Sunrise Senior Living representatives on April 1 outlined numerous concessions, including a smaller mezzanine and a reduction in the number of units, designed to make their proposed facility at Maple Avenue, E., and Center Street, N., more palatable to Vienna officials.
Members of the Vienna Town Council and Vienna Planning Commission, who held a joint work session at Town Hall on Sunrise’s proposal, seemed guardedly pleased about the applicant’s plan modifications, but still had some questions about the building’s mezzanine and exterior.
The facility would be built at 100-110 Maple Ave., E., under Vienna’s Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zoning ordinance, which offers density bonuses in exchange for amenities and architectural features sought by the town government. The site now is home to a medical-office building and surface parking.
Sunrise is reducing the number of proposed units from 85 to 83, said Jerry Liang, senior vice president of development. In addition to assisted-living units, the facility would house residents with memory impairments on a secured third level, he said.
While technically only four stories tall (excluding underground parking), the building would have a fifth level, an 11,090-square-foot mezzanine, that would be located between the ground level and second floor and cover nearly half the area of the former.
The mezzanine has been one of the project’s sticking points. Some officials at the meeting noted the proposed mezzanine was just under the town’s 50-percent coverage limit for the floor below because Sunrise had included a ground-floor parking area in its calculations.
The facility would be 54 feet tall, the most allowed under the MAC ordinance, but have a permitted cornice at Maple Avenue and Center Street that would extend even higher.
The ground floor would have common areas for Sunrise patrons and a grand staircase leading up to the mezzanine.
The staircase is a regular motif in Sunrise’s facilities that is designed to invoke a residential feel, Liang said, but elevators will be available to ferry physically challenged residents to the facility’s residential areas on the top three floors. The elevators will be capacious enough to fit gurneys in case of medical emergencies, he said.
“We don’t want to protect residents to a degree that infantilizes them,” Liang said.
While Sunrise would install some windows to connect the mezzanine with the first floor, Council member Tara Bloch said an open staircase or glass-sided one might better serve that purpose.
The ground floor also would have two retail bays covering a total of 5,700 square feet – a reduction from the 8,500 square feet Sunrise proposed last year. Company officials said they had heard loudly and clearly from the community that those retail areas should not be given over to mattress stores and day spas.
The facility will have a “green” roof to collect and filter stormwater, but no solar panels will be installed, Liang said. The structure will be designed to meet ENERGY STAR building standards, although not ones under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
Sunrise would provide 74 parking spaces at the site, although company representatives said demand at the site was only 52 spaces (33 for assisted living and 19 for retail).
About 35 employees would be on-site during the peak shift, Liang said. Shifts are scheduled for 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3 to 11 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and likely would have about 15 minutes’ worth of staffing overlap during shift changes, he said.
The applicant at its own expense also would upgrade stormwater facilities running underneath the facility. While Council member Howard Springsteen said those improvements would have been mandated anyway, Planning Commissioner Sarah Couchman said those upgrades – worth about $700,000 – would exceed what was required.
“The MAC is give-and-take,” Couchman said. “This is a give on their side.”
Planning Commissioner Mary McCullough said rear elevations of the building make it appear five stories tall. Yung responded that Sunrise could reduce that impression by raising the rear fence’s height.
Town officials hope to hold a Planning Commission public hearing on the application on April 24, but commission Chairman Michael Gelb did not commit to that schedule at the April 1 meeting because of an ongoing lengthy debate regarding another MAC case at 380 Maple Ave., W.