The design review board unanimously approved the final plan for the Metropolitan, the long-discussed, 12-story mixed-use building planned for the corner of West College Avenue and Atherton Street.
The decision Wednesday came after developer Ara Kervandjian gave a presentation of the final design for the building.
Kervandjian said not much had changed on the exterior of the building, noting the 146-foot-tall structure’s design has remained consistent since prior presentations.
The first floor of the building still will be dedicated to retail space, he said, indicating there will be room for five or six spaces. These can be combined to form larger areas as well.
Student housing will fill the next seven floors, with the upper two and a half floors reserved for general occupancy and space for events. An open, outdoor courtyard will occupy the center of the third floor, creating a U-shaped structure from the third floor to the top.
A final overall color scheme for the building hasn’t been chosen yet, he said, but colors will be used to differentiate the student floors from the general occupancy levels.
The first two floors are still expected to feature gray metal panel coloring, with stone at the base to protect the metal from scratches.
“We’re looking to limit the amount of coloring to about three or four (colors) for the whole building,” Kervandjian said.
Board Chairman Richard Devon said he was concerned about students accessing an open skydeck along the top floors and possibly falling or jumping.
“I regret bringing it into the discussion,” he said, “but with a large student population in the building, I naturally worry about that.”
Kervandjian said the walls along the skydeck will probably be 4 to 6 feet high with a parapet below. It will be a secured area, keyed electronically, and will be managed during events.
Regarding security, he said, cameras will be present in all corridors, the open courtyard on the third floor and at street level.
Residents won’t be able to open windows, he said. Fresh air will come into the building through outside ventilation.
The corner along College and Atherton will feature a window wall system, Kervandjian said, but it’s not expected to create a glaring effect because the corner should not get much direct sunlight. The construction will resemble a wall built of glass.
“The idea is to have tinted or smoked glass to prevent people from looking in,” he said.
Board member Kirk Dimond asked if trees would be planted in the courtyard. Kervandjian said some planting is planned, but couldn’t specify the types of vegetation. A phototronic study of the site that indicated enough sunlight reaches the courtyard area to support plant life.
“The core of the (courtyard) amenities will be hardscape (paved areas),” he said, “planters with some trees and lounge chairs.”
Borough resident Janet Engeman said she was concerned about a lack of sidewalks along the proposed construction site. She said she has encountered oncoming students walking along the thin strip of concrete between the barriers and the road.
Kervandjian said approved signage was put up when the sidewalk closed, but he realized recently the signs were too small. Since last weekend, larger signs have been placed indicating sidewalk closures and directing pedestrians to safe, appropriate walkways to cross.
When it’s safe for the community, possibly in December 2015, a covered sidewalk will be built, he said.
“There’s a lot that’s going to be happening that’s dangerous,” he said. “That’s why we need to maintain the perimeter being closed as we’ve designed it.”
Engeman is concerned about renting the top floors meant for general occupancy. According to Kervandjian, if the apartments are not rented by nonstudents, they could be opened to student rentals. Engeman said she thinks this would make the apartments less attractive to others.
“Having students in the mix is the kiss of death when it comes to sales and rental prices,” she said.
Board member Rick Bryant said he was pleased with the project’s final design.
“It’s a challenging site, they’re in a challenging business,” he said. “Their heart is in the right place, and I think it will be an improvement to our town.”
The project is expected to be complete for the 2016 academic year, Kervandjian said.