Design director says facades will mimic ‘architectural context of the town’
On Monday, July 12, the Washington Town Council obtained new sketches of the proposed Rush River Commons development on the edge of town.
If approved by town officials, Rush River Commons could become the first mixed-use development in Washington. Site plans include a cluster of commercial offices for local nonprofits along Warren Avenue and a separate cluster of rental housing units fronting Leggett Lane. Washington resident Chuck Akre owns the property and proposed the project at his own expense, describing it as his way of giving back to the community.
Jordan Goldstein, global director of design for the international architectural firm Gensler and a resident of Flint Hill, presented the sketches at Monday night’s meeting. Goldstein said he and his team studied the “architectural context of the town” to get a sense for the materiality of the buildings, the heights of these buildings, the articulation, the size [and] some of the precedents of the town. … From the standpoint of architectural vocabulary, [we were] trying to get a feel for the vernacular.”
Goldstein noted that many of Washington’s buildings have covered entryways and two-story porches as well as simple window openings. “When we start to think about all of that, we want it to work its way into our vocabulary as we look at new buildings,” he said.
At a June meeting to discuss plans for the Commons, the Planning Commission raised concerns about the aesthetics of a proposed 110-foot commercial building fronting Warren Avenue. On Monday, Goldstein presented a sketch of the facade from the vantage point in question and suggested that the wall could be “articulated” or stepped. “The first thing to think about is, ‘How can we do that in a way that not only works for Warren Avenue, but allows us to take those regulating lines through the building and figure out how those will work with the functionality within the building?’” Goldstein said.
The new sketches show some of the design team’s ideas for the commercial building, including a two-story window to allow natural light to enter the lobby and help break up the facade. The sketches also demonstrate the design for the residential apartments, with four one-bedroom flats on the first floor and two two-bedroom flats on the second floor.
The Washington Planning Commission could vote to approve Akre’s application for a planned use development (PUD) as soon as its next meeting on July 29. However, John Bennett, the town’s attorney, noted that before construction could begin, the property would need to be rezoned from rural residential to village residential, as PUDs are not allowed in rural residential districts.
“I would suggest … that you draw a zoning line between the residential units and the rest of the project … and that be rezoned village residential,” Bennett said. “Then the front portion [could] essentially be zoned village mixed-use. At the end of the day … a planned unit development can be in any zoning district except a rural residential.”
What's next: The town's Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on July 29 at 7 p.m. at the Washington Town Hall where it will discuss our recommendation on the Rush River Commons project.
The town council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Aug. 9.