BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD ... While cities across the nation continue to bear economic pain and sluggish job growth, Palo Alto is bracing for an influx of dense new office developments at some of its most prominent locations. Downtown alone is preparing to welcome the four-story Lytton Gateway project, which the City Council approved earlier this year, and a massive, four-tower office complex recently proposed by philanthropist John Arrillaga. But one planned downtown development ran into a speed bump Thursday morning. Charles "Chop" Keenan, who is one of the city's most prominent and prolific developers, faced some opposition this week from the Architectural Review Board, which was reviewing his newest downtown proposal. Keenan is looking to build a four-story building, most of which would be office space, at 135 Hamilton Ave., a site currently used as a parking lot. But at its first public hearing on the project, the board panned the proposed building design and sent the project back to the architects for major revisions. Members generally agreed that the proposed building is too blocky and that it doesn't really fit with the structures around it. Board member Lee Lippert said the project needs "something that respects the adjacent buildings in terms of height," while his colleague Clare Malone Prichard advocated for more pedestrian amenities. Board member Randy Popp was most vehement in his criticism, calling the proposed building "very flat," and describing the project as "severe and boxy." "If this is truly an iconic corner and a 'gateway' building, it really needs to be designed as such," Popp said. The board did not vote on the proposed development but agreed unanimously to hold another hearing on it once the applicant returns with a revised design.
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