City Council Approves License for Outdoor Stairwell in Leather Bucket Alley

 07/11/2017 - 16:56

Saline City Council approved an encroachment license agreement that will allow John Dunn to build a staircase in Leather Bucket Alley – the city owned alley between his building and Benito’s Pizza.

Dunn purchased the building that housed Mangiamo Italian Grill. Smokehouse 52 is the tenant on the first floor. Dunn plans to convert the second and third floor into high-end apartments. To achieve that, he’s installing an elevator and stairs in the back of the building. In a memo to council, Dunn explained without an outdoor staircase, he’d have to build one inside, limiting his ability to offer apartments at the prices he wishes to charge. An internal staircase would also impact Smokehouse 52’s space on the first floor.

When Dunn appeared before council July 3, he thanked council for considering his request.

“It’s important for the integrity of the building. And for us to be able to put the kind of caliber of apartments we want to put on the second and third floor,” Dunn said.

Dunn said that he’s spoken with other property owners adjacent to the alleyway, which is owned by the city, and that they had no problem with his proposed stairway.

Councillor Dean Girbach asked Dunn what kind of barricade will be used to prevent random people from using the staircase.

Dunn said the staircase will have an exit-only gate.

Councillor Janet Dillon asked how tenants would access the gate.

Dunn replied that the access was yet to be designed.

“I’m not sure if it will be a swipe card or a number combination. But we have it designed so they can’t reach around and push open the gate,” Dunn said.

Dillon thanked Dunn for his answer.

“One of my initial concerns was people wandering up the stairs and falling off the edge,” she said.

Councillor Christen Mitchell, who expressed some reservations about the staircase in June, seemed pleased with the information Dunn provided.

“I’m very excited about the project. I was grateful that you reached out to the business owners. I did that too. It was unanimous. So thanks for going the extra mile,” Mitchell said.

In accordance with the Saline Main Street design team, the staircase will be galvanized steel, painted black. Dunn also promised to maintain outdoor seating behind the restaurant.

DPW Director Jeff Fordice explained that that city staff inspected the site, marking underground utilities and looking for potential foundational conflicts. Fordice said the originally proposed stairway was revised to reduce the number of contact points with the ground.

He noted that staircases are nothing new for the alley.

“There used to be a stairway here. In some ways, we’re going back to our historical roots,” Fordice told council.

Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at or call him at 734-272-6294.

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