The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review has granted preliminary design approvals for a new hotel at Ridge Street and Cherry Avenue as well as a six-story building on Water Street, but deferred action on a five-story building on West Main Street.

The developers of the Fairfield Inn & Suites on Cherry Avenue will need to return to the BAR for a final certificate of appropriateness, as will the developers who want to build on a quarter-acre lot at 550 E. Water St.

On Tuesday, the BAR voted to approve the mass and scale of the two buildings. That allows the projects’ architects to begin work on detailed plans.

The Marriott-brand hotel will be the first phase of the William Taylor Plaza by Southern Development.

“The new hotel is designed with four levels, with two levels of parking under the building,” said Mary Joy Scala, the city’s historic-preservation planner. “On the second level at the Ridge Street end, there is a commercial space and a secondary entrance to the hotel and they are both accessed from a plaza on Ridge Street.”

BAR members asked for a different landscaping plan and to consider using different colors. They also sought refinements to entryways and to how the building looks on Ridge Street.

“It seems that everyone’s in agreement that this is moving in a positive direction but maybe we’re not quite there yet,” said Melanie Miller, chairwoman of the BAR.

The project will return before the BAR, possibly in November.

550 E. Water

Developer Andrew Baldwin has decided not to seek a special-use permit for additional height at 550 E. Water St. Instead, he will build at the 70 feet allowed by zoning.

However, the taller section of the building will be six stories and not the seven shown to the BAR in September.

Local attorney David Thomas raised concerns about the building not being “visually and architecturally compatible” with its surroundings. He questioned whether the BAR had the authority to give a formal approval on massing and scale without considering the full design.

“I’ve searched the city code and the BAR’s guidelines but could not find it,” Thomas said.

BAR members defended the practice of approving mass and scale before granting a final approval.

“It makes no sense to require an applicant to come in with a construction-ready set of documents when [the BAR] may not even approve the general mass at all,” Miller said.

The BAR opted to approve the massing and scale.

“I can understand why people don’t feel like it goes along with the two old buildings on either end of it, but at the same time it is a skinny building on a little wedge of a spot,” said BAR member Tim Mohr.

Atwood defers

Following a lengthy discussion, architect William Atwood asked to defer consideration of his Atlantic project in the 500 block of West Main. The project previously had been approved but Atwood came back with a version that is on less land than before.

The Atlantic project is being reviewed at a time when West Main’s zoning allows for buildings to be constructed up to 60 feet tall by right. That would allow Atwood’s building to be five stories on the West Main side of the street and six stories above Commerce Street.

The city is considering rezoning the street to lower the total height to 52 feet at that location.

The Atlantic also would incorporate two historic buildings that are on the site. Parking would be available on three levels, with entrance from West Main and exit onto Commerce.

Atwood said the size of his building was appropriate given the presence of other tall buildings in the area.

“We picked this site because we are about 50 feet from a 60-foot building and now we’re about 140 feet from a major building at the Marriott,” Atwood said. “We think we’re very compatible.”

However, neighbors said they think the new building would destroy their community.

“What happens on West Main Street doesn’t stay on West Main Street,” said Pat Edwards, a Commerce Street resident. “It is spilling over into the communities and the neighborhoods. If there’s anything anybody can do in this city to save us, we plead for that because a building that huge, I can’t even fathom it.”
 

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