A 125-room hotel and nearly 31,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space just moved another step closer toward reality.
The Frederick County Planning Commission gave site plan approval during a mid-March meeting to Natelli Communities to build the Urbana Corporate Retail Center on a nearly 8-acre site at the intersection of MD 80 and Bennett Creek Avenue.
Natelli has owned a majority of the property for 20 years. Michael Natelli, company vice president, told the board that from the onset, the company envisioned a retailcentric plan at the site. “Really it was just a matter of the timing of when it would come online,” he said. “With the continued buildout of Urbana with residential, with more employment in commercial, really it feels like the time is right now to bring this online to add the support to what we have going in Urbana.”
With the increase of growth, Natelli noted the added value to the location because retailers want to come to Urbana. “It means we are able to drive stronger lease rates and be able to justify executing a high-quality retail park, which is really what we want to do especially because this parcel is right at the doorstep of Urbana,” he said. “We are really sensitive about how we execute here because it is going to be the first impression of people entering the community. We are going to have four-sided architecture because of all the visibility. The timing of when we brought this online is important and we feel like the time now to do it makes sense.”
Deciding to move forward with the retail hotel center 18 months ago, Natelli Communities has been working with county staff on the site plan for six months. Natelli notes their company has been patient with how they approach the market and is soliciting feedback from the retail community to better evolve the plan. “We are really comfortable where we are with it today,” Natelli said.
The company is still in an evaluation point with the hotel. Natelli believes they will bring on the retail component with the hotel to follow. “We are still evaluating and making sure that economically it makes sense to do a hotel in this location,” Natelli said. “We think it does with the growth in employment and residential. We think the hotel will provide a really needed support to the Urbana community. Just the timing of it we are still working through our evaluation that it still makes sense in the end.”
Lasting just over an hour, commissioners questioned county staff and Natelli on a number of issues including placement of signage, dumpsters and the height of the hotel. Natelli Communities plans to maintain ownership of all common areas and will own the entire site, leasing out the spaces.
With regard to the hotel, Commissioner Sam Tressler III asked how long they plan to keep that site open. Natelli noted they are currently engaged with people in the hotel industry and are now evaluating prospects. “I think we will know this year whether or not if (we) are going forward with it,” Natelli said. “If it is going to happen, it’s not going to be very far behind the retail center.”
Natelli noted the company has never done a hotel before and understands there are a big supply of hotels just north of the site. The company is “just trying to understand how they fit into the greater hotel market in the 270 corridor and getting comfortable enough to invest the dollars to construct and move forward,” he said.
Commissioner Joel Rensberger voiced his concern over the changing landscape. Natelli noted each side of the center had been designed and thought had been put into how the site would look to drivers on I-270.
“Since this plan came to us, I’ve been trying to absorb the radical change in the viewscape to Urbana and I’m still trying to,”
Rensberger said. “I’m from Urbana so I am still trying to absorb that.”