Architects for Henry's Market submitted plans Thursday for the old Sport Chalet building that included removing the 45-foot marquee, adding windows along Foothill Boulevard and reconfiguring and re-landscaping its parking lot.
Submitting the preliminary design review to the La Cañada Flintridge Design Commission was the first step in remodeling and reopening one of the city's central-most commercial properties.
The California grocery chain bought the 67,897-square-foot lot, at 920 Foothill Blvd., for an undisclosed amount last year. The asking price was $5.5 million.
The site originally housed a Shopping Bag supermarket, and then served as the flagship Sport Chalet store for several decades. It has been vacant since 2008 when Sport Chalet moved across the street to the La Cañada Town Center.
Preliminary design plans focused on reducing the blunt, rectangular shape of the 32,622-square-foot building, said Roger Cantrell, a consulting planner for the city.
"The application is showing this big box being broken up in a varied set of elevation segments," Cantrell said. "One big thing is [that] windows are going to be provided along Foothill Boulevard, which is a major issue with markets, and we are glad to see that."
Among the other priorities, Cantrell said, is removing the 45-foot-tall sign at the northeast corner of the building.
Architect Jim Cary, who also headed the redesign of the Ralphs Fresh Fare store in La Cañada a decade ago, said meeting the city's design standards was tricky.
"It is one of the remaining few big-box buildings along the boulevard — in fact, it is right out at the boulevard," Cary said.
Key features of the redesign, Cary said, include reducing the mass of the building along Foothill to create a pedestrian-friendly, village-like aesthetic, creating an inviting entry on the east side of the building and eliminating the Foothill access driveway.
Preliminary plans also called for removing exposed rooftop ventilators and ducts, undergrounding power and telephone lines, and installing a new truck loading dock and trash compactor.
The architectural details that generated the most discussion among city staff and commissioners were three decorative gables on the north, east and south sides of the building. Cantrell suggested reducing the size of the north- and south-facing gables and moving them east toward the entrance of the store.
The commissioners said they also were concerned about the flimsy appearance of the gables. Commissioner John Roberts said one of the disappointing outcomes of the La Cañada Town Center was the artificial appearance of its roof planes and facades, easily visible from Angeles Crest Highway. He questioned whether that view would be replicated by the design submitted for Henry's Market.
"If I'm at Angeles Crest and I'm looking down Foothill, am I going to see the backside of [the easterly-facing] gable?" Roberts asked.
Commissioners disagreed with Cantrell on the location of the gables, saying they liked their central orientation.
"I do like the location of where they have the gable on the north, and where that is in line with the street and sign," Commissioner Keith Tobias said. "I like the height and having the sign. If you move that sign I think you lose a lot of the interest in that side of the building. I don't like to have to wait that far to see what that building is."
The project designers were directed to make the recommended modifications, including deepening the three gables, and resubmit the plans to the commission in the coming weeks. The application will then go to the La Cañada Flintridge Planning Commission, which expects to review the project within four to six months.