Just how big are these proposed buildings? Updated 7/14/2018

Posted on July 14, 2018

The buildings coming under MAC will be vastly larger than what currently exists on Maple by a wide margin.  Further, by law, they must sit directly adjacent to the road.  MAC forbids having parking places between the road and the store.

When I first learned about MAC, I truly could not believe that the buildings being proposed were supposed to further the “small town” nature of Vienna and were being described as “small town” buildings.

To make sure I was not kidding myself, I put together a simple survey via  Suveymonkey.  I asked 100 randomly-chosen US adults to look at a set of pictures of buildings, and state whether they thought they looked like: Large City, Mid-Sized City, Large Town, Small Town, or rural buildings.  The pictures ranged from mid-town Manhattan to Vienna’s historic Freeman Store, and included renderings of the proposed Marco Polo (Vienna Market) and Tequila Grande (444 Maple West) buildings.

Below are the results, combining rural and small town.   The bars in red are for pictures of the Marco Polo and 444 Maple West sites.  Essentially nobody thought those buildings were “small town” buildings.  That’s not my opinion, or the opinion of the angry neighbors, that’s 100 disinterested US adults. Objectively, these are not small-town buildings.

So, to be clear, we are on a path to tarnish, if not destroy, our image as a small town.  Nobody is going to drive past 444 Maple West and think, oh, what a nice small town.  In fact, most (correctly) perceive those to be buildings appropriate for a large or mid-sized urban area.

At that point, I decided to ask just how big these buildings were, exactly — in terms of total volume.  Just taking the exterior dimensions of the building and multiplying them together to get total volume within the shell of the building.  Below, the green bars are commercial buildings currently on Maple Avenue.  By my estimate, the Giant Food shopping center building is the single largest commercial building by volume.   The yellow bar is 444 Maple West/Tequila Grande. The 444 Maple West/Tequila Grande building will be, by far, the single largest commercial structure on Maple Avenue. It encloses about twice as much volume as the entire Giant Food shopping center, from Giant down to Advance Auto.  And the red bars are projections of what would be legal under MAC, for the Giant Food shopping center site.

It’s easy enough to use a little trigonometry to figure out just how much of the current view of the sky and trees will be blocked by these buildings as you stand on the sidewalk.  For 444 West Maple/Tequila Grande, the middle of the sidewalk is about 13 feet from the edge of the building.  The 61 foot height parapet will sit about 56.5 feet above typical eye level.  By contrast, the Wolf Trap Motel (by far the taller building on the site now) sits 55 feet from the sidewalk and is about 35 feet tall.

The illustration below is to scale, and shows the site lines for the proposed building and the existing building.  If you stand in front of the Wolf Trap motel, you have 57 degrees of arc between the zenith and the building roof.  That is, you can still see almost two-thirds of the sky on that side of the road.  By contrast, With the proposed 444 Maple West, you’ll have 13 degrees between zenith and the building roof, so you will be able to see about 15% of the sky on that side of the road.  It’s the start of a classic “commercial canyon”.

(Note: After I did this, I went out with a laser tape measure and found that Wolf Trap is more like 28 feet tall.  The diagram above modestly understates the actual difference between the current vista and what we’d get with 444 Maple West.)