Officials from Edens, the developer and owner of East Greenwich Square, unveiled plans to give the shopping center a facelift to the Town Council on Monday.
Keith Hague of Edens said the center "has been around for a while and it's getting a little tired and needs an upgrade" as he showed pictures of the redesign that entails a façade renovation all the way from Panera to Dave's Marketplace.
There will be no major changes to the core structures, but the company will install new sidewalks, planters, benches and other pedestrian-oriented amenities to make the busy shopping center feel less like a strip mall and more appealing in the hopes of compelling shoppers to linger more.
At Panera, the patio will be adjusted to "fit the furniture a little better," Hague said. Sidewalk improvements will include accessible ramps. And the whole property will benefit from grading issues that have plagued tenants over the years.
"Water has been coming into tenant spaces due to improper slope," Hague said.
Glass canopies will come down and the new façade will be highlighted with clapboard-style surfaces mixed with cement board and a lot more lighting. A patio area near China Buffet depicted in the drawings won't be built just yet, Hague noted, but there are plans to build it contingent on an arrangement with a new "candidate to take over China Buffet as part of that process."
The design incorporates changes to the roof elements, which, coupled with the façade and landscaping improvements, "is trying to give [the businesses] better presence."
"It's a better presentation from a pedestrian standpoint," Hague said.
The three-phase construction plan will start on March 17 starting at Panera. The second phase will probably start in May at
Le's Isle Rose, Hague said, and the third phase would include Gold's Gym and Dave's. The whole project will likely run through September before completion.
Shoppers will encounter demolition work and other access and traffic issues during construction and Edens has already met with the town's building inspector and police and fire officials to discuss matters, Hague said, noting that some of the work will be done at night and scheduling details will be ironed out. Once the project is underway, the contractor will be at weekly meetings to discuss scheduling and Hague said town officials are welcome to speak with the contractor "at any time."
Though the council wasn't voting on the matter, they did offer some thoughts centered on parking lot issues and whether the design could be elevated a bit more.
Town Councilor Mark Watkins Gee said he didn't want to sound like an architectural critic, but he thought highly of the recently built Bank Newport and with the New England Institute of Technology across the street, the design could have more oomph.
"CVS just built a beautiful building with dormers and motifs that enhances the quality and look of this area. It really is prime real estate," Gee said. "This, how do I say it . . .looks like a shopping center. I guess I'd be more pleased if this were an architectural change that mirrored all the other nice buildings around."
Gee said the design is clean and nice but "it stands alone amongst its neighbors."
Hague said in response that "there's no doubt that this is a strip center, a very large strip center."
Today, Hague said, it's uniform in design all the way through. He said the their intent is to improve what is already there with elements "to break up that facçde, to create some vertical elements and slight changes in color."
He added that the pictures didn't give justice to the ambiance the new lighting will project onto the façade.
Other concerns, Gee said, relate to parking. It seems that people are "more interested in getting out in a hurry" than driving safely and asked whether Edens has given consideration to making changes to the lot to force drivers to slow down, such as islands and other devices.
Hague noted they've added islands already at the Walgreen's entrance and eliminated cut-through movement "that has been a huge benefit to traffic circulation."
Other changes stemming from a project about two years ago included new striping and signing. He said it's a "busy parking lot and we have certain parking requirements," an indication that the company can't afford to give up parking spaces.
Hague said Edens doesn't have any changes planned for the parking lot in the new renovation plan.