Ferndale’s Business Boom Starting To Expand Beyond Downtown

Posted on June 29, 2016

The owners of Anita’s Kitchen, a popular Lebanese eatery in downtown Ferndale, have acquired two adjacent properties on Woodward Heights near Hilton where they are proposing an expanded new restaurant in an existing business and a new three-story residential and commercial building on a vacant lot.

The City Council recently approved rezoning the vacant parcel, at 1201 Woodward Heights, from single- and two-family residential to mixed use to facilitate the plans. The city in September 2015 approved the same rezoning for the property next door at 1225 Woodward Heights, which Anita’s owners Joe and Jennifer Wegrzyn purchased last year.

Under the proposal, the two properties would share a parking lot and operate in tandem to some degree.

The new mixed-use structure would total 12,600 square feet and would feature ground-floor commercial space for a bakery or kitchen, with residential space on the second and third floors. The building next door at 1225 currently houses Tokyo Sushi and Thai.

“Currently we have a tenant in that building but looking ahead, and certainly through discussions I’ve had with the tenant, there’s going to be an opportunity as time goes on to do something there,” Joe Wegrzyn told council members last week.

Wegrzyn, who did not respond to messages, described the ground-floor space in the new building as a “community-based kitchen” for artisans with a restaurant next door.

“That would be repurposed as a restaurant,” he told Council. “Certainly some of those artisans would feed into that restaurant.”

A concept site drawing for 1225 Woodward Heights shows the existing 1,700 square-foot restaurant but adds 600 square feet of outdoor dining, a 1,640 square foot addition and a 545 square-foot mezzanine for a total of 4,485 square feet.

A source tells me the owners are still discussing various concepts for the new restaurant but that it would not be a replication of the Lebanese menu served at Anita’s Kitchen. The Wegrzyns areplanning to open a second location for that eatery next year in Lake Orion.

Plans for the new mixed-use building on Woodward Heights, the source said, center on a commissary-style kitchen for startup food entrepreneurs.

The plans could still change, as the Wegrzyns must still submit a site plan to the city’s planning commission.

But the proposal adds to evidence that Ferndale’s business development boom is expanding beyond the downtown core.

Earlier in the same meeting, council members approved rezoning property at 567 Livernois, where Royal Oak-based Axle Brewing Co. plans a taproom and beer garden. Axle’s owners have said they were drawn to the neighborhood in part by infrastructure improvements like the new dedicated bike lanes installed on Livernois Avenue.

Hilton Road, which is just east of the Wegrzyn’s new properties, is also under construction this summer to narrow traffic lanes and install bike lanes.