Leesburg’s East Market Street Starbucks has for years been a popular gathering place for the caffeine-craving public. In two years, hopes are that popularity follows in its move across the street into an expanded space.
Plans to move Starbucks from its current Bellewood Commons location to the Leesburg Plaza shopping center were the subject of a special exception application before the town’s Planning Commission on Thursday night. Applicant Federal Realty Investment Trust is seeking to redevelop the former M&T Bank building in the Leesburg Plaza into an upgraded Starbucks—complete with a drive-through.
The applicant is proposing to demolish the 3,200-square-foot bank building and erect a new, 2,500-square-foot space with a drive-through. Including a drive-through in the application is what requires the special exception permit, Scott Parker, town senior planning project manager, noted. The application also calls for enhanced streetscape and landscaping features, an outdoor patio, and closing the existing entrance on East Market Street with a new interior access point to the north of the building.
Molly Novotny, senior urban planner for Cooley, LLP, which is representing the applicant, said that Starbucks initially sought to reuse the existing bank building and drive through but, given the age and size of the building, found that was not possible. Instead, both the applicant and town staff agree, new building could spur redevelopment in the area.
The property is within the town’s Crescent Design District. However, since the footprint expansion of the building does not exceed 10 percent, the applicant is allowed to develop under the site’s former B-2 zoning. But, the town’s Crescent Design District architectural standards do apply. And an eye towards redevelopment is at the heart of many of the design standards envisioned in the Crescent District.
“What we have is [proposed] streetscape and architecture getting us to a transitional period,” for redevelopment in the area, Parker said. “We thought this was a very good beginning compromise position and staff supports this application. We’re hoping some of the other [nearby] buildings take the cue.”
Commissioners showed their support for the work proposed by the applicant with a unanimous recommendation of approval. The application now goes on to the Town Council for another public hearing and vote.
Novotny said the applicant hopes to move to site plan review quickly, should the council approve the special exception. She said the site plan process expects to take between 10-15 months, with construction an additional five months.