By Tracie Cabler

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

After multiple work sessions to review the preliminary plans for the

Stonefield development’s

new Regal Cinema, the

Architectural Review Board

said Tuesday it was largely satisfied with recent changes to the design.

“I think this is a much more successful approach,” said board member Bill Daggett. “I’m in favor of what I see here and I think we should continue to support it.”

Board member Charles Lebo echoed Daggett’s sentiments.

“I think they’re moving along in the right direction,” Lebo said. “It’s a great improvement…. It wouldn’t hurt me to see some brick on some of these walls… I think there’s been some good progress made and I’m for the new metal shingle application.”

The Regal Cinema, a state-of-the-art 14-screen theater with IMAX, is the first building of many in the Stonefield development to go before the ARB for approval. However, with its projected height of 40 feet and a length of 320 feet along Hydraulic Road, the “big box” has also presented unique challenges.

Last month, the board voiced concerns on the structure’s lack of thematic connection, material choice and color palette.  Previous plans showed a dominating use of stucco on the theater’s Hydraulic Road elevation.

During Tuesday’s meeting with the ARB, architect Stan Haas discussed several changes made to the theater’s design.

“Well less than one half of this building is now covered in synthetic stucco,” said Haas.

Haas incorporated metal shingle cladding and clapboard siding, as well as painted steel. In addition to new materials, a darker color palette modified the theater’s façade.

While the board expressed an overall appreciation of the theater’s new direction, some members still held reservations on the aesthetic impact of the design.

“We have received a site plan and our job is to review the public side, the street side of this site plan and make sure the designers respond to the context of our community and the guidelines,” said board member Bruce Wardell. “This is an extraordinarily anti-urban site plan. It takes all of the wonderful stuff that makes a city, makes a community, and puts it internal in the site plan. And your job is to dress up its backside.”

“Here we’ve received a 40-foot high, 320-foot long wall along a major intersection of our community and you guys are supposed to make it look like downtown Charlottesville,” Wardell added, reflecting on the ARB’s design guidelines. “The site plan itself presents some enormous challenges to make this a good, public building.”

Daggett however, disagreed.

“If you stand on the steps of St. Peter’s in Rome, is there a human scale element there? Not one,” Daggett said. “It is coherently scaled in itself and I think that this building is also coherently scaled.”

Daggett compared the theater’s relegated parking, not visible from Hydraulic or U.S. 29, to other major commercial centers like the Hollymead Town Center.

“This building is pretty successful,” Daggett said. “We would see a sea of parking if this building [was not oriented this way].”

Others on the board voiced concern over the scale of the theater’s exterior lighting. With the ARB’s guideline standard for light poles at 20 feet and the ones for Stonefield designed at 35 feet, county staff reported, “that level of lumination really far exceeds any lighting the ARB has approved in the past.”

Stonefield officials are expected to meet with the ARB again in two weeks with revised plans and elevations for the Regal Cinema. With construction slated to start in the September-October, developers are hoping for approval at the next meeting.

“We hope that at our next meeting we will address all of the ARB’s concerns that they’ve raised with the staff report,” said developer Bill Caldwell. “We’re hoping for an affirmative vote, and of course a certificate of appropriateness at that point.”

A "T" on a purple circle

Charlottesville Tomorrow

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