Officials not confirming whether a second area store is in the works

If it looks like a Target and is the size of a Target, it might just be a Target.

An artist’s rendering of a proposed development on the site of the now-shuttered Kmart depicts what appears to be a 40,000-square-foot department store dressed in the guise of a Target store.

The drawing is part of a presentation to the Charlottesville Planning Commission on Hillsdale Place scheduled for Tuesday. The drawings relate to an entrance corridor review.

The drawings include for commission consideration the colors and types of materials proposed for the project. Those materials include the bright red aluminum panels that make up traditional Target signage.

Also featured in the drawings are the chain’s signature red bollards and bright red signage but with an anchor where the store’s trademark bull’s-eye normally appears and the word “Anchor” where the store’s name would be, seemingly indicating the development’s anchor store.

On the opposite end of the development is a gray building labeled “Outdoor Outfitters” with the words “since 1938” above an entrance. Recreational Equipment Inc., an outdoor recreation retailer better known as REI, was founded that same year, and the design resembles some of the company’s other façades.

Other generic store names in the renderings include “Bells & Whistles,” “Sushi Dragon” and “WirelessOne.”

The drawings indicate that the rendering is “for conceptual illustration only” and that “design, dimensions, colors, materials, and the location of signs and doors are subject to change.”

Although the plan strongly suggests that the “Anchor” would be a Target, developers and the retailer are mum on the issue.

Ashley Cooper Davies, with site developer Riverbend Development, said she could not speak to the specific retailers coming to Hillsdale Place because she is “still in conversation with them.”

“We are working towards the final plan approval. We are excited to get the project underway. It will be beneficial for the city to have more retail options closer,” she said.

A request for comment was not returned by REI officials.

Target officials in Minneapolis did not confirm that the company might be expanding its regional presence but said they are always looking for ways to serve their communities.

“Target is continuously evaluating potential sites for new stores, and we see an opportunity to serve more guests in the Charlottesville area,” said Target’s Jacque DeBuse. “[However], I don’t have any new store news to share at this time.”

Although there is no confirmation that Target is considering a move into the development, the chain has for the past seven years experimented with small-format stores of 40,000 square feet or less in areas near urban centers and college campuses.

That’s the same size as the retail space depicted in the project’s drawings.

Target officials predict on their website that they will have more than 130 of the small-format stores open nationwide by the end of this year.

“Their flexible designs let us bring the best of the Bullseye into urban neighborhoods, near colleges and other areas where a full-size Target wouldn’t fit,” the company’s website states.

Hillsdale Place is a little more than 2 miles north of the University of Virginia Rotunda and 6 miles south of the Target in Hollymead Town Center. Full-sized stores are about 130,000 square feet, according to the website.

The smaller stores’ wares are stocked to reflect the needs of neighboring customers rather than an entire region, according to the company website.

“A small-format located near a bustling tourist shopping destination might have a vastly different assortment than another just six blocks away, located in a residential area with lots of families with kids and babies,” the website states.

“For example, we’ll carry paper towels in our urban stores, but in smaller pack sizes so it’s easier for guests to carry home and store in smaller spaces,” the website states. “It’s all about listening to our guests in each neighborhood and bringing customized shopping experiences to life.”

In July 2017, the Charlottesville Kmart closed its doors after more than 50 years. The neighboring Gold’s Gym followed that fall. Afterward, Riverbend proposed reducing the strip mall to 77,000 square feet to accommodate six to eight stores.

The Planning Commission, which serves as the city’s Entrance Review Board, unanimously approved the certificate of appropriateness for Hillsdale Place in November 2017. The development only is returning to the board because of the major Target-like changes to the site, said Jeff Werner, a preservation and design planner for the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services.

Other tweaks to the design were “insignificant such that they would otherwise be approved administratively,” the staff report states.

“I just said, ‘That’s a lot of red, I’m not comfortable,’” Werner said of the proposed changes.

Along with the red accents, changes set to go before the board include the façade featuring wood siding at the top of the western and southern walls and concrete blocks beneath.

The original plans included varied, articulated sections with brick, stone and metal panels, as well as a trellis. The rear of the building, facing India Road, would have two colors of concrete bricks instead of the articulated walls from the 2017 proposal.

“We don’t like long, blank walls,” Werner said.

In the staff report, suggestions include inverting the red colors to white and the white sections to red; reducing the area of the red metal panels; and the consideration of reintroducing varied wall designs or planting additional trees.

If passed, the plans do not have to go to the City Council for final approval. The Planning Commission/Entrance Review Board meeting is slated to begin at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Council Chambers.

Bryan McKenzie is a reporter for The Daily Progress.