Germantown approves final phase of TraVure project by Ron Maxey

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The final phase of TraVure, a massive mixed-use development at Germantown's western edge, won unanimous approval from the city's Planning Commission Tuesday, clearing the way for a three-story, more than 47,000-square-foot office building on the south side of Poplar east of Kirby Parkway.

Project representative Brown Gill of Gill Properties Inc. said plans call for retail development on the ground floor and two floors of offices in the building, which will complement hotels and multi-deck parking in other phases making up the four-phase development on 10 acres. A private gym will cater to office tenants, and Gill Properties offices will occupy the third floor.

Gill said demand is high, which led to adding a floor to the office building plan, though tenants are not yet committed.

"We need to get through this final approval first," Gill said after the vote. "It's hard to commit tenants when you don't have final approval. Now that we have that, we're off to the races."

He hopes the fourth phase will be completed by summer 2018.

TraVure is part of a larger vision for upscale development at the entrance to the city from the west along Poplar, known as the Western Gateway Small Area Plan. The city's planners and aldermen approved the overall outline plan for TraVure in July 2015, and planners gave final approval to specific plans for the first three phases in December. The final phase, however, was revised to increase the size of the office building from 34,100 square feet to the 47,396-square-foot structure approved Tuesday.

The only sticking point in Tuesday's approval was discussion over access between the TraVure property and the Fogelman-owned property to the west. Planning Commissioner Rick Bennett pushed for, and won approval of, an amendment providing an additional access point between the two properties. The amendment leaves the door open for property owners to decide where the access point will be once development plans are in place for the Fogelman site.

No one spoke in opposition to the TraVure plan other than reservations expressed by Fogelman representatives over the access issue. Mayor Mike Palazzolo encouraged stakeholders in development plans for the city's western edge to reconvene to make sure issues are addressed as plans move forward.

"We fully intend to develop a walkable urban environment," Gill said, trying to ease concerns over access between properties. "We just want there to be as much flexibility as possible because no one knows yet what will be built on the neighboring property."

The overall TraVure project drew strong opposition from nearby residential neighbors during original discussions. Most of the complaints came from residents of Nottoway, the gated community to the east. They complained about light coming from the parking garage, among other concerns.

The original TraVure proposal presented by Gill deviated from Germantown's SmartGrowth code in a dozen different ways, but the deviations were eliminated by working with neighbors to find compromises despite the objections that remained from Nottoway neighbors in the final plan.

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