AUGUSTA — Planning Board members expressed concern that two proposed new office buildings near the State House complex, surrounded by a combined 675 parking spaces, aren’t of a design up to the standards that should be expected at such a prominent spot, and could bring too much traffic for surrounding streets.

Virginia-based developer FD Stonewater’s proposal for the office buildings, one a massive three stories and 104,000 square feet and the other a one-story structure of 26,000 square feet, and a 675-space parking lot at the former site of the state Department of Transportation’s maintenance facility at 109 Capitol St., went to the Augusta Planning Board on Tuesday for a major development review Tuesday.

Board members expressed concern about traffic from the site jamming up on roads surrounding the spot, especially when many state employees would leave work at the same time at the end of the workday, when commuting traffic is heavy. And they said such a prominent spot deserves a more aesthetically pleasing design.

“This is right under the dome of the Capitol, and we’ve tried so hard in this city to improve the looks of our city, especially around the Capitol, where so many visitors come,” said A. Delaine Nye, a board member. “Frankly, I feel this project comes up short. I feel we’ve got these big flat buildings that look more like some of the buildings in the Capital Shopping Center rather than nice office buildings. As people drive by the Capitol, they’re going to see a big parking lot. I think we can do better than that. I think that we can ask for a better design.”

The Planning Board voted late Tuesday to table the proposal until Aug. 22, and members said they hope the traffic study will be complete by then, and changes will be made to the proposal.

Steve Harding, an engineer with Sebago Technics working on the project for FD Stonewater, said many of the employees who’ll work in the buildings already work in office buildings nearby, so the total amount of traffic in area neighborhoods isn’t expected to change dramatically.

He said the developers moved the main access to the larger building’s parking lot, on Sewall Street, so it lines up with the exit of the state’s parking garage across the street, at the request of the city and DOT.

Harding also said there will be multiple ways for people to get in and out of the site, including Capitol, Sewall and Florence streets.

Lionel Cayer, city engineer, said a traffic study is underway, which is required for the project to receive a traffic movement permit from the state Department of Transportation.

The developer plans to demolish the large old green DOT buildings and build office space it will lease to the state, which plans to move workers from other buildings in Augusta to the new offices.

The plan now also includes the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, and its building at 96 Sewall St., on the northwest corner of Sewall and Capitol streets. That black-and-blue building, according to plans filed with the city, would be demolished to make way for parking for the new buildings.

The approximately 90 retirement system employees who work in that building would move into the smaller of the two buildings to be built in the FD Stonewater project.

Sandy Matheson, executive director of Maine PERS, said the agency’s current 24,000-square-foot building, which was built in 1975 is in need of substantial repair and renovation. So leaders of the quasi-public entity agreed to a deal with FD Stonewater to transfer their building to the developer and lease space in the smaller of the two new buildings.

State workers would occupy the larger of the two buildings, which would be built on the lower portion of the lot, closer to the State House complex.

David Heidrich Jr., communications director for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, said about 520 state employees would move into the new building when it is completed, which is projected to be by July 2019. He said the vast majority of employees moving there work for the Department of Health and Human Services, most of whom now work at state owned office buildings at 221 and 242 State St.

Alison Nichols, another board member, said the project appears to have too much parking that is highly visible in front of the building, and asked if either some parking spaces could be eliminated, or moved behind the building, which she said would be more aesthetically pleasing.

The city’s rules would require only about 390 parking spaces on the site.

Harding said the developer is required, under the lease terms, to have at least 550 parking space for the larger building the state will occupy to accommodate state employees and people who have business there.

The state, in seeking a developer for the current project, specified it would pay only up to $19 per square foot for space in the large new building.

The main building’s walls would be cement composite panels, with some brick along the lower portion. The smaller building to be occupied by Maine PERS would be of similar design, according to Betsy Poulin, Augusta’s deputy city planner.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj