Sunday, June 1, 2008

New Kalahari Site Drawings

The election is over, and the final votes on the letter of intent, tax vehicles, and incentive values have been cast. Now a few more things are starting to firm up on the Kalahari® plans for Fredericksburg.

The Frederickburg, VA resort is prominently presented on the very first page of the Kalahari® resorts website. Clicking through you can now get some images that show initial site plan sketches. The hotel and resort spaces encircle a grand entrance. This will be west facing, which matches the current expo center. The City of Fredericksburg has also uploaded the overall site plan sketch which shows the aerial view of how the resort will cover the development area.

From the pictures you can see the amount of construction this project really entails. All sides of the buildings seem to carry the Kalahari® design points, which will make it appealing from any direction. You can see in some of the drawings the indoor waterpark, with a partial glass roof. This will be on the interstate side of the building. There are roads constructed encircling the entire building. A closer look also reveals potential plans for connection to the existing expo center, with upgraded conference space between the hotel and the Expo Center. This additional conference space is planned for the area that is now the north parking lot at the Expo Center.

The drawings do not yet address one critical design element, lighting. The city currently has a zoning ordinance limiting glare from corporate lighting. Requests were sent to Kalahari® and Silver Companies requesting additional information. Scott Little of Silver Companies responded to my requests and indicated that exterior lighting is high on their radar, and will definitely be given some careful review. They also pointed out the number of other green initiatives that Kalahari® has undertaken. Some based on pre-existing zoning requirements such as low impact development, others based on sound business decisions, such as reducing water usage, and some initiatives have been undertaken as good neighbors.

The Kalahari® website calls at these items on their green initiatives page which documents what some of the other two locations have done.

  • AquaRecycle® system for resort laundry will conserve 26 million gallons of water each year (From their press release this is allowing them to recapture up to 70% of their laundry water)
  • Roof top solar panels which heat more than 60% of the hot water for the resort’s laundry facilities
  • Entergize Energy Control Systems in guest rooms which control energy use based on guest presence
  • Low-flow showerheads for guest rooms, reducing water consumption by 2.46 million gallons per year
  • Most advanced lighting control systems in the industry
  • Transition to energy saving fluorescent light bulbs
  • Motion sensor lights in public areas
  • Low-flow dishwasher spray heads
  • Upgrading to digital thermostats in guest rooms
  • Low energy consumption water pumps in the park
  • Upgrading exit signage to LED display
  • Installation of massive fans in the Waterpark to lower heating costs by pushing warm air near the ceiling to floor level

It's apparent that Silver Co's is involved in the parking design (I don't know that for a fact, so let me explain). The massive parking lots are reminiscent of Central Park, which show tons of pavement separated by miniature islands barely big enough for one or two trees. The current zoning ordinances to not require any type of parking lot design, except that businesses are required to provide adequate parking. The current design is going to result in a lot of roasting dashboards. I've often thought a parking deck would have been great paired with the large hotel space, however, that plan would require more upfront investment.

Several people, myself included, questioned the height of the hotel, in relation to the river. Unless something major changes with the design, it shouldn't be any problem. There is a ridge just south of the Rappahannock river that creates a fairly high sight line. With Google and a little geometry you can calculate out that boaters shouldn't be able to see the resort from the water, or even the far bank. Now if they can figure out how to keep all that parking lighting turned down at night, I'll be much happier (sorry, couldn't resist one more dig).

One other interesting 'future upgrade' to the resort is the addition of 20 "5-Key" condo buildings. This would mimic the condo ownership concepts that are in place at both the Sandusky OH and Wisconsin Dells WI locations.

I was actually quite impressed by the email I received back from Mr. Little of Silver Companies, so I hope he doesn't mind me reprinting it here. "...we remain focused on the finer points within these projects, and that Kalahari delights in actually addressing concerns, following through, and implementing environmentally friendly solutions. " If this project continues to listen to constructive criticism from the community, and explain how they weigh those concerns against business needs, this project will evolve successfully as a partner in the community.

As with all building plans, expect many changes and tweaks to the original plan. The expected opening of Dec 2010 is still a ways off (although it will be here before you know it).

(images from Kalahari® Resorts and City of Fredericksburg websites)

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