Mixed-use project put on hold by Board

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December 4, 2009

5:25 AM

The City of Williamsburg’s Architectural Review Board ended consideration of the College of William and Mary’s proposed Richmond Road project. The decision follows an appraisal of the project by the board nearly three weeks ago.

“[It was] a big, ugly step backward,” Ed Chappell, director of architectural research at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and former review board member, said.

In October, the William and Mary Real Estate Foundation revealed design plans to bring more retail and housing options close to the College.

The project, which has been in consideration for several years, would construct new College-operated student housing and mixed-use retail options on Richmond Road.

The foundation acquired the properties adjacent to Wawa last year. The site includes the Taylor Building, the former Master Craftsman location and the Thiemes House, which currently serves as the College’s human resources office.

The three buildings are situated on approximately one acre of land that would be cleared for the proposed project. The first floor of the proposed building would contain both shops and restaurants. Upperclassmen would have the opportunity to live in apartments located on the building’s top two floors.

The Office of Residence Life would regulate housing in the 14 apartments. Plans also called for a parking lot that has direct access to Richmond Road that would be reserved for shop patrons only.

The review board objected to the plans to tear down the Thiemes House, however. After examining the conceptual drawings, the board felt that the proposed building did not visually integrate with the surrounding architecture.

Review board members Robert Lane and Lowell Ruff declined to comment on the specific reasons for the proposal’s rejection.

Earlier in the year, the foundation designed the plan for a building that would appropriately fit in an area close to both the College and Colonial Williamsburg. However, the review board questioned architectural and stylistic elements of the proposed design.

“My understanding is the ARB thought the scale of it was a bit large, so now we’re in attempts to redraw,”
College Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Board of Visitors Michael J. Fox said.

Although progress on the Richmond Road project has been set back, Nancy Buchanan, executive director of the real estate foundation, said the process of revising the design with the board’s criticisms taken into account is underway.

“We hope to be back before the ARB at the early December meeting,” she said.

The foundation’s original intention was to break ground next summer and complete the building by the fall of 2011; however, Buchanan said that no firm schedule had been established for presenting the revised project to the Williamsburg Planning Commission.

“We’re all hopeful for a positive decision coming out of the ARB,” Fox said. “The city leadership and our neighbors are all very supportive of the project.”

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