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Controversial Melrose Showroom Building Gets Approval

Planning Commission gives the go-ahead for a two-story, 30,000 square foot showroom building which will replace half a block on Melrose Avenue at Westmount Drive.

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.

While BMB Investment also owns the other two buildings on that block, home to a Waterworks showroom and a Kitson fashion boutique, they will not be affected by this project. 

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.

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steven tonelson April 21, 2012 at 01:45 AM
foolish decision -- i'm sure no academic arch review nor urban plan review was part of the input and as such, very little actual consideration was given to the likely 25 points of input that would have surely NOT approved a project of this conceptual type for that portion of the blvd. IN OTHER WORDS, once again, consent is given to a project that clearly ONLY LOWERS HOMEOWNER real estate values. Steven Tonelson
joninla April 22, 2012 at 08:39 AM
What decision makers we have on the Planning Commission. The nit-picking over small projects that goes on because the Commission recites it's 'too large, slow growth, small town' mantra while sweeping through enormous projects proposed by 'certain' developers. I don't know anything about the details, but as the developer already has 2 large developments on the block, I imagine they have contributed consistently to the Campaign Funds of the City Council permanent incumbents. On the one hand, that portion of Melrose with the PDC is all about professional decorating/furnishings etc.... and an important industry ..... On the other hand, every time I walk around that portion of Melrose, I realize how narrow and unfriendly to pedestrians the sidewalks are, YET!!! I never have any trouble crossing the street (with my dog) since the traffic is almost always at a literal standstill of gridlock. Who is in favor of increasing traffic on that short stretch of melorse with any new large building?????
Kimberly WInick April 27, 2012 at 12:44 AM
None of the residents in the immediate vicinity. That is certain. And, for the lip service to increasing the artsy appeal of the area, only to wipe out 7 or 8 charming and apparently successful boutiques that invite pedestrians to cross the street from Urth or Pain Quotidienne, we now have singel-store wholesale with parking access in the middle of a residential street?! No EIR to consider the horrid effects (noise, light, air pollution) on the residents, because, who cares?! We all pay our taxes, but not the mordida that the board seems accustomed to!


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