TraVure Development on Hold in Germantown

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Developers that planned to bring a five-story office building to Germantown, plus retail and a dual-branded hotel, quickly pulled their plans Tuesday when it became clear the city’s planning commission was not pleased with the quality of the design, to say nothing of the number of code departures.

Developers Ray Gill and Desai Hotel Group asked for a month to address the issues with TraVure, a 10-acre development on the southeast quadrant of Kirby and Poplar that is expected to include a Hilton Garden Inn and Home 2 Suites. If they had not pulled the project, they faced almost certain rejection and would have had to wait six months to resubmit plans.

But the city’s planning commission enthusiastically approved site plans at Germantown Collection Shopping Center, 2130 Exeter, the site of a possible Trader Joe’s, saying it was a pleasure to work with a developer whose plans so closely mirrored the town’s aesthetic.

Glenn Brody, who owns Centennial American Properties-Germantown, intends to redevelop the empty Kroger in the shopping area, making it a three-bay retail development with a separate out-parcel across the parking lot that would hug Exeter and back up to Baptist Hospital’s rehabilitation center.

Preliminary sketches to the city planning department included the font Trader Joe’s uses in its logo and signage. But in the final draft, the font had been changed. Centennial American Properties (CAP), based in Greenville, South Carolina, has developed some Trader Joe’s in other markets.

People across the city saw it as more than a coincidence that Trader Joe’s was coming to metro Memphis.

After his presentation, Glenn walked quickly to his car and would not comment. The man driving the car he was in said they were rushing to the airport.

The 19,000 freestanding building is the textbook example of the smart growth Germantown is promoting and has written separate code to accommodate. It breaks up high-traffic areas with pedestrian-friendly amenities, including structures that are close to the street with landscaping to shield walkers from traffic and its noise and exhaust.

CAP’s next hurdle is to get a development agreement with the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The earliest that could happen is Sept. 14.

Although Gill and Desai asked for a month to address issues in their plan, the planning commission will not meet again until Oct. 6.

To get approval, the developers will have to reduce the number of “warrants” or departures from city code. The current development, a four-phase project, has 12 warrants, which planning commission chairman Mike Harless said was unheard of in Germantown.

“We expect developers to meet the guidelines,” he said, noting that one of the issues creating problems was that the plan included two developers building out common elements, including a wall to shield the property from residential areas, in phases.

But another problem was the number of times the project did not meet setback standards, giving it the feel of being shoehorned into the lot.

“It’s too tight; too much development in too small a space,” said Forrest Owens, alderman liaison to the planing commission. “It’s an overused term, but it lacks a sense of place."

“It appears what we are getting is a developer-driven commercial subdivision. I would like to see more green space,” he said, adding that while some of the warrants might be justified, “I don’t understand why you can’t come in and abide by what we asked.”

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