DRB requests revisions for Trader Joe’s design plans

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Thursday October 11, 2012

Sidewalk width, street lighting, a connection to the Blue Mall and building elevations were only a few of the concerns South Burlington’s Development Review Board (DRB) posed to Trader Joe’s representation at October 2nd’s meeting.

Since the primary discussion revolved around design, two members of the Design Review Committee, Adam Davis and Jean-Sebastien Chaulot, were present to offer their input as well. 

What should a building look like that is going to be located in the middle of the new City Center? Many considerations must be accounted for during the design process. One item of particular significance in South Burlington is the ordinance requiring that half of a building’s linear footage be clear glass to create depth and encourage window shopping. The current Trader Joe’s layout comes in at 44 percent.  The major debate circled around the proposed, solid, multi-colored light boxes which would be located on the side of the building facing Dorset Street. These vertical rows had been proposed at the sketch plan phase and were received without enthusiasm. The architect’s main objective in proposing the light boxes was to create animation and to hide the wall of coolers (which Trader Joe’s has deemed necessary to position directly behind the wall facing Dorset Street) from passersby. 

Although the plan shows windows above the light boxes, this does not increase their linear footage of glass. Bill Stuono said, “We’re looking for real windows, not fake ones.” The applicant expressed that in terms of visibility all the way through, it’s virtually impossible given the location of the 8x4 coolers. The applicant said not everything is going to fit perfectly into every ordinance, but they would try to come close.

At the recommendation of Chair Mark Behr, the Board decided unanimously to move into executive session to discuss the issues further before returning to open session 40 minutes later. When they returned, Mark Behr said that their major issue remains the light boxes and their inability to comply with the 50 percent ordinance. He stressed that they need to look at their concerns and return with a better effort. The Board also felt that the current design does not meet a pedestrian friendly aim; mainly due to the building’s elevation, which they intoned looks too much like a box. They would like to see more animation. The applicant expressed their frustration in getting to this point in the process and having to go back and re-work the design.

However, Chair Mark Behr said that since the spot they desire is at such a critical location in the city, these issues need to be addressed.

Resident Mike Young commented that since this will be the first building in City Center, he found it odd that the building will not have a mixed use feature. He felt that this development is simply being driven by individuals’ subjective preference for a retail space.

The applicant said that it will take them at least a month to devise an amended plan. The hearing was continued to November 6.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent