City Council approved three lease agreements that will set the table for the creation of decorated outdoor cafés in the alley behind Brecon Grille and Mangiamo Italian Grill off of South Ann Arbor Street.
“I am absolutely delighted to move on to the next step in making beautiful places for people to loiter,” said Mayor Gretchen Driskell after Saline City Council unanimously approved the agreements.
The city agreed to lease the alley to Brecon Grille and Mangiamo Italian Grill for outdoor seating. The city owns most of the alley, but property owners own a couple feet behind their buildings.The leases call on property owners to make improvements to the back of their buildings. Each restaurant will provide their own tables, chairs and stanchions for their space. They will also provide lightings and awnings over their doors. Mangiamo is expected to spend more than $6,000 on improvements. Brecon Grille, whose space doesn’t go as deep, is expected to spend around $2,500 on the space.
City council also agreed to a lease agreement with the Saline Historic Downtown Alliance for the implementation of alley improvements. Saline Main Street will install a wrought-iron fence, level concrete to improve drainage, install zigzag overhead lighting and install landscaping. Michigan Main Street design specialist Kelly Larson will help the Saline Main Street design team on a plan for an attractive entrance to the alley way. The city previously donated $10,000 toward the project from the city’s Tax Increment Finance Authority.
The lease also states that at least six public events must be held each year in the space.
Rebecca Schneider, chair of Main Street’s design team, said completing the alley project will be the realization of a goal the city has talked about for years. She cited some of the benefits of using the alley for events.
“It doesn’t require anyone to close a parking lot or the street. It would be a wonderful gathering space to have small events, wine tastings and art gallery displays or an alley cat adoption day,” Schneider said. “The alley is not dilapidated. It just requires tweaks to make it more friendly.”
The issue drew questions during public comment. Resident Mary Hess said she was concerned the alley project might block a delivery door on old Little Caesar’s building. She said she was also concerned that the $10,000 donation from the city might snowball if there are cost overruns.
“We have a lot of festivals, movies in the park, and concerts in the park. We need to pick and choose and be mindful of the tax payers. There is only so much money in that pie,” Hess aid.
Bob Rash, owner of Mac’s Acadian Seafood Shack, said he was concerned about the pace of the project.
“It seems to have not considered the liquor commission’s rules and regulations and the (American Disability Act) considerations of an alley way. It took three years for this council to resolve the ADA concerns for the sidewalk seating (at Brecon Grille), and I would hate for us to have to go through that same kind of thing,” Rash said.
Rash said property management rules to prevent alcohol from being consumed in the street or parking lot should be established first.
Council member David Rhoads, who was credited by Schneider for keeping the ball rolling on the alley project, addressed some of the concerns.
Rhoads said both restaurants plan to go to the liquor commission with their plans for expanded outdoor seating. Rhoads also said that the owner of the old Little Caesars building is aware of the project and has no objection. Council member Jim Peters suggested the city see that in writing.
The leases with the restaurants are good until March 1, 2014. After that, they can be renewed annually. The restaurants will pay $1 a year.