Unusual shopping center sought Developers, planners have high hopes for Crofton complex

November 26, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

The developers of the Village at Waugh Chapel in Crofton compare the proposed shopping and residential complex to everything from the Champs Elysees in Paris to Main Street, America -- anything but a traditional shopping center.

And the latter is exactly what area residents and county planners do not want to see built on the 71 acres at Route 3 and Waugh Chapel Road.

Developer Robert DeStefano has submitted the conceptual design plan to the county, six months after the County Council approved landmark legislation to allow the suburban community center.

The village will cost $45 million to $50 million to build. DeStefano is determined to break ground in June.

"This project in every respect will be not 100 percent but 1,000 percent better than anything that has ever been done in this county," DeStefano said last week. "When people walk in, they will say, 'It is as beautiful as we were told it was going to be.' "

County officials, who will decide whether to accept the conceptual plan, will accept nothing less, said Steven R. Cover, director of Planning and Code Enforcement.

"This particular site, we would accept nothing less than superior as far as site design, quality of architecture," Cover said. "We are not interested in a conventional proposal coming in, because it's not what the legislation is all about."

Under the legislation, a planning advisory committee of business people and citizens is reviewing the plans and making recommendations for architectural and landscape standards. Requiring community input during the planning process is considered revolutionary.

"Other planning directors in other counties are watching," Cover said.

But beyond the process, village developers say their project will set a new standard for development in the county.

The initial legislation calls for "exemplary architecture," and a second bill passed by the county in September lays out guidelines for the quality of architecture, landscaping, and building colors.

Preliminary sketches show two-story buildings, some with brick fronts or wood or other materials; colorful awnings; old-fashioned lampposts with decorative flags; and an abundance of trees. Even fast-food buildings will blend in architecturally, planners say.

"You're not going to see the garish colors and the type of eclectic architecture you're going to see in a strip [shopping] center," said Robert J. DiAiso, president and chief executive officer of the Tech Group Inc., the project engineers.

In a community where fast-food restaurants fill the Route 3 median and where Crofton Center, dominated by a Kmart, is a far cry from the Williamsburg-type center promised by the developer of Crofton, residents are ready for something different.

But Katharina DeHaas, president of the Forks of the Patuxent Improvement Association, is skeptical. Her organization opposed the suburban community center legislation.

"The Village of Waugh Chapel, the concept and this legislation, were never needed in this section of the county," she said. "Since it's going to happen, I think that you have to make the

best of it. I don't want the Village of Waugh Chapel from the road to look like a fast-food area."

Ken Dunn, a member of the Greater Crofton Council and a landscape architect, does not oppose the concept, but is worried about increased traffic congestion at the Route 3 and Waugh Chapel intersection, as well as how the development will look from the road.

"What I'm looking for is a mask that softens the hard lines of the building," he said, referring to landscaping. "The whole concept behind this is that it's not a strip mall. That's how it was sold. I'd like an extra touch there."

DeStefano, head of Sturbridge Development Co. in Annapolis, promises that the village will be good looking and more.

"There is nothing typical about this in any way whatsoever," he said. "We want the younger generation to learn something from the older folks, the seniors. We want to bring the whole range of people together. We're really dealing with civic and social issues, not bricks and mortar."

DeStefano's plan includes:

Senior housing, from adult apartments to a nursing home, for a "continuum of care."

A day care center for village employees and shoppers, a 10,000 square-foot community center, health club, medical offices, as well as retail space for a large upscale bookstore and small shops.

Four "family restaurants" in the style of TGI Friday's. In order to attract such chains, DeStefano would need a change in state law to allow restaurants in the county to hold more than one liquor license.

A three-acre, two-level lake with a waterfall and an ice-skating pond. The lake is for storm water management, but will be filled year-round and stocked with fish.

A multiscreen movie theater.

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