The Brundrett Family, which owns Norwood Furniture in the Heritage District, has big plans for three vacant parcels near the Town’s iconic 130-foot-tall water tower.
They envision a four-story building housing a ground-floor restaurant, offices and a rooftop deck bar, sandwiched between their furniture store and the Farmhouse Restaurant. The 0.365-acre infill site is near the southwest corner of Gilbert Road and Page Avenue.
“The Brundretts have been here in Gilbert for decades,” said Peter Koliopoulos, president of Circle West Architects, which designed the building. “They see this as a legacy project for the town and obviously their family.”
The Brundretts are now going through the town’s approval process to increase the building height to 68 feet from the restricted 55 feet for the Heritage District.
Currently the tallest building in the immediate area on Gilbert Road is Building 313, which has a rooftop restaurant and bar, at 55 feet tall and three stories.
The Redevelopment Commission voted 3-2 April 21 to recommend the Planning Commission support the 13-foot increase.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to make its recommendation this Wednesday, May 5, with the final approval by Town Council on May 18, according to Sydney Bethel, redevelopment specialist.
Two people at the April meeting asked the commissioners to deny the request, saying it would go against the Heritage District Redevelopment Plan.
“I’m happy to see energy going to clean up the three lots there,” said Alan Fitzgerald, a business owner in the Heritage District. “I don’t think the Heritage District plan and guidelines should be violated. That does mean something to me. Holding onto a plan is very important. It helps establish baselines and expectations.”
Fitzgerald, who owns half of the Heritage Court Building, said that from the second floor, where he has an art gallery, his view would be obstructed by a 68-foot building.
He said the architect’s 3D rendering of the project is not what he would see from his building.
“It’s far more disruptive to my enjoyment of the view than what the rendering illustrates,” Fitzgerald said, adding he had concerns with possible damage during construction to the adobe exterior of the Farmhouse Restaurant.
Mary Ellen Fresquez, a former commissioner for 12 years, also urged rejection of a taller building.
“It’s a beautiful building in the wrong location,” Fresquez said. “The redevelopment plan is your bible, it’s your promise to residents.”
She said that the town plan underscores the need to preserve the Water Tower.
Koliopoulos explained a taller building is needed because higher office floors attract Class A tenants. The second and third stories are proposed for offices.
The conceptual drawings show the third story stopping at 48 feet and mechanical screening reaching to 68 feet.
Koliopoulos said the shaded rooftop deck would offer a 360-degree view of the town and the water tower.
One of staff’s conditions for the project require pushing back by a minimum of 15 feet the part of the building that would be above 55 feet. That would create a tiered effect and allow for the main portion of the building to be more in line with other developments along Gilbert Road.
The building also would be required to have a minimum three trees for each second-floor balcony and a minimum of six trees on the fourth-floor rooftop. The trees can’t exceed 20 feet tall when mature.
“We’ve been down here since 1975,” said Todd Brundrett. “Our family, mom and dad and myself, care deeply about the Town of Gilbert and the Heritage District. We worked very hard to help the Heritage District to develop to where it’s at.”
He said the family would not do anything destructive to the Heritage District or the Water Tower and added that he was the original chair of the Water Tower Preservation Coalition.
Brundrett said the top floor was actually 48 feet tall, 7 feet less than the cut-off for the Heritage District. He said he appreciated Fitzgerald’s comments but the blockage to his view would be a “very small sliver” and “very inconsequential.”
“I want to build a top-class building,” Brundrett said. “It’s going to be an expensive building and we have to attract tenants willing to pay for it. It’s going to be a great project that you’ll be proud of.”
Commissioner Cassandra Mehan said the building was beautiful but she wished there was a flattened elevation so she could see what a 13-foot increase in height looked like. She and Commissioner Boe Bigelow voted against the project.
Commission Chairman Peter Sciacca said he wrestled with the height request because some people’s view of the Water Tower would be blocked but he also believed in property rights.
He also pointed out that the Brundretts could have built right at the property line with all four sides of the building at 55 feet high but instead they presented a better project.
He, Vice Chairman Ryan Hamilton and Commissioner Casey Kendeland voted to recommend approval.
Only one building in the Heritage District so far has been able to go higher than the 55-foot restriction – the town-owned University Building, off of the Gilbert Road corridor at Ash Street and Vaughn Avenue. That building is 68 feet and 8 inches tall.