Danville Express

Newsfront - February 23, 2007

Historic design group reviews plans for Danville Hotel area

Goal is 'period' buildings that draw pedestrians

by Natalie O'Neill

Members of the Danville Historic Design Review Committee say they want period architecture - with an edge.

The committee gave Tom Baldacci, who owns the downtown property through Castle Companies, a critique on existing remodeling plans for the area behind the old Danville Hotel last week.

"There are details that may not fit and we can identify those," Baldacci said, adding that the purpose of the presentation was to create discussion.

Baldacci and an architect provided rough renderings and told the committee they were open to suggestions.

The goal at past meetings has been to design the buildings to look like each structure had been built separately over time, in order to reflect the established character of downtown. After looking at working plans, committee members said they would like to see a slightly more modern, refined look.

"A snitch more sophistication would be OK," one committee member said.

"My only fear is that it looks too cartoonish," another said.

The group told Baldacci they didn't want the project to look like a hokey attempt to make one large building look like smaller separate buildings. They used structures at Disneyland as an example of what to avoid.

"We understand that. Our motto for this project is to get rid of the false fronts and make them real," Baldacci said.

The plans include spaces for retail, restaurants, live-in space and offices.

The committee also gave suggestions on ways to make the buildings look individualized, including using different materials, eliminating some arches, improving the design of one of the corner buildings and planning for outdoor seating.

"If we don't plan ahead, it's going to look hodge-podge," said Danville Project Planner Jill Bergman, referring to the outside seating.

The designers are expecting to have two restaurants, one that is casual and one that is upscale. Some retailers will be able to both live and work in their space. A third-floor apartment was also designed for "a professional couple ... empty nesters," Baldacci said.

Other suggestions revolved around the placement of businesses in relation to live-in units and restaurants. In part, the purpose is to draw people from Hartz and Railroad avenues.

"We should keep the offices out of the quad. It makes it a much less desirable place to walk through. That beautiful quad becomes sort of a black hole," said Wayne Wickham, president of Discover Danville.

In addition to the building space, the plans also include a clock tower and an opening that takes shoppers to its underground parking.

"The clock tower gives it a town square type identification," Baldacci said.

Now, architects will take the committee's comments into account when redrafting plans for the construction.

"The next step is getting a historical architect on board so they don't have to come in at the end and make major changes," Bergman said.

In designing the structures, the town, architects and Castle Companies are considering both Danville's past and its future.

"Does this fit in the design and flavor of the community? I would say it does," Baldacci said.

Contact Natalie O'Neill at noneill@danvilleweekly.com


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