Some parts of the design plans for the Vienna Market project are heading back to the drawing table.
Back in the spring, Vienna’s Board of Architectural Review (BAR) called the proposed plans rigid, plain and unbecoming for Maple Avenue and continued working with the developer to tweak the plans.
The project plans to replace the Marco Polo building and other surrounding properties with 44 condominiums and 8,200 square feet of retail space — along with an underground parking garage — to 245 W. Maple Avenue.
The BAR approved the project in chunks, with the final approval on Sept. 19.
Residents Charles and Laura Anderson sought to get the Board of Architectural Review’s approval of the rear architectural designs and plans for the Vienna Market appealed.
In a letter dated Oct. 1 to the town clerk, the Andersons claimed that the approved plans violate the Maple Avenue general design criteria and the Town Code, saying that the facades of the rear are not consistent with the front and side facades.
“As approved, the rear facades of four of the five townhouse rows along the proposed Vienna Market Lane consist almost entirely of siding material with no brick; whereas the front and side facades consist almost entirely of brick with no siding,” the Andersons wrote.
The Town Council considered the appeal at a meeting on Monday (Oct. 21).
“Since the structures won’t be coming out of the ground, I’m told, until November or December at the very earliest, there’s time to do this and get it right,” Charles Anderson said at the meeting.
Anderson’s concerns seemed to resonate with many residents and some of the councilmembers.
“I’m concerned that [if] I lived back there I would want to be looking at something halfway decent,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said.
The Vienna residents who testified during the public hearing about the project on Monday stressed that all of the sides of the buildings can be clearly seen.
“It’s seen from all sides,” one resident testified. “There is really not a back to this building in my opinion.”
Residents asked that the Church Street facade have the same attractiveness as the Pleasant Street and Maple Street facades.
“This is right across the street from the historic district,” another resident said. “We get one chance to get this right.”
Several residents, including the Andersons, said that town officials might be able to avoid future controversies if residents have more opportunities to provide input.
“The citizens of this town need to brought into these conversations in an earlier stage,” Charles Anderson said.
Motion to Move Forward
After the public hearing, Councilmember Pasha Majdi suggested a motion to reverse the BAR’s decision on Sept. 19 to approve Vienna Market. Repand to BAR
“I have no interest in cutting a deal tonight or making architectural designs,” Majdi said. “I think that’s a poor way to make decisions way outside my expertise.”
After Majdi presented his motion, the developer proposed a compromise that would wrap brick on the rear of two of the four rows of townhomes.
Nisha Patel said that she would like to see a compromise, but wants to see renderings of the proposal.
“I would be really cautious to undo the entire approval that happened at the Sept. 19 because there were a whole bunch of other things that were approved,” Councilmember Douglas Noble said.
Majdi then amended his motion to modify the BAR’s decisions Sept. 19 and Aug. 15 and to direct the BAR to consult with the Town Council before Town Council’s next scheduled meeting on the project.
When Noble proposed an amendment to Majdi’s motion to keep the modification specific to the four rear facades of the townhomes parallel to the Bank of America property and facing Market Square.
The Town Council approved both Noble’s amendment and Majdi’s motion.
“I do think we should move on this as quickly as possible,” Mayor Laurie DiRocco said.
Renderings via Town of Vienna