The Leesburg Town Council has approved plans by Starbucks to move its popular East Market Street shop across the street.
Federal Realty Investment Trust was seeking a special exception to redevelop the former M&T Bank building in the Leesburg Plaza into an upgraded Starbucks—complete with a drive-through. It received its needed approval Tuesday night via a 6-0-1 vote, with Councilman Tom Dunn abstaining.
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. The drive-through portion of the project requires the special exception permit. The application also proposes enhanced streetscape and landscaping features, an outdoor patio.
Both the applicant and the town staff agreed that the 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.
However, Dunn said that he felt the town staff let the applicant off the hook in not requiring stricter architectural features. As one example, he and other council members expressed disappointment that a pitched roof was not going to be a required feature.
“We felt [the applicant] came far enough with the architecture so were not going to dig in our heels with the pitched roof,” Scott Parker, senior planning project manager for the town, explained.
But Dunn pointed to the work done by citizen-led bodies like the Planning Commission, as well as a task force put together to offer recommendations for development in the Eastern Gateway District corridor.
“I have a real concern that our town is looking the way staff wants it, not the way the community has voted to move our designs forward,” he said.
The majority of council members, however, expressed enthusiasm for the project.
“I always ask with a special exception [application] ‘is it better than what it is now’,” Mayor Kelly Burk said. “Even without a pitched roof … this certainly is a much better product than what is there now.”
The applicant’s representative, Cooley LLP senior urban planner Molly Novotny, said the site plan review process would take between 10-15 months, with construction an additional five months.