Photo-simulation of proposed Country Inn & Suites Credit: Credit: NBJ Architecture

A Midlothian-based company has filed plans to build a new 87-room Country Inn and Suites hotel on Emmet Street, but their design failed to gain initial approval Tuesday by the Charlottesville Planning Commission.

The developer asked for a deferral when it appeared commissioners, acting as the Entrance Corridor Review Board, would not grant a certificate of appropriateness for the design.

“We’ll take your comments into advisement and will come back,” said Neil Bhatt, an architect with NBJ Architecture.

Charlottesville Hotel LLC is seeking to build a four-story 52,000 square foot building on land currently occupied by a Days Inn. That business would continue to operate on a smaller scale on the northern section of the property.

The adjacent Quality Inn would also continue to operate.

The proposed site plan would remove one existing entrance onto U.S. 29. Staff said that would improve vehicular circulation throughout the entire site.

The property is just to the north of the U.S. 250 bypass and is located in one of the city’s entrance corridors. That means the Planning Commission must issue a certificate of appropriateness for new buildings.

“The building design is an interpretation of traditional Architecture of Charlottesville in a contemporary style,” said Julia Skare, an engineer with Draper Aden Associates. That firm was hired to help develop the proposal.

However, city staff said the design needs more work.

“A contemporary interpretation of traditional architecture is an appropriate concept, but the building design lacks sufficient variation and articulation,” said Mary Joy Scala, the city’s historic preservation planner.

Scala also recommended that the design team put more plants on the site.

“There’s very minimal landscaping shown on the site plan at this time,” Scala said.

Commissioner Michael Osteen agreed.

“So many projects that we look at, we’re really squeezed between property lines and hard surfaces,” Osteen said. “There could be an opportunity to get some large trees at the perimeter of the site.”

Scala had also taken issue with a gabled roof which she said seemed to only be necessary to accommodate a sign.

Bhatt disagreed.

“[The building] takes its DNA from a very traditional country inn, so the word ‘country’ is depicted by that sloping roof,” said Bhatt. “It’s actually somewhat an interpretation from the very traditional country inn to a somewhat contemporary building in a traditionally architectural town.”

Bhatt said the design and choice of colors was informed in part from the Hyatt Place at the Stonefield development, given that the two are located in the same corridor. However, the Hyatt was under the design control of the Albemarle Architectural Review Board as it is in the county.

Commissioner Genevieve Keller said she wanted the design to put more an emphasis on creating a prominent façade for Emmet Street.

“The reason for the entrance corridor is that it is the entrance to the university and it gives you a hint that there’s red brick and you’re entering Charlottesville,” Keller said.

Bhatt and Skare asked for the commission to defer a decision and the item will come back before the commission in the near future.