hit a major milestone Monday when it received a certificate of appropriateness from Albemarle County’s Architectural Review Board.
Albemarle ARB Chairman
While board members said the Stonefield designs were still not perfect, they, and developers alike, expressed a sense of relief at moving forward with what has been an intensive review process.
“I think we’ve done everything we can to help take a ‘blank wall’-covered development and mitigate that in many ways and creative ways,” said board Chairman
. “I don’t think we could do any more to really help that, frankly.”
Developers of the Stonefield project had returned to address design
concerns raised at an Oct. 3 work session
with the ARB, as well as questions raised in a staff report prepared by county planners.
Echoing a familiar note from throughout the process, the board focused on the design of Trader Joe’s, and especially its south facing wall along Hydraulic Drive. Only three of the review board’s five members were in attendance, but the building’s two principal critics, Paul Wright and
, were there and enumerated their concerns.
“Basically, everything I’ve said from day one [applies],” said Wright, the building’s most outspoken critic. “I’m never going to be real comfortable with this building. It hasn’t significantly changed from the first day.”
Edens & Avant
, the South Carolina-based firm developing Stonefield, said that they had adjusted their plans to the Trader Joe’s design as much as reasonably possible. Adding more features to address the board’s concerns could lead to an unattractive visual jumble, they said.
“As the architect who has worked on [Trader Joe’s] … I very, very firmly believe that too much more is exactly that: too much more,” said Stan Haas, lead architect for the Shops at Stonefield. “This is just one last plea to you guys to say that I’m not sure what else we would do to this building without maybe lessening some of the quality of it right now.”
In the end, board members agreed to grant a certificate of appropriateness, but required that the developers return for a site plan amendment with a new choice of color for the bricks on the Trader Joe’s. In the current proposal, the brick is to be painted white, a significant concern for Lebo.
The board also pushed off lighting considerations to an amendment process, citing a desire to allow the developers to continue their construction without costly delays.
The mood in the room was light and congratulatory by the end of the meeting. Developers had renamed the primary streets in the development, with Main Street now called Bond Street and Stonefield Boulevard changing to District Avenue, but Lebo proposed his own suggestion to reflect the length of the approval process.
“You should have called it The ARB Way,” Lebo said.
Despite congratulations being offered to the developers, there is still more left to the ARB approval process.
In addition to the lighting and brick color amendments to the site plan, signs and awnings facing the U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road entrance corridors will be subject to sign review guidelines. Project manager Bill Caldwell said that the sign proposals would have to wait until tenants were finalized, but predicted most tenants would be in place by June, ahead of Stonefield’s October grand opening.
Dennis S. Rooker
, whose Jack Jouett District is home to the Stonefield development, was on hand to state his excitement at the approval and to offer his gratitude to the members of the review board for what he called an oftentimes “thankless” job.
“I think that if I had to look at one thing that has changed the look of our community more … over the last couple of decades, it’s the Architectural Review Board,” Rooker said. “And I want to thank you for doing this job and thank you for bringing [Stonefield] to this point of approval.”
Amid laughter, Wright asked Rooker to put his money where his mouth is. “Can we have a raise?” he quipped.
The supervisors appoint the five ARB members, who are paid $45 per meeting attended.
Caldwell gave parting reassurances to the board that it would not regret granting the certificate of approval. “I think you’ll all be very happy with what is approved and we look forward to hosting you at the grand opening in October,” he said.
Members of the board seemed to agree. Lebo said, “You’re going to have a great project and we look forward to shopping there when it’s open.”