Albemarle ARB members Fred Missel and Bruce Wardell

Local developer Wendell Wood‘s dream to get a big box store on land along U.S. 29 North between the Carrsbrook and Woodbrook neighborhoods will come to fruition.

 At Monday’s meeting of the Albemarle Architectural Review Board, Wood received positive feedback on the revised design for a new Gander Mountain outdoor goods store. 

 The national chain’s website lists three other locations in Virginia in Fredericksburg, Roanoke, and Winchester. A site plan for the Northtown Center development was first approved in 2008 and it currently includes a Stellar One bank. 

 “It’s never an easy process, but I think there were some good changes made that should benefit everybody,” Wood said.  “It’s a burdensome process to go through, but that’s what you have today.”

 Known for numerous major developments on U.S. 29, including Hollymead Town Center, Wood has faced greater challenges developing this particular property which he bought in 1962.

 The site has been considered for numerous projects including auto dealerships and a Home Depot since it was zoned as highway-commercial in 1980.  The Home Depot project was rejected by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors in February 2001 over objections to a request to disturb critical slopes.

 Wood said he has invested $2.5 million in preparing the site, including complying with significant stormwater management requirements.

 Yet the discussion before the ARB followed a familiar refrain.  How to reconcile standardized corporate architecture with local design standards.

 “The thing we are struggling with is the guidelines are intended to make sure that the buildings that are built here are tied this to this locality,” said ARB member Bruce Wardell.  “When a prototype comes from northern Wisconsin or the Adirondacks … it is a struggle to see how this becomes appropriate for Charlottesville.  For years we have had the arguments of brand vs. locality.”

 Wardell said the changes Wood’s design team made since a prior work session in December were striking a good balance.

 “We went from off-the-shelf big box to something that is more appropriate and pedestrian in scale,” said ARB chair Fred Missel.

 “I think it is a good compromise, but Gander is not really happy with it,” Wood said.  “The logs and the height [of the façade] are their trademark.”

 Wood says he’d like to get started on building the store as soon as possible to facilitate a September opening.  The ARB said they could review the final designs at their first meeting in March.