Architectural Review Board approves materials for Midtown Row storefronts

rarriaza@vagazette.com

At its meeting Tuesday, the Williamsburg Architectural Review Board recommended the approval of an application for the materials and color scheme of a group of stores in the upcoming Midtown Row shopping center.

The stores will part of a building in Midtown Row’s mixed-use commercial area, which will be occupied by Marshalls, Sal’s By Victor and other retailers working with the project’s developers, Broad Street Realty, to move into the shopping center. The space will also feature a stage for performances, an open event area and an outdoor sitting area covered by a metal pergola.

Washington, D.C.,-based architectural firm Little Diversified Architectural Consulting has partnered with Broad Street Realty to plan the commercial space’s structure.

In the concept renderings shown at the meeting, the exterior of Sal’s By Victor will feature a gray and yellow color scheme, which will extend into the exterior of the smaller storefronts next to Sal’s and then shift into Marshalls’ typical blue and white color scheme.

“We want this to be memorable, exciting and vibrant, so we selected a bright, sort of orangy-yellow because it has to be unforgettable,” said Francesca Franchi, design principal at Little Diversified Architectural Consulting.

Architectural Review Board Vice-Chairman David Stemann commended the design work done by the architectural firm, but was hesitant to approve the color scheme because of a painted yellow band that was planned to go along the exterior of the smaller storefronts.

“This kind of project is never easy, but I think overall, you’ve brought a lot of life into the space,” said Stemann. “I’m worried a little bit about the yellow — in comparison to the calm palette of the Marshalls, the yellow just feels a little bit harsh.”

Board member Joseph Hertzler was in support of the project’s brighter color scheme and design plans, despite his disagreement with the Midtown Row project as a whole.

“I’ve been very vocal that I don’t care for this development at all, I think we’ve gone off a cliff on this whole thing, but given that, the yellow pergola is growing on me,” said Hertzler. “Since we’ve jumped off the cliff, let’s go head-first off the cliff, why not make this thing fun?”

The most visually striking element may be a mural or “art wall” in the renderings presented by Franchi, which would be a wall-sized art display lining the side of the Marshalls facing Monticello Avenue.

“We have tried to activate the side view with some artwork,” she said. “It’s the entry and it’s so visible, I just think it needs a transformation.”

Members of the board spoke in support of the mural. Franchi said the art walls are planned as a way to bring in community involvement, with a rotating display of murals from local artists.

“I wonder if that’s an opportunity, to get community input or a contest. We could talk to the art department at William and Mary,” said board member Mark Kostro. “It’s just another way to get community input on the project.”

“I actually really love the idea of the art walls,” said Hertzler. “I think a lot about Asheville, North Carolina. They’ve really made that place a fun destination with a similar idea. It’s colorful and playful.”

Although the body voted to approve the application, the architectural firm will have to make a modification to the yellow band along the shopping center’s exterior, and change the color of a facade on the exterior of Marshalls from blue to gray before construction begins.

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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