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MVB Bank gets Zoning's OK to erect 4-story office in city

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- MVB Bank got the green light Thursday to erect a four-story office building near Charleston Town Center, but members of the Zoning Board of Appeals rejected a variance request from McDonald's to put up new signage at its restaurant on MacCorkle Avenue near the West Virginia Turnpike interchange.

MVB, a Fairmont-based bank company, needed a height zoning variance of 10 feet in order to add a fourth story to the bank office it plans to build at the corner of Margaret Street and Washington Street E. The triangular site and the small drive-though bank building there, vacant for two years or more, was home to Magnet Bank and several successors.

The new building will be MVB's first Charleston office. According to drawings submitted by architect Ed Weber, the building will face Washington Street with a parking lot in the rear. Cars could enter off Washington before reaching the building and go around the back to reach drive-though lanes parallel to Margaret Street, then exit back to Washington.

Last fall, when MVB successfully petitioned the Municipal Planning Commission to rezone the property to C-8 (Village Commercial District), bank leaders envisioned a three-story building. Now it's grown to four stories and, at 55 feet tall, will exceed the maximum 45 feet allowed in C-8 areas.

Given the odd-shaped lot and requirements for parking and building setback, the only way to fit enough office space was to build upward, said Aly Gregg, MVB's chief marketing officer.

"We found the property was a little smaller than what we needed," she said. "We're also evaluating the marketplace, what the market will bear. There's a need in Charleston for office space.

MVB will occupy about 40 percent of the building and plans to lease out the remaining space, she said.

The builders say they hope to achieve LEED silver certification as an environmentally friendly project, Gregg said. That might help leasing efforts by attracting clients who need or desire green offices, she said.

MVB is seeking proposals from builders now and hopes to take up occupancy in the building by January, Gregg said.

Founded about 15 years ago, MVB has several offices in north-central West Virginia and a couple in the Eastern Panhandle. In December, it bought a mortgage company in Northern Virginia.

Lori Brannon of the Charleston Planning Department recommended approval of the variance. The lot shape makes it almost impossible to squeeze a bank/office building onto the site, she said. Also, the site is surrounded by much taller buildings.

BZA members judged the McDonald's sign request less generously.

Mark Mox, a Pittsburgh consultant, said the fast-food chain is completely changing the appearance of its stores by removing the familiar red mansard-style roofs and the attached signs.

Smaller signs would be attached to the walls of the restaurant, Mox said -- one spelling out the McDonald's name, two with just the "double-arch M" logo.

Although smaller, the new signs still would exceed the maximum square-footage allowed under existing zoning rules by about 10 square feet. Mox said the signs are needed to help customers find the restaurant.

BZA Chairman Steve Mallory seemed skeptical.

"I understand you're rebranding," he said, "but it's also something that's very recognizable."

Brannon recommended against the request, saying there was no real hardship as required by zoning law. McDonald's is free to cover up to 25 percent of its windows with signage, she said. And the restaurant is home to the tallest pole sign in the city -- far taller than allowed under existing law -- which would not be affected by the request or its denial.

BZA members rejected the request unanimously.

Mox said the next step is up to McDonald's.

"It's very unfortunate," he said. "It's rare we even have a problem reducing signage on our buildings."

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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