Well, believe it or not we received approval from the Norfolk city council on Tuesday night for the acceptance of the new flagship Chartway Federal Credit Union. I say "BELIEVE IT OR NOT" because only a few weeks prior Norfolk planning commission voted unanimously against it 0-7. So why the switch to a near complete flip for a 6-1 in favor? I think it was a matter of misunderstandings not clearly explained.
It wasn't about the building going there.....accepted by zoning.
It wasn't about the design....everyone was in favor of the look IONIC created.
The only reason we had to go in front of council was because we needed a drive thru on the bank which requires a special exception. Nothing else should have been up for discussion. However that isn't exactly how the story went.
The planning department indicated to our design team which included Pennoni for civil engineering, that the planning commission had this huge thing about moving buildings up onto the street front. They expected that this was going to be the case. Especially since we were in the Transit Overlay District. (TOD)......Whooo wait a minute! We are not currently in a TOD zone. We are in a potential TOD zone due to the light rail station right across the street. One of the purposes, which I feel is a great idea by the planning department and the city of norfolk in most cases, is to promote more pedestrian friendly buildings and circulation around areas with public transportation hubs.
However, even though there is a lite rail station across the street, this isn't currently a very friendly pedestrian environment. Have you ever been on the intersection of Newtown Road and Kempsville? It's pretty crazy busy with cars....which is why Chartway liked the location for its most heavily vehicular traveled branch. The surrounding buildings look to be long term users and redevelopment of this interesection doesn't appear to be in the near future.
To move the building up on the street corner would have prevented internal circulation of cars wrapping around the building properly to enter the drive thru teller line. It just wouldn't work. It would make the project unfeasible. However that isn't what the planning commission understood. They clearly just wanted a building up on the corner regardless of the functionality effected. That really shouldn't have been open for discussion. Remember we were really only there to get a drive thru approved. Without the drive thru, we could build the building and place it pretty much where we wanted on the site.
The design team did listen to the planning commissions requests and desires to make this a pedestrian friendly corner taking the opportunity to embellish the corner with a pedestrian table. It was elevated and brick paved to the street corner allowing the easy flow of pedestrians to the front doorway of the branch. We felt it was a really good compromise with the future TOD plans. So did city council. Thankfully we move forward with our project instead of a convenience store.
D. Eugene Thompson, AIA
President + Founder
Ionic DeZign Studios
Creating Places and Spaces that Enrich the Lives of Those Who Use Them