Members of a city review panel expressed concern about the architecture of the proposed redevelopment of the Rotunda, but gave approval to the project’s schematics on Thursday.
The project will now move into the final approval phase with the Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel. The developer Hekemian and Co. still must schedule that part of the review process.
"I think the architecture isn’t great," said panel member Gary Bowden. "There’s a lot of ugly buildings in the area, and I think this project has picked some of that up."
Panel members expressed concern about how the project fits in with the surrounding neighborhoods, the massing of the project and the uniformity of many of the proposed buildings.
But the panel members did say they believe the project has promise and that Hekemian and Co., the mall’s owner and project developer, are on the right track.
The company intends to turn the current mall into a mixed-used development with market rate apartments, outdoor retail and a green space at the center of the redesign.
Al Barry, a land use consultant representing Hekemian, said despite the criticism leveled at the architecture, the comments from the panel were generally positive.
"I thought they were very positive… I’m glad they recognized the improvements we made to the plaza, the improvements to the stairs, the improvements to the architecture," Barry said. "I think the way they summed it up is that it’s going to be a very positive asset to the community."
Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke submitted an email to the board requesting 30-foot set backs for the project along the 800 block of West 38th Street, a more attractive pathway connecting the neighborhood to the development and a design for the apartment buildings that fits in better with the surrounding neighborhood.
She also asked the panel moving forward to consider making sure that future plans for the current Rotunda building don’t include any radical reconfigurations.
"The architecture of this building inside and out is not to be wasted," Clarke said.