A controversial, large-scale showroom space on Melrose Avenue received approval from the Planning Commission on Thursday night.
Locally-based BMB Investment Corp. sought to tear down half the block on the southwest corner of Melrose Avenue at Westmount Drive (across from Urth Café) to build a two-story, 30,000 square foot building with 130 parking spaces on two underground levels. The building will primarily house wholesale home furnishings showrooms.
The commissioners were generally impressed by the European design of the proposed building and felt the project would be compatible with the surrounding businesses on that stretch of Melrose. They also were pleased it would significantly add parking spaces to the area as it has 40 more spaces that are required.
However, the majority of the approximately 15 public commenters, primarily residents living nearby, were adamantly opposed, citing concerns about the affect of the two subterranean parking levels on the water table in the area and about increased traffic on Melrose.
Ben Soleimani, president of BMB Investments, told the commission that traffic problems on Melrose was due to through traffic during morning and evening commute hours. He said at other times, traffic on Melrose was light.
Soleimani also confirmed rumors that Restoration Hardware would be one of the tenants in the showroom, but said that store would be a wholesale showroom for the trendy, upscale home furnishings chain, not a retail location. Soleimani said Restoration Hardware was in the process of altering its business model.
Other public commenters cited concerns about the wholesale showrooms switching to retail showrooms at some point in the future. Commissioners shared that concern noting that the building housing Kitson was initially intended as wholesale showroom space.
The commission placed restrictions on the property making it more difficult, but not impossible, for BMB to switch the wholesale space into retail space in the future.
The commission approved the project 4-1. Commissioners Donald DeLuccio and Sue Bucker were absent from the meeting.
Commissioner John Altschul, who Thursday night, cast the lone dissenting vote, saying an Environmental Impact Report should have been ordered to examine traffic circulation and its impact on residential streets.
“EIR is your friend and 30,000 square feet is not small potatoes,” Altschul said.
After receiving approval, Soleimani told Patch, “I would to like to thank the commission for their deep research into the facts of this project. I believe in this community. I believe in this street. My intentions have always been to beautify and better this street. And I will continue to do so.”
The project now goes to the City Council for final approval. A hearing date has not yet been scheduled.