City design panel still not satisfied with proposed Walmart shopping center

Developers of a proposed shopping center anchored by a Walmart came back to a city panel with revised design plans Thursday, but they didn't fare much better than they did last month, whent the panel sent them back to the drawing board.

Representatives of Walmart's architects and civil engineers presented amended plans for greater pedestrian access to the store and more urban-oriented design elements that they said would give the Walmart a more urban, contemporary feel. They also said they would jazz up the sidewalk outside the big box store with bicycle racks and benches, as well as creating pedestrian connecting "nodes" and meeting places.

Dan Heil of Bowman Consulting, a civil engineering consulting firm, and Dan Condatore, project architect for Massa Montalto Architects, said they based the revision on comments from the panel Spt. 26 and comments from area residents since then. But members of the Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel, who last month criticized the Walmart building and its red brick facade as dull, still weren't satisfied.

They said it would be a stretch to use bike racks as nodes and that the building still didn't look aesthetically inviting.

"There is an aspect of this that looks like a school," panelist Gary Bowden said. He also said the main entrance looked "weak."

Other panelists agreed the design needed more work, although Diane Jones-Allen gave project officials kudos for their efforts since the last meeting.

"You've done a good first pass," she said. "You're going in the right direction."

Area residents raised many of the same questions they had at a public meeting in Charles Village earlier in the week, when Walmart representatives first presented their latest revisions and residents told them the revisions looked "cheap."

Bruce Willlen of Old Goucher told the UDARP panel that stores in Washington that were designed by the same architect "have more of an urban feel to them."

"This to me looks like a (19)60s or 70s high school," said John Viles, of Remington.

The panel took no action, and will set a date for a future meeting on the project.

After the meeting, Walmart released a statement saying, "We're pleased that members of the Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel believe progress continues to be made with regard to our plans for a store at 25th Street Station in Remington. We will revisit the latest round of design recommendations with an eye toward a final store plan that will enable us to hire roughly 300 associates and provide area residents with convenient access to a wide range of goods at affordable prices."

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