The Howard County Planning Board unanimously approved the removal of 98 parking spaces at the Rouse Company building on Thursday night to accommodate the redevelopment of the building, which will include Whole Foods and a new Columbia Association fitness club.
The grocer and the fitness club, which were announced last year, are expected to open late 2014.
The two parking lots south and west of the building will be trimmed from 454 spaces to 356 spaces, and the orientation of the lots will be changed from north-south to east-west.
Although almost 100 parking spaces will be eliminated, the 356 spaces still meets the requirement needed for the project, according to a report from the county's Department of Planning and Zoning.
In addition to eliminating the parking spaces, a traffic signal will be put in at the main entrance to the building on Little Patuxent Parkway.
According to Hank Alinger, a representative from the project's landscape developer Daft McCune Walker Inc., the new parking spaces on the lower lot—south of the building and adjacent to the lake—will need to be larger than the current spaces, which makes for less total spaces.
In the western lot, approximately 47 spaces will be eliminated to make room for micro-bioretention facilities built within in the parking islands. The mandated micro-bioretention facilities will be used for stormwater management, according to the report.
Planning board member Josh Tzuker said he thinks the revisions improve the area.
"I think having green in that parking lot will make it a lot better than it is now," Tzuker said referring to the parking islands and additional landscaping.
Board member Paul Yelder said, although it meets all the requirements, he is always leery of eliminating parking spaces.
"Losing spaces does not really sit too well with me," Yelder said.
Dave Grabowski, board chair, noted that the converting the use of the building from a four-story office building to a grocer and fitness club will creates more turnover and may compensate for the loss of spaces.