Post #392: BAR final review of Marco Polo/Vienna Market

Posted on September 23, 2019

The first item on the 9/19/2019 Board of Architectural Review meeting was a look at the final plans for the Marco Polo/Vienna Market development.   You can see them at this location.  This is a quick summary from the Town’s recording, which you may find on the Town’s Legistar/Granicus calendar.

The BAR took about an hour and fifteen minutes to tweak details of the design.    At the end, with a few caveats, the plans were unanimously approved.  My reading of this is that the only major item yet to be resolved is the exact design of the mural on the front of the building.  Presumably, that will be up to the Vienna Public Art (or Arts) Commission.

These three drawings below show the Maple Avenue view of: What the BAR passed originally; what was then handed back to the BAR as having been passed by Town Council (Marco Pologate); and then the final approved plan.

Weirdly, you can see that a ghost of the original building lives on in the final drawing.  The right side of the building, receding into the distance, remains a view of the original building.  (Plausibly, the right side of the left portion of the building, receding into the distance, is also a remnant of the original drawing.)

Here’s a close-up of the building at the left, in the same sequence:  what the BAR passed originally, what was then handed back to the BAR as having been passed by Town Council (Marco Pologate), and then the final plan.

At any rate, barring any other surprises, the bottom picture is what you will see going up over the next year or so, at the site of the former Marco Polo.

If I had to offer an epitaph for this, it would be the following:

A)  Kudos to the BAR for fixing this as best they could.   Just getting rid of the bricked-in windows was worth their review time, in my opinion.

B)  Did the Town learn anything about the review process here?  And is there any plan, by the Town, to change anything about how they go about this? In short, are they going to learn from their mistakes?  Or are they just going to shrug this one off and keep on doing what they are doing?

I have already made the point that there needs to be more communication between these bodies (BAR, PC, and TC) during the review process.  In particular, I called for the chair of each body to pass along a short written summary of the proceedings, to avoid the sort of internal inconsistency that occurred with the Sunrise assisted living review (Post #301).

But in addition, I would say that this whole affair points out the need for some checks and balances within the Town of Vienna government.  At the minimum, somebody in the Town government, outside of the Department of Planning and Zoning, needs to compare the plans between meetings, to see that they do not change between the time one entity approves them, and the next entity gets to review them.  Otherwise, having demonstrated that staff are willing to change the plans quietly between approvals, there’s nothing to stop that from happening again.