At Casa Dominick’s, the popular restaurant and café on Monroe Street, a small group of students and city residents met last night to discuss plans for renovations to the restaurant and changes to surrounding properties.
A proposed expansion to outdoor seating at Dominick’s and plans to convert some of the surrounding land into space that could be used for retail property, a bed and breakfast, a small grocery store, housing or office space were presented at the meeting by Richard DiVarti, Dominick’s owner.
Though plans for the changes are in place, DeVarti hasn’t secured a building permit and the plans have to be approved by the Ann Arbor City Council before any construction can begin.
John Barrie, the architect of the proposed projects, said the goal of the meeting was to describe a potential construction plan that would maintain the architectural charm of the neighborhood.
“I’m trying to describe an envelope in which construction and development can take place in keeping the texture of the neighborhood,” Barrie said. “That’s the overarching goal.”
Barrie said he was told by the Ann Arbor Planning Commission to think of the project as part of a larger 50-year plan for the city. Barrie added that the timeline for construction is expected to be slow due to tight budgeting and a complicated City Council approval process.
DiVarti currently owns six properties in the area, but only two of them, 812 and 814 Monroe St., are used for the restaurant. DiVarti’s plans include an expansion to the second-level of the current restaurant and adding a third level to the building for extra seating.
The Dominick’s owner also presented plans to include a mix of outdoor seating and office space at 808 Monroe St. and additional restaurant space at 700 Tappan Ave., which is currently zoned as a residential property.
706 Tappan Ave. and 705 Oakland Ave. are also currently zoned as residential properties owned by DiVarti. He said he hopes to convert those spaces for use as business or retail properties — a plan that will be presented to City Council in the coming months.
For the re-zoning and property additions to be approved, they must comply with Ann Arbor’s zoning ordinances, which require DiVarti to make his six properties part of a Planned Unit Development (PUD). Dominick’s current PUD, which was established in 1977 to join 812 and 814 Monroe St. as the restaurant, does not include the other four properties.
Last night’s public meeting was a required part of the process for DiVarti’s petition for a new PUD to be approved by City Council.
A report will be submitted to the city’s Planning Committee on Jan. 26. The petition includes concerns from residents voiced at last night’s meeting and an outline of the city’s basic zoning requirements.
One of the concerns mentioned by residents at the meeting was whether or not the expansion of the restaurant and other properties would increase vehicular traffic flow through the area, but DiVarti said that most people travel by foot in the largely student populated neighborhood.
Matthew Krichbaum, DiVarti’s attorney, assured attendees that he would include specific language in the report to City Council to maintain the feel of the neighborhood.
Residents present at the meeting praised DiVarti’s plan for respecting the neighborhood’s architectural feel.
“I’m glad that it seems that you’re keeping up the character of the neighborhood,” said Yousef Rabhi, an LSA junior who attended last night’s meeting. “I think that the plans you’ve drawn up seem to accentuate character rather than destroy it.”