At Monday’s Albemarle County Architectural Review Board meeting, members approved the design for a Fresh Market specialty grocery store that will occupy the old Circuit City building in the Albemarle Square shopping center on U.S. 29.

The Fresh Market will feature outdoor seating and a design that mimics a farmer’s market. Board members said they were pleased with the developer’s latest plans to add another set of windows to the front of the building.

“You have done a fantastic job and … if you can do anything to make these windows happen … we would certainly be pleased with it,” said board member Paul Wright.

“Compositionally, it is nicer,” board member John Quale said.

Members called attention to the fact that the windows would only be a positive addition if they did not feature spandrel glass, which gives a uniform appearance in building walls.

“Spandrel glass on the entrance corridor is discouraged,” said ARB chairman Fred Missel.

The board also held a work session to discuss Albemarle County’s requirement for relegated parking along entrance corridors that keeps parking lots out of view. Staff emphasized the importance of maintaining the ability to convert complexes along entrance corridors into walkable areas for the future.  

“We’ve got to set things up for a ‘now’ and a ‘later’ so that you have that place where people … have the right place to walk, and the right place to walk is not right up on the road with the moving traffic. It’s pushed back,” said Elaine Echols, principal planner for Albemarle County.

This presentation led the board to discuss other problems they are facing with Albemarle County’s so called “neighborhood model” form of development when it occurs in entrance corridors such as U.S. Routes 29 and 250.

Bruce Wardell stated that these developments often create interior, privatized fronts to businesses with the backs of the buildings facing the main road. 

“The unintended consequence of the neighborhood model, as it is being applied [on Route 29 and 250], is creating a scenario that is exactly the opposite of what everyone envisioned,” Wardell said.  “Everyone envisioned enlivening the public sector of those sites. What in fact has happened is all [activity] has been thrown on the [interior side] of those buildings.”

In other business, the board approved plans for updating the Staples store sign in Shoppers World. BCT Architects has redesigned the shopping center to modernize its appearance.

“[Staples] is using this opportunity to bring their branding to the center using the signage,” said Christine McGuirl, development manager for Federal Realty Investment Trust.

Staples, a long-term tenant of the shopping center, was asked to reduce the size of its new sign and change the design so that it matched the signs of other tenants in Shoppers World.

When the renovation of the shopping center is completed, it will be home to several new stores, including Stein Mart, which will open by the end of the year, a Jason’s Deli and another tenant who has not yet been confirmed.