By Jean Feroldi
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, July 22, 2010

Architect Bill Atwood is moving towards a final design for his Waterhouse development on Water Street. Presenting a revised proposal to the Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review Tuesday, Atwood sought approval of the overall massing and material choices for the six-story building, leaving smaller details to be worked out later. 

“I am asking for pretty much material and massing only, the color and the detail and then fenestration is ahead of us,” said Atwood.

Since introducing the Waterhouse development five years ago, Atwood has redesigned his vision for a mixed- use building numerous times as a struggling economy and environmentally-focused design ideas presented new challenges. Originally proposed as two nine-story towers, Atwood opted for a more horizontal approach with his recent designs, focusing on commercial space.

Atwood’s updated plan, which he hoped would address some of the suggestions offered by the BAR in a June meeting, was met with some criticism. Board members overall felt the façade articulation and proportioning of the building could be improved upon to engage the public and the street.

BAR member William Adams advised larger setbacks could be introduced to give some dimension to the building.

“I would like to see provisions for more kind of urbanity or enlivening of the street on the Water Street side, which might mean pulling back on the garage entry side,” Adams said.

Anxious to move forward with the construction of the building, Atwood asked the BAR to support the conceptual ideas, namely the overall massing, for Waterhouse.

“Is it safe to say, because we are under a certain time constraint, that the massing relative to certain adjustments could be approved?” asked Atwood.

Waterhouse is set to include 45,000 sq. feet of office space for an unnamed client employing 230 people.

Board member, Eryn Brennan, recognized Atwood’s concern, making a movement to approve the conceptual massing of the building, while still allowing Atwood to modify the form if necessary.

“Massing to me just means general height and width, I mean that does not mean to me façade articulation as presented here tonight, so in that vein I could support the massing…but I think there is much further refinement for the actual articulation of the façades that could happen,” said Brennan.

The BAR agreed on the conceptual forms of Waterhouse and Atwood will present more specific designs at a future meeting. 

Martha Jefferson Historic Conservation District could see future growth

In other business, the BAR reviewed a request by the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association for approval of the Martha Jefferson Historic Conservation District, which would be comprised of 125 properties along Locust, Lexington, and Grove Avenues. The goal of neighborhood residents is to protect the historical character of the area by requiring any construction or demolition in the proposed boundaries first be approved by the BAR.

During a June BAR meeting, the Board determined a committee of members should be established to flesh- out criteria for the district before any decision could be made. In response, a subcommittee involving a BAR member, City staff members, and three neighborhood residents, met June 25 to define the conservation district boundaries and outline significant features of the Martha Jefferson neighborhood.

The committee determined that the district would follow the same boundaries as the Martha Jefferson Historic Register District established in 2007.

Board members supported the neighborhood’s proposal, questioning only the “donut hole,” a group of sixteen properties located within the district’s boundaries not subject to the Conservation District’s criteria.  These properties, north of the Martha Jefferson Hospital on St. Charles Avenue, are also not in the historic register district.

Mary Joy Scala, Charlottesville City’s Preservation and Design Planner, advised the BAR that the boundaries determined by the subcommittee were not absolute and other properties could be added to the Conservation District later even if they were not in the historic register district.

“This is the first conservation district so it’s almost a trial to see how the guidelines work, to see how the people react to being in the district,” said Scala. “I think the thought was let’s do this boundary that we have already established and then if that works and people are interested, then you could add to the district at a later date.”

Members of the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association said they were pleased with the results of Tuesday’s meeting, and the BAR unanimously approved the Martha Jefferson Historic Conservation District.


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