Building plans prompt review of Williamsburg style

2013-07-13T19:33:00Z 2013-07-13T23:53:32Z Building plans prompt review of Williamsburg styleBy Susan Erler, (219) 662-5336

CROWN POINT | Plans for a medical office building on Broadway have won approval, but not before sparking renewed discussion of the Colonial Williamsburg style required for the locale.

In trying to match the design of the building to others on Broadway, developer R2C Crown Point's design team found differing examples of the style, Jeff Ban, who represented the developer before the Plan Commission.

"We were trying to decide what it's supposed to be," Ban said.

City officials set guidelines in the late 1990s calling for conformance to Colonial Williamsburg style for new construction on Broadway, hoping to achieve a uniform look for a road that is a main gateway into town. 

Broadway buildings constructed since then are mostly of red brick, many with white columns, gabled roofs and dormers.

Ban said he inventoried the buildings recently and found none looked exactly the same. "There are 33 new facilities, and all 33 are different," Ban said.

Planning board member Laura Sauerman voted against approving plans for the R2C Crown Point medical office building, saying it lacked distinctive design elements.

"It looks like Anywhere USA," Sauerman said.

Sauerman said adherence to Williamsburg style will keep the stretch of Broadway from becoming dated, unlike in other areas defined by outmoded or random building styles.

"It will have a timeless feel, whether you drive it today or 50 years from now," Sauerman said.

Other board members approved the plans in a 6-1 vote.

The style of the medical office building is similar to others in the Beacon Hill commercial center, where the structure is planned, board member Chad Jeffries said."And I'm conscious of trying to keep costs down."

Colonial Williamsburg is technically not an architectural style, board member Michael Conquest said.

"What we have here is an interpretation. We need to get to where we define this. I'm more about quality and having a functional building," Conquest said.

A city planning board in 2004 raised similar issues.

"Why do we want to continue with this Williamsburg thing," board member Patt Patterson said at the time, citing the "sameness" that could result. "Why not let developers come up with ideas to give variety to Crown Point."

Other board members favored the concept as a way to maintain standards.

Architect James Smith, with the Crown Point firm AIA Architect, agreed Colonial Williamsburg is technically not an architectural style, but rather is meant to recall an historical look of Colonial America.

In Williamsburg, Va., historical buildings were restored or rebuilt to their colonial origins. The structures incorporate a variety of architectural styles, including American Colonial, Federal and Georgian, Smith said.

The city's 1998 resolution setting criteria for Broadway was intended as a way to maintain a development standard, city planning administrator Christopher Meyers said.

"That really was the gist of it, to provide quality buildings that are well thought out, where the Plan Commission and the administration works with developers for designs that will stand the test of time," Meyers said. 

But, while the original measure established a starting point, in light of recent discussion, "It may be time to create more of a guideline," Meyers said.

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