Albemarle design panel reviews Fontaine Avenue Corridor

The next time you walk, bike, or drive along Fontaine Avenue in Albemarle County, think about possible futures. Much of the land is owned by the University of Virginia or its real estate foundation. The road itself is one of Albemarle’s Entrance Corridors, and as such is under design guidelines of the Architectural Review Board

“The majority of the land is either owned or controlled by the University,” said Fred Missel, director of design and development at the University of Virginia Foundation. “Some land, primarily Foxhaven Farm, Morey Creek, Observatory Hill, are all being held for long-term needs of the University. 

The Albemarle Architectural Review Board reviewed the corridor at its meeting on March 15.

Fontaine Avenue is sign-posted as U.S. 29 Business and runs through the county for a brief stretch before hitting the city line. 

Physical context of the Fontaine Research Park in relation to the rest of the UVA Health System. Source: UVA Architect, Fontaine Master Plan, Page 5

The University of Virginia adopted a master plan for the Fontaine Avenue Research Park in September 2018 as a “flexible road map for future development.” This plan ultimately envisions up to 1.4 million gross square feet of building space. 

“We developed that over the span of about 25 years,” Missel said. “We started in the mid-90’s and we sold the Fontaine Research Park to the University back in I think it was 2018 so that is now considered Grounds, University Grounds.”

Other undeveloped properties include a 12 acre site to the west of Buckingham Circle which the UVA Foundation purchased from the UVA Physicians Group in 2016. The latter secured a rezoning for the Morey Creek property in July 2011 but never built the proposed office building. Missel described this as a “long-term hold for the University.” 

Proffers associated with both the Fontaine Research Park and the Morey Creek involve making the area more pedestrian friendly. The Fontaine property serves as gameday parking for UVA football. 

Another property that could have future buildings scrutinized is the 69-acre “Granger tract” which is undeveloped and currently zoned R-1. The land is currently owned by Stribling Holdings LLC. 

“Access is a real bear because you do have to go under the railroad tracks, but that would not, I don’t believe any of the Fontaine viewsheds but probably would I-64 and potentially U.S. 29.

Another UVA-owned property in the area is the Piedmont Apartments complex run by University Housing for faculty. 

“There has been discussion about whether or not what’s at Piedmont is still the highest and best of the property or if there is some other alternative use that might could be considered longer term and I can tell you that that’s been a question that has been around as long as I’ve been at the Foundation and that’s been 20 years.” 

At the city line begins a Smart Scale funded streetscape project for which a public hearing is expected in “early 2021” according to the initiative’s website.  

Page 29 of a presentation on the Fontaine Avenue Streetscape given to Council in January 2020

Coordination of land use planning in this area used to the purview of a public body called the Planning and Coordination Council. PACC consisted of officials from Albemarle, Charlottesville and the University of Virginia and meetings were open to the public. However, that ended in late 2019 when both the city and the county agreed to convert the body to one not subject to open meetings rules. 

“PACC was formed out of the Three Party Agreement that was established by the UVA, the city and the county back in the 80’s and PACC was dissolved about a year and a half ago,” Missel said.

In its place is the Land Use, Environmental and Planning Committee, which is not open to the public. However, the meeting notes are posted on a public website. Missel is a member of LUEPC in his capacity at the UVA Foundation. And this newsletter is intended to shine as much light as I can on what’s happening. 

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