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Review begins for new homes on Ridge Street

The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review has asked the architect for a planned residential building at the proposed William Taylor Plaza to find a way to reduce its size.

“We do have a lot of projects whose developers start off building to the edges of their [property] and then developers will voluntarily carve stuff out to make it work better,” said Melanie Miller, chairwoman of the BAR.

The City Council approved a rezoning to “planned unit development” in 2009 at the corner of Ridge Street and Cherry Avenue. Southern Development opted to develop the land in two phases.

Initial review of the second phase comes just a week or so after dozens of trees were cleared to make way for construction of a Fairfield by Marriott hotel as part of the first phase.

The prospective firm behind the second phase is Management Services Corp., a property management company that has been in operation since 1972.

The rezoning to PUD allowed for up to 50 residential units on the site that makes up phase two. There also can be up to 40,000 commercial square feet, MSC is not proposing any in this development.

“Coming out of the PUD, the key things are that 50 units are allowed,” said architect Stephen von Storch. “We’re proposing 27 units.”

Planned unit development rezonings allow for slightly different rules than otherwise would be allowed.

For instance, the three-story structure can be built right up to the sidewalk, as there is no requirement for a setback.

The terms of the PUD require all of the parking to be underneath the building and for the structure to be LEED certified. The terms of the rezoning also call for the sidewalks to be between six to eight feet wide.

The proposed building shows three sections with two openings that break up the massing and allow people to see mountains and city views through the gaps.

“All of our apartments will have covered terraces or porches off of the primary living space carved out of the mass of the building, hopefully bringing people out to engage with the street,” von Storch said.

Von Storch said an effort will be made to keep bedrooms from facing Ridge Street, but smaller windows will be used when they are so placed.

“Our experience certainly tells us that if there are larger windows, they’ll all have drapes on them and they’ll never be opened,” von Storch said.

The BAR was only asked to consider the massing of the building at its work session Monday. The architectural details would be worked out later once designers know where the footprint can go.

BAR members asked for ways for the massing to be reduced.

“Your building feels a good percentage larger than the existing houses on Ridge Street,” said BAR member Carl Schwarz.

BAR member Justin Sarafin said the south façade of the building is important given that it abuts onto the small courtyard.

“Where this project engages with this little square, it’s going to have to work with this corner and the Marriott,” Sarafin said. “This is a very prominent approach [into the city].”

BAR member Laura Knott was concerned about the zero setback. The new Marriott Residence Inn on West Main Street is another example of a building constructed at a zero lot line.

“Having that building at a zero lot line when you have a setback at the Marriott and a setback for the other buildings on the street makes it stick out like a sore thumb,” Knott said.

Von Storch said he has some flexibility. One possibility is that the sidewalk might be less than eight feet to grant a little more room.

“Council was looking for a big wide pedestrian area there,” said Charlie Armstrong of Southern Development. “The PUD says between six to eight feet wherever possible.”

At the end of the meeting, Sarafin issued one last piece of advice.

“Our charge to you is to be aware of how this meets the street and how this functions in the neighboring streets and community,” Sarafin said.

Said MSC’s vice president of development, Trey Steigman: “Our intent here is to take away what we’ve absorbed tonight and work very diligently to get back in front of [the BAR] for a preliminary discussion. This has been incredibly helpful.”

However, Steigman said after the meeting that the project might be less viable if fewer than 27 units can be built.