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Town & Country remodel plan hits snag
Town & Country Market officials hit a bump in the road on their way to a remodel, Monday, when the city’s Design Review Board bluntly expressed disappointment in the company’s plans.
One pothole in particular was a proposed exit onto Winslow Way. Another was the limited exterior views into the store.
Board members act as the aesthetic advisers for development within the city, and stand proposals up against city rules.
It was the first time the board discussed the remodel since it met with market officials in June. Board members asked Town & Country and its architects to make considerations before moving forward, such as removing the proposed exit onto Winslow Way and opening up a wall facing the street with more windows.
Monday’s meeting danced around a line the remodel borders, between the capabilities of a building built in the 1950s, and the city’s modern vision of Winslow Way.
Market officials tried to accommodate the board’s previous requests, but found them difficult, and defended their proposal.
“One thing we attempted to do was balance the traffic into the store,” Town & Country CEO Bill Weymer told the board. “To funnel that down into less entrances and exits creates more traffic and potential congestion.”
The exit in question would provide an egress out of the new east lot. It would connect to the current exit at the northeast corner of the property and interact with a pocket park.
“We consider this exit to be essential for the acceptance of this parking,” Weymer added.
But the board felt that the area should be more park than road.
“I disagree with a lot of what you say,” said DRB Member Alan Grainger.
“I think there is some flawed thinking in the pedestrian approach,” he said. “I think your argument is not convincing.”
Grainger said customers do not want to travel onto Winslow Way because it’s a bottleneck in both directions.
Parking is an ongoing challenge for the business. More than 80 percent of customers travel to the store by vehicle, Weymer said.
Town & Country officials hope ideas such as a proposed drive-thru grocery window will free up parking by saving some customers a trip inside.
The driveway connection to the northeast exit would help create ease of access, Weymer said.
But it didn’t sway the board.
“What I think you are describing is a missed opportunity,” Grainger said. “You have sown the seed of a great pocket park right at the northeast corner of the store. There is another new gathering place along Winslow Way, which is this close to being provided by your site plan. I think it is really sad that we are losing that option, to allow vehicles to drive through the middle of the park.”
“Without a driveway the whole thing could be much more graceful,” he added. “The opportunity is being missed.”
The board did not stop at critiques of the driveway. Grainger said that the remodel “flies in the face” of city design rules.
Town & Country has proposed one wall along Winslow Way, between two window-laden corners displaying a bakery and a dining area.
Grainger cited design rules that ban blank walls along Winslow Way and require that facades provide 80 percent visibility to the interior of the store. He said that the market’s proposed wall only achieves 41 percent.
The market intends to place cooler units for beverages on the interior of the wall, limiting the capacity for the windows that line the top of it. On the outside, the current T&C plan envisions having produce and parking for bikes.
But the board would like pedestrians to be able to see into the store from the street.
“I think we are missing a huge opportunity, again, of not being able to look into the store and seeing all the activity inside the salad bar,” Grainger said. “No one is connecting into the store with these windows. It’s flying in the face of the guidelines, but it’s also not bringing people into the store.”
Weymer said he understood the board’s perspective, but he also noted the function of the old structure.
“I realize it flies in the face of the aspirations of the city to get buildings to move out onto the street,” Weymer said. “But this building was built in 1957 and it has functioned well and needs to continue to function well.”
Pricilla Zimmerman, of Zimmerman Architecture, also noted that the company’s decision to keep Town & Country on Winslow Way was a more expensive decision and that working with the established property has its challenges. But ultimately, having the market downtown is a benefit to Winslow, she said.
Grainger was quick to respond.
“I don’t think that it is valid to use that as a counter to a design issue,” he said. “I hope that is not the response to other comments I bring up about the scheme.”
Town & Country officials will return to the board on Aug. 19 for additional talk on the company’s proposal.