Leesburg’s Board of Architectural Review tonight will get a first look at new development plans for a key block in the historic downtown district.
Landmark Commercial Real Estate is seeking conceptual approval for its design for a residential, office and retail complex on 1.7 acres along Church Street, between Market and Loudoun streets. The property, including and behind the former Loudoun Times-Mirror office and printing plant, was approved for an office and retail complex five years ago. That project, named Courthouse Square, never moved to construction.
The new project, now called Market and Church, has a residential focus, including up to 126 apartments, 15,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space and 263 parking spaces, some underground. Overall, the plans envision 142,540 square feet of residential and commercial space in buildings up to six stories tall.
A preliminary review by Leesburg Preservation Planner Tom Scofield provided a generally favorable assessment of the designers’ efforts to address the goals of the town’s historic district development guidelines.
At this stage of review, the BAR is being asked to input on the conceptual appearance of the proposed structures, elements including height, massing, the arraignment of windows and doors, rooflines and façade orientation. The panel also will review plans to demolish the former press building, which is not considered to have historic significance, behind the Times-Mirror building, which is planned to be renovated and continue in commercial use.
The designs include what would be among the tallest buildings downtown, up to 65 feet. However, Scofield’s staff report finds that the architects proposals help the structure blend in with the streetscape.
“Although in actuality this is a large, single building, its appearance will be as multiple, attached, multi-story buildings,” he wrote. “This should be considered as an infill project that will extend the density and urban character currently found on King Street in an easterly direction within the same block.”
“This 1.69-acre land parcel is one of the larger lots in the historic district. Although individual and assembled parcels can translate into new structures whose scale and mass can overwhelm neighboring historic buildings, the applicant has effectively employed techniques to reduce its visual presence,” Scofield wrote.
Interestingly, while the property is part of the original town layout in the 1759 and the block is lined with historically significant structures, the area proposed for this project has remained undeveloped throughout Leesburg history.
Landmark received special exception approval for a structured parking facility from the Leesburg Town Council in early 2012. The Courthouse Square development was envisioned to house about 113,000 square feet of office and retail uses, with 335 structured parking spaces in a five-story garage, including two levels below grade. The anchor of the development was to be Victory Brewing Company’s first taproom outside of its home state of Pennsylvania.
However, the stagnant office market in the past couple of years put the brakes on the project. In the meantime, other downtown redevelopment projects, including Crescent Place and King Street Station, have demonstrated the high demand for residential space, and the positive economic impact that increase foot traffic can have in the business district. Town leaders have been more open to considering residential uses than they were when the Courthouse Square plans were first proposed.
While the BAR will review the design of the project, the Planning Commission and Town Council will review a special exception application required for construction. That application is still under staff review.
“The concept for the Church and Market project is a needed and welcome addition to the downtown Leesburg fabric. The new residents will add vitality to downtown Leesburg and support the downtown businesses. The rental units, coupled with the ranges of sizes and unit types, will bring people with a range incomes and stages in the life cycle to downtown Leesburg,” the development team wrote in its application submission.