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Three months after receiving conditional approval for a gas station and convenience store on the corner of Proffit Road and U.S. 29, Wawa is hoping to build a second Charlottesville-area location on Pantops.
The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board met with the company’s development team on Monday to discuss the plans for the second site. The Wawa is proposed for an empty parcel next to the Goodwill Store and Donation Center near the intersection of Richmond and Stony Point Road.
“Our closest store is about an hour or more away, so this is a new market for us,” said Wawa real estate engineer Jeb Bell. “We have yet to get real momentum on a third [location], but we hope to have more soon.”
A hotel is planned behind the Wawa on the site formerly reserved for a Lidl grocery store.
Bell said that the work session with the ARB will help Wawa learn about their potential customers.
“Charlottesville feels different from the rest of Virginia. When we first made the submission for Proffit Road, we just showed our Virginia prototype and it was not met with a lot of enthusiasm. Getting to know the area better, it makes sense how that would be the case,” he said.
To fit with the local aesthetic, the development team added a white parapet, columns and outdoor seating to the convenience store.
Bruce Wardell, an ARB member and founder of BRW Architects, said he liked the architecture but thought it was not visible enough from the street. He suggested putting the canopy and gas pumps behind the building instead.
“If you take the last 10 or 15 years of what has been developed on Pantops, the newer buildings have created a better environment along that entrance corridor than a lot of the ones that are just historic there that line the corridor with automobiles,” Wardell said.
Bell said that customers want to see whether gas pumps are available as they drive down the highway.
“I feel we’re trying to create something that is fundamentally pedestrian-oriented in a zone that is not pedestrian-oriented and will never be,” said ARB member Frank Stoner, who is a founder of the development management company Milestone Partners.
“In that sense, I think we’re making an unfair request. You’re asking someone to compromise fundamental business principles around their operation in order to pursue some fantasy.”
Bell estimated that, if the Proffit Road Wawa final site plan gets approved before the end of 2018, construction may start next year. No time frame was set Monday for when the Pantops Wawa proposal will return to county officials.
In the meantime, locals will have to travel elsewhere to try Bell’s favorite Wawa snack.
“I’m embarrassed to admit it. I’m totally hooked on these chocolate donuts that they have. I was going to say [my favorite] was a turkey hoagie,” Bell said.
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