Tom Wack addresses City Council during their April 26 work session.

City Council Members Disappointed with Liberty Place Revised Plan

by | May 10, 2016 | Government

By Susan Larson. Tom Wack (standing) addresses City Council during their April 26, 2016, work session. Photo copyright Fredericksburg Today.

Several Fredericksburg City Council members expressed disappointment with the revised plans for the Liberty Place mixed-use development presented to them during the April 26, 2016, work session.

Wack General Contractor’s plans have shifted the building three feet back from Sophia Street toward William Street, to provide more area for grass and plantings along the residential side of the building. “What we heard you needed us to do was soften the elevations and design criteria on the Amelia Street corridor,” said Charlie Payne, the Hirschler Fleischer attorney working with Wack on the project.

In addition, the new plan removes the previously planned penthouses, reduces the number of residential units, and adds more commercial space “to make it more marketable,” said Cathy Wack, president and chief financial officer of the company. Other changes include smaller windows and smaller balconies on the residential units, and a third floor cornice to highlight the delineation between the third and fourth floors.

“When we last met, we recoiled at the aesthetics,” said Councilor Brad Ellis. “Tom and his sister have done a good job coming back to us.”

Other members of council disagreed.

“It’s the design that I’m having an issue with,” said Councilor Kerry Devine. ‘The focus is on the parking, and not what’s being done above ground. The design is very different from the elevation pictures we had seen [at the beginning of the project proposal]. It’s still essentially a four-story box.”

“I’m concerned about the scale and the setting,” said Councilor Tim Duffy. “Sedona [Tap House] has added to the economic vitality of downtown, but it sure doesn’t look right to me. I worry that this [Liberty Place] is similar to Sedona. I was hoping we’d see more.”

Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw encouraged council to approve the project when it comes for a vote on May 10. “This is one of the first real mixed use projects we’ve had, and it meets that City Council goal,” she said. “It’s grown to Class A office space, and we have very little of that downtown, and it’s what we want downtown. I appreciate the concerns council has. The setbacks are really important, and the break-up of the exterior makes it more residential looking on the Amelia Street side.”

The proposed $46.3 million Liberty Place project is planned for the former Free-Lance Star Executive Building property in the downtown Fredericksburg block bordered by Douglas, Winchester, William and Amelia streets.

Because of higher-than-expected project costs, the developer has asked for a 45 percent reduction of Liberty Place’s real estate tax bill for the next 10 years. “Under current projections, that would allow the developer to receive about $193,000 per year for 10 years,” said Assistant Director for Economic Development Bill Freehling.

The incentive package public hearing, originally scheduled for April 19, was postponed because Wack announced they were redesigning the plans. The public hearing is now planned for 7:30 p.m. May 10.

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City Council to Address Liberty Place, FY 2017 Budget at April 26 Meetings

Public Hearing April 12 on Liberty Place Incentive Package

Former Free Lance-Star Executive Building Property Sold

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