Stonefield stalemate: Is the Trader Joe's design appropriate?

While it has been impossible to miss the massive earth-moving project at the site of the future mega-commercial center known as Stonefield (previously Albemarle Place), the 65-acre village-style development three times the size of the Downtown Mall, you might have missed the battle raging over the design of one of Stonefield's premiere tenants, Trader Joe's.

Back in August, when Charlottesville's version of the popular grocery store was revealed, some County Architectural Review Board members grumbled that the overall site plan seemed "anti-urban" and complained that the planned 14-screen Regal Cinema was oriented in a way that showed its less attractive backside to passing traffic along Hydraulic Road. Stonefield's architects countered the criticism with a reference to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, claiming the theater, like the Pope's church, was "coherently scaled."

Similar disagreements have popped up over the Trader Joe's design, which will be the most highly visible building at the corner of Hydraulic and 29 North, site of the now-demolished 7-Eleven.

"I'm disappointed in the proposed Trader Joe's building," says ARB member Chuck Lebo. "This is a key building for the entire project, and it doesn't reflect any kind of traditional Charlottesville/Albemarle architecture. They are proposing huge amounts of stucco, brick painted white, and virtually no glass on the side of the building that faces this heavy traffic area."

Indeed, a quick glance at the latest renderings for the Trader Joe's reveals a grocery store that resembles the company's corporate headquarters.

"Our board has asked them in numerous meetings to make improvements to this building," says Lebo– specifically noting a desire for windows– "but so far we are at a stalemate."

According to minutes from an October 3 ARB meeting, reps for Edens & Avant and project supporters showed some impatience with the ARB, and applied a little pressure on members by claiming that continued design discussion could stall the entire project.

The developers also got a little help from Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum, who said that the ARB's "iterative process" could end up raising the cost of the project, a cost that customers might eventually have to bear, and that the ARB had "too much say" in the project.

It's not hard to guess how that went over with ARB members.

According to ARB member Paul Wright, "nothing" regarding the ARB's concerns about the design of the Trader Joe's "has been addressed in a significant way."

Of course, Wright and Lebo don't speak for the other ARB members, who– while not exactly thrilled about the design– appear ready to move on. Wright, though, says the rush to approve the project on October 17 would force the ARB to do something it has never done before: enter a final review meeting without a complete staff report.

"It's probably the most heavily trafficked intersection in the county," says Wright. "I want to make sure we have a quality building there."

Reps for Edens & Avant promised that County staff would be provided all the information they need to make a determination. 

In the end, however, the stalemate would give way, as the ARB approved the design at its October 17 meeting.

Read more on: stonefieldTrader Joe's


since when do windows make it more like "Albemarle County"......Lets look at Forrest Lakes.....Target, Pets Mart, even the bank Face inward........Do you want jobs and a alternative to kroger,Food Lion, Harris Teeter, or would you rather have a VACANT lot?
Thats why we cant get more upscale retail stores.......who wants to spend 6,8,12,48 months paying a architech to REDRAW something until the ARB "likes" it

The land of whiners....

Looks like a bomb shelter. No windows, maybe this is to prepare for the window smashing revolution, sure to come, if we continue down the path of the wealth gap. Wall Street is out of control . Just today I read this:

"The history of Groupon’s chairman, Eric Lefkofsky, was also unearthed, showing a lawsuit-prone entrepreneur who flipped a dot-com company in 1999 only to have it lead to bankruptcy a year later for the firm he had sold it to. And Groupon’s filing shows that when the company privately raised $950 million in a pre-I.P.O. round in January, it paid out $810 million of that to its investors and employees, a red flag for any investor. (Mr. Lefkofsky and his wife took home about $319 million of the total.)

Just look at the way Mr. Frederick of the RWSA/RSWA advances his dams and pump stations, he is always up against an impending deadline - same technique these guys are using.

" reps for Edens & Avant and project supporters showed some impatience with the ARB, and applied a little pressure on members by claiming that continued design discussion could stall the entire project. "

Since when does a grocery store have to "look" like a grocery store? Should it look instead like Brown's (Nee Stoney's) grocery on Avon? Since when was a restaurant allowed to look like a gas station? What is going on with these morons? Are they in opposition to the shopping center in toto? If so, they should stop being duplicitious and say what their real problem is, rather that putting out some objections on "artistic" grounds. Morons all.

Well another "anti Business" story in the land of "Anti Business. Get rid of these guys and move this burg into the 21st century.

The last thing Charlottesville needs is more red brick and faux columns (see recent UVa architecture of the last half century).This building has all the beauty of a Lenin's Tomb of Consumerism; it is a profoundly moving architectural statement and shoppers should count themselves lucky to have a building of this quality

Why doesn't the ARB take a look at other projects along Rt 29 and see that this is nothing more than others that are there. I have never in my life seen a county or city that is so opposed to new business coming to the area unless the new business is willing to do what THEY (the ARB) wants done and if it doesn't happen, then who pays? The taxpayer because of the lack of revenue that comes into the area and when they want to raise taxes because of this, then that is the time that the residents of the city and the county need to raise their voices. I can still remember when WalMart was proposed to come here all those years ago and a member of the Board of Supervisors at that time made the statement "we don't need Walmart here because we don't need the jobs". Wake up and realize that what YOU want is not what we need. We need all that we can get in revenue and jobs.

Why is Trader Joes required to look more like Charlottesville/Albemarle when none of the surrounding strip malls or shops on Route 29 have been required to?
Looks like Lebo is using this as an excuse to require a re-design of a building he personally does not like. This sounds like an arbitrary and capricious ruling to me. Is Mr. Wright's personal opinion "of a quality building" the legal standard for a ruling? On which design criteria has this decision been made?

Looks like Trader Joes will move on down the road. No wonder businesses do
not want to move to Charlottesville/Albemarle! In my opinion this building is better designed and more aesthetically pleasing than the ones on the surrounding corridor.

The sad fact is that this new concrete fortress shopping center will just drain revenue from the older ones and they will lay off workers. NO net gain in jobs.

Paving paradise with new shopping centers does not a recovery make.

Chuck Lebo has a conflict of interest here. He owns Shopper's World which just lost a major tenant when Whole Foods moved out. Lebo needs to get the space leased ASAP. The Stonefield development increases retail space on 29 N and puts downward pressure on lease pricing. By seeking to delay the Stonefield development, Lebo benefits himself financially.

Neither the Barracks Road Shopping Center nor Hollymead Shopping Center reflect any kind of "traditional Charlottesville/Albemarle architecture." Come on...they are not building Stonefield on "the Lawn". Does everything around here have to look like Monticello? Those of us who are most anxious to have Trader Joe's (and, hopefully, eventually a Wegman's grocery store!) don't care how the building looks. We will find it and we will shop there. The areas surrounding Stonefield aren't exactly architectural marvels....a gas station, an import car sales lot, etc. People should be paying attention to their driving, not focusing on how architecture at the REAR of the building looks. Let's get on with this project. It will provide much needed jobs and shopping alternatives. Right now I spend my money at the Trader Joe's in Fairfax or Short Pump. I would rather shop locally. If Albemarle County continues to harrass Trader Joe's, please consider building in Greene County. We'd love to have you!

Good point Michael, for better or worse this shopping center is going forward. I often question the qualifications of those making aesthetic decisions, such as this. One need only look at recent architecture at UVA to see what sticking to " Jeffersonian Designs" can do to what could otherwise have been far more aesthetic choices; one need only look at the new South Lawn. I'm not sure what we see here is all that bad, perhaps fewer windows means more energy efficiency, and the landscaping is what really matters, not the windows.

I appreciate the forwarding thinking of the ARB. The architects and designers on this project should take inspiration from the small town feel of Charlottesville and central Virginia with a pedestrian-oriented space with native plants and tree that looks like it evolved over time. Good design does matter.

The new Whole Foods on Hydraulic doesn't look much different than this, but it is so close to the road that landscaping is minimal.
29 looks like everywhere USA and without tearing it all down and starting over, not sure how one would change that.

Um, Nancy, the new Whole Foods on Hydraulic is brick, not white stucco. Brick is Jeffersonian; white stucco is not. The new Whole Foods has windows facing the road rather than a massive blank wall; the proposed Stonefield design has no windows. You can argue that the ARB's tinkering is pointless and obstructionist, but the claim that the new Whole Foods doesn't look much different than the proposed Stonefield design makes you sound like you haven't been paying attention.

Whole Foods is in the City. Proposed Trader's Joe is in the county...different rules. ARB is just another way to prevent growth. You just realizing this. The real strory is why were the initial permits allowed when ARB hadn't approved the design and final plans completed!!!!! All the rules were not followed here. Why Mr. Rooker?

The old 7 eleven, Pet-Smart, Laundrymat and Sperry firing range was "paradise" before this came along? Wow, I guess our standards have gotten significantly lower. I didn't realize the slums of Florida, which this area used to look like, was "paradise"! Too bad we are (re)paving it over and putting up brand new decent looking buildings that could employ many more people. Shame on us!

Its too bad nobody can just state their case without hyperbole around here. Everything is "the end of the world" and "destroying everything we ever had". Well, Wal Mart has been here for about 20 years, and I don't hear the 4 horsemen coming yet, so maybe an ugly corporate building is just that. Don't shop there if you don't like it. Don't drive Hydraulic and 29 if you don't like it. I don't, but I am not about to pretend its "The end of paradise" because a new grocery store is coming. I would like to see movies about the end of the world in a theater that doesn't smell like 40 year-old pee, and while watching the movies, I really won't care what the outside of the building looks like...

Chuck Lebo doesn't own Shoppers World. Shoppers World is owned by Federal Realty, who also owns Barracks Rd Shopping Center. The two have nothing in common. Federal Realty, on the otherhand, certainly would love to see Stonefield stalled as they will be losing tenants from Barracks Rd to Stonefield, and it will make it harder to fill the vacancies in Shoppers World.

Trader Joes - if cville doesn't want you, scottsville would LOVE to have you! Move south! build your store in the town of scottsville and kiss alb cty's ARB goodbye!

How would Scottsville ever support a Trader Joe's?

I really hope this new Trader Joes gets in here - at all costs. This town really needs another grocery store. The other 5 that are on 29 aren't any good at all. I mean, come on, I'm way too cool to shop at Food Lion. Everybody knows where you buy your groceries is a big part of your image, to others and yourself! I need to shop at Traders Joes! I need to buy more cool stuff so I can be cool, and then pretend what I'm really doing is furthering "Development" of this tiny town. Traders Toes, I need to give you my money! Traders Jose, please make our town cool for the people cool enough, but too dang poor, to shop at Hole Foods!


Isn't this the same group that made Toys R Us change their sign to all red vs. the more colorful version? I believe their deprecation of Cracker Barrel's signage caused the restaurant chain to look elsewhere. Seriously, do they really think that anyone would avoid coming to Charlottesville because they don't like the signs? *rolls eyes*

Although it would break my heart if Trader Joe's was to get fed up over the ARB's obstructionism and leave, I offer a solution. Bring Wegman's in instead. It's more than a grocery store, it's an amazing gastronomic experience. Plus, their architects seem to favor a "village" look that would be ever so appropriate here.

If we make every building in Jeffersons image are we not simply diminishing the true impact we want UVA and Monticello to have on visitors and our children? Those buildings have MEANING they have HISTORY and the STAND FOR SOMETHING. when a kid goes into a frickin grocery store that looks like a grand historic place where history is made on the outside what kind of impact will these real places have on his education and respect for history? If the ARB makes everything new look old then why even have an historic district? How could you tell?

I googled this company and they are loved in many places for what they have done. I think the ARB is out of line and needs to be brought down a notch or two.

Maybe the Occupy wall street folks should occupy the county office building for stopping job creation.

Trader Joe's Old trail is looking for a Food Store . Why not?It already set, the payoffs are in place! The kickbacks will just move up the Blueridge 12-13 miles.

Why yes in Mistah Jefferson's town we've always upheld the most stringent Palladian standards of architecture, even for our commercial buildings.

I can't wait until I can give a Charlottesville Trader Joe's my money rather than the one at Short Pump. And yes, a nice, clean smelling movie theater with IMAX will be wonderful! Something tells me the shopping center will be a visual improvement over the Seven Eleven that used to be there...

welcome to HALF-ASSEDville. Can anything get done right here?

How interesting that people keep referring to Charlottesville, and flaming Charlottesville over this conundurum, when in reality, it is Albemarle, and this will be built in Albemarle. Yet how so many COunty residents snitch and complain about Charlottesville stealing their tax money. Why, even the postal addresses are identified in Charlottesville, even though, of course, it isn;t Charlottesvilel, and the residents don't want to have to pay taxes to the City.

What a pack of flaming hypocrites you all are. I think that Charlottesville should sue the USPS for letting them steal their City name for their benefit.

I think it would be a real hoot if the City got Trader Joe's instead of the County. Put it right downtown. Sure would be real convenient for the County residents on the South Eastern side of town.

hey Old Timer, I'm referring to the general area. Charlottesville/Albemarle. The crap hotel, downtown, the re-bricking of the mall, the parkway, Belmont bridge, property taxes. It's all a mess. I can barely afford to survive here and can't afford to move.

the real problem is the people on the ARB. Does anyone know how they can be replaced?


I agree there's a lot of nonsense here, both in the City and the County. The County can't fix a closed bridge but it can afford to spend money on a dam we don't need. Or a YMCA that has gone bankrupt twice.Property taxes are not a problem in the County or the City, property prices are high. There is too much inherited wealth here, driving up the prices on everyone else.

I say if the ARB wants everything to look like Monticello than they should pay the difference in cost to change the look. Funny, the old Circuit City, Fashion Square, Keglers, Texeco, Kmart, Margaritaville, and many others don't look like Monticello so whats the problem. Hysterical Societies have entirely to much power and control over how we live our lives and what we can do with OUR property. TJ is DEAD deal with it. This is the 21st century get over it. If you want to live in the 18th&19th centuries go ahead, but don't make us live in your delusion.