Emmet Street coffee shop moves forward; colors for rumored Target sent back for revisions

The Charlottesville Planning Commission on Tuesday recommended approval of a special-use permit for a drive-thru window for a coffee shop opening in a former bank and sent back the design of a retail store for revisions. Although unnamed in the meeting, the coffee shop is called a “proposed Starbucks” in the permit application, and the design elements sought for the retail store are the hallmark of Target.

The site of the proposed coffee shop, which are regulated as restaurants in the city, is in the former Wells Fargo bank at 1617 N. Emmet St., near Angus Road. The property is zoned Highway Commercial, which only allows drive-thru windows with special-use permits. Not including this proposal, there are eight drive-thrus on U.S. 29 from Seminole Square to the north wing of Barracks Road Shopping Center. Seven are restaurants, and one is a bank.

Under the proposal, only the coffee shop’s drive-thru lane nearest to the building will be used and the second would be a bypass lane for traffic circulation. Wells Fargo intends to keep the drive-up ATM on the site in the lane farthest from the building.

According to the staff report, the parking lot entrance onto Emmet Street is slated to be closed. Additionally, no alterations to the building are proposed at this time, but the applicant, Riverbend Development noted that the canopy over the drive-thru could be removed eventually. If that occurs, it would have to go through the Entrance Corridor Review Board process for a certificate of appropriateness.

Later in the meeting, the Planning Commission, operating as the Entrance Corridor Review Board, panned the proposed design for the anchor of Riverbend’s Hillsdale Place, the former Kmart shopping center. A certificate of appropriateness is needed for the façade of a 40,000-square-foot department store.

The Entrance Review Board unanimously approved the certificate of appropriateness for Hillsdale Place in November 2017. No further changes have been proposed for the remainder of the shopping center that rose to the level of needed the board’s approval, city staff said.

The design elements in the most recent application — which include the bright red bollards and aluminum panels — resemble those found in the 2017 redesign of Target stores, and the building is the average size of smaller-format stores geared in part toward college campuses.

Officials for Minneapolis-based Target would not confirm last week whether there are plans for expansion regionally but said that the company sees “an opportunity to serve more guests in the Charlottesville area.”

The size of the red materials led to consternation at Tuesday’s meeting, and a six-vote majority, with one abstention, approved the façade with the stipulation that the applicant invert the red colors to white and the white sections to red or reduce the area of the red metal panels by 50%.

Once revisions are made to the proposed façade, the application would head to city staff for an administrative approval, unless staff feels that what was submitted should return to the Entrance Corridor Review Board. No action is needed from the City Council on this certificate of appropriateness.

In the staff report, city staff also presented concerns about the design of the rear of the building and the portion fronting U.S. 29. These issues were resolved administratively in advance of the meeting.