Dearborn bowling alley is slated to close at the end of this year, and the space, located on Telegraph Road and Scott Street just south of Michigan Avenue, is expected to be turned into a Volkswgen dealership under LaFontaine Automotive Group.
LaFontaine already operates a Honda dealership on the other side of Telegraph Road.
Representatives from LaFontaine spoke at Monday night's City Planning meeting about the project, which required the space to be rezoned from a Business B to Business C district.
City Plan commissioners approved the rezoning; however, several expressed concern that this added location would be too close to a residential area, disrupting residents on Scott, as well as Banner Street, which runs directly behind what is now Oxford Lanes.
Contractor Gary Laundroche assured the commission that noise, lights and unpleasant visuals would not be an issue. What would be unpleasant, he said, would be to let the property become vacant.
"The existing bowling alley on this site has had talks for a couple of years ... and basically he's going out of business," Laundroche said. "It would become a vacant building there."
Oxford Sold Over the Summer
Oxford Lanes owner Mark Voight said that LaFontaine had expressed interest in the space for a few years, and that the purchase agreement was finalized in August. However, the contract came with a stipulation that Oxford could lease the space through May of 2012 with the option that LaFontaine could decide they were ready to proceed with their plans.
"They exercised that option on Nov. 18," Voight said, giving them 60 days to move out. "Basically, we have to close on Dec. 31 to be able to move equipment and lanes."
Voight plans to host a New Year's Eve Bash from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. to mark the closing of the alley–complete with a drawing for one lucky person, who will get to throw the last ball at Oxford, which has been open in Dearborn for over 60 years.
Voight said his property in Taylor, Skore Lanes, was actually competing with Oxford for business. While he wasn't planning to close before LaFontaine's offer, he said he's fine with the change.
"Things have changed in the industry and we’re seing a bit of a decline," he said. "So we’d have these promotions and (Skore and Oxford Lanes) were actually competing against each other."
Plans for the Dealership
The dealership, Laundroche said on Monday, would help the community–not inconvenience nearby residents.
The building, he said, will be LEED certified, with no outside announcement system and air conditioned garages, allowing the doors to remain closed at all times, thus muting the sounds of auto servicing. The project also includes plans to build a buffer wall between the back of the dealership and neighboring homes.
It will create 30-40 jobs, and keep business in Dearborn–something Laundroche said the LaFontaine family feels strongly about.
"We'll be bringing a lot of things good for the economy and good for local," he said.
Voight adds that he felt comfortable selling to LaFontaine because of their history in Dearborn.
"They have been all along very up front about everything," he said. "We thought they’d be good for the area because they’e been good for the area all along."
The commission approved the rezoning with a 6-1 vote. It will now be sent to City Council for the final say, after which the plan for the project will also need to be approved.
Commissioner Randy Dubitsky added that LaFontaine should be prepared to provide "ample buffering" between the dealership and the residences in their plan.