security fence will be erected at the south end of the green space at the Mill Street sidewalk.

The proposal was approved unanimously, although commission member Jim Flanagan commented, “As much as I dislike a vacancy on Mill Street, this is probably the best option.”

Alliance Church members Sally Isely and Bob Moeller presented the church’s concept plan for developing its property on Fairview Drive south of State 23.

“Our plan is to develop the land north of the church into a community park that would be open to the public, not just church members,” Isely explained.

The roughly nine-acre area would include a pavilion and lawn, activity field, play area, walking/exercise/nature trails, ponds and more.

The existing community gardens on the church’s property would be moved to the east as part of the plan.

“Is this something the city would be interested in us doing?” Moeller asked the commission members.

Both Isely and Moeller stressed that the development would be a long-term project, though they disagreed on a possible timeline for its completion.

Isely said it could take 10 to 20 years to complete. That prompted Moeller to respond, “Sally’s not as optimistic as me. I think it could be zero to five years.

“We would probably call it Outreach Park,” Moeller continued. “We feel it would be an appealing way to show off one side of Plymouth.”

Commission members agreed, though noting that most of what the church plans would not require Plan Commission approval as it mainly falls under the area of landscaping

The pavilion would require commission – and state – approval, while the pond and drainage issues would have to be coordinated with Public Works Director Cathy Austin, they added.

Moeller said the plan provides for the proposed future location of a frontage road south of State 23 that is part of the state Department of Transportation’s long-range plan.

“What you’re planning looks very attractive,” Mayor Donald Pohlman said of the church’s proposal.

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