Albemarle ARB approve cell tower, briefed on Rio Hill Shopping Center

Albemarle’s Architectural Review Board met on Monday, and its members had no issue with the appearance of a 94-foot cell tower Verizon wants to build in Greenwood off of I-64. The ARB has jurisdiction because this site is within an Entrance Corridor. 

Albemarle’s current wireless policy does not ban such towers, but requires them to blend into the scenery. ARB member Fred Missell said the process has worked well.

“Of all of the projects that we do in the county, I think the way the visibilility of these monopoles has been handled has been top-notch compared to other counties,” Missel said. 

The ARB’s review was limited in purview to the I-64 entrance corridor. The tower will also need a special use permit from the Board of Supervisors. ARB member Frank Hancock said he understood opposition from neighbors but supported the application. 

“To me this is entirely appropriate, I don’t really have any issues with it,” Hancock said. 

Relatively new ARB member Christian Henningsen agreed but with a caveat. 

“I had no concerns about the appearance from 64,” Henningsen said. “I think the adjacent landowners have a different perspective and the appearance may be a lot of different from that perspective but that’s kind of out of our purview.” 

The ARB voted 5-0 to approve a certificate of appropriateness for the tower.

Rio Hill Shopping Center

Next, they reviewed a plan to renovate the 31-acre Rio Hill Shopping Center, which is owned by a company associated with the Connecticut State Retirement system. Josh Kagan is with Hart Advisors and is the owner’s representative. 

“Retail has changed and COVID has accelerated that change and I think as a result retail is ever more binary and there are going to be winners and losers,” Kagan said. 

The Rio Hill Shopping Center was built in 1989, and Kagan said this redesign is intended to make it relevant in a shifting retail landscape. 

“I want you guys to understand what our vision is,” Kagan said. “This is not a short-term sort of fix. This is to create and transform the public experience of this real estate.”

This year, the T.J. Maxx will move to a bigger space where Dick’s Sporting Goods had been, and a Sierra Trading Post store will open. Those are the first steps as part of a larger redevelopment that will continue. The existing canopies will be removed according to David Timmerman of BRW Architects. 

“What we’re looking for is a site that brings people, that attracts people, that makes people walk from one end of the site to the other,” Timmerman said. 

One corner of the site will be demolished in a future phase of redevelopment to make way for new construction. Frank Hancock said he appreciated that some of the empty retail spaces would be filled. 

“You see those giant voids, those big empty retails spaces, so having that reoccupied is definitely a positive on the corridor,” Hancock said.  

Kagan said Sierra Trading Post and T.J. Maxx are hoping to move to their new location in the fall. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the February 6, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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