MPO Policy Board briefed on the UVA Master Plan

Readers and listeners should know by now that planning is a constant theme of Charlottesville Community Engagement. 

Tonight the Albemarle Planning Commission will get an update on the county’s Comprehensive Plan process. Visit the new to learn more about AC44 (which is also a regular Air Canada flight between Vancouver and New Dehli).

Staff and consultants are at work on the third phase of Charlottesville’s Cville Plans Together initiative, which will see the rewriting of the city’s zoning code.

But how does the University of Virginia plan for its future? Something called the Grounds Framework Plan. Julia Monteith is the Associate University Planner and she briefed the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization on January 26. 

“The last one of these that we did was completed in 2008 and we roughly due them on a ten-year cycle,” Monteith said. (read the 2008 plan)

Creation of the next plan was to have begun in 2020, but as with many things, the pandemic got in the way. 

“The world had other plans for us so the project went on hold,” Monteith said. 

Last spring, UVA hired a consultant called Urban Strategies to do some of the background work. The Toronto-based firm recently completed a master plan for Princeton University.

“This plan will take about a year and they’re planning to wrap it up in fall of next year and so to date what they’ve been doing is really coming up to speed, doing a background review, data assembly, interviews, and quite a bit of analysis and understanding of who we are and what we’ve done to date,” Monteith said. 

Monteith said the plan will help to physically implement the Great and Good University Plan, which was adopted in August 2019 as UVA’s strategic plan. One of the strategic goals in that document is to “be a strong partner with and good neighbor to the Charlottesville region.” A key initiative is the “Good Neighbor Program.” 

UVA’s relationship to the community is called out in the Great and Good University strategic plan (read the plan)

The next Grounds Framework will update the 2008 plan which Monteith said called for compact growth and redevelopment of existing sites where possible. 

“We’ll be considering the Grounds and for those who may not be familiar, we delineate the Grounds into three precincts—Central Grounds, West Ground, and North Grounds with the Academical Village at the center of Central Grounds,” Monteith said.

All of those properties are owned by the state of Virginia through the Rector of the Board of Visitors. The University of Virginia Foundation also owns property throughout the community and some of that will also be addressed in the plan update. 

“We’re also going to be considering the context of some of the Foundation properties,” Monteith said. “Westover, Boar’s Head, Birdwood, Foxhaven and the [Blue Ridge Sanitorium].”

In the context of the plan, these properties are not intended for new facilities any time soon but instead are intended to be “spheres of influence” for development into the future. 

Monteith said there is a lot of capacity for redevelopment within the Central Grounds area. Urban Strategies will also take into account a Strategic Framework for Academic Space from 2018 and a Landscape Framework Plan from 2019. There’s also a key transportation study as well. 

“In 2019, we completed our third parking and transportation plan,” Montieth said. “This plan really takes a hybrid approach towards transportation that really looks at transportation demand management balanced with more traditional transportation planning.” 

Among other things, this plan seeks to limit the number of parking spaces that UVA will need to build by offering alternatives to driving alone in a single occupancy vehicle. In all there are eighteen strategies, ranging from “reorganize commuter and student parking to reduce event impact and enhance commuter service” to “evaluate need to build new parking facilities in the long term.” 

Statistics cited in the 2019 Parking and Transportation Plan 

Back to the idea of redevelopment. Monteith said a master plan is completed for each one before construction begins. That includes Brandon AvenueEmmet-Ivy, Ivy Mountain, Fontaine, and more. There’s also Ivy Gardens, which is owned currently by the UVA Foundation. The Grounds Plan update is intended to bring it all together.

(See also: UVA making plan for Ivy Garden redevelopment, June 9, 2021)

“A framework plan of this type is going to be looking at place and character, land use and facilities, and transportation, but equally important to us are equity and inclusivity, community well-being, and sustainability,” Monteith said. 

One theme is to continue to move more medical programs and outpatient services from the West Complex to the Fontaine Research Park.

UVA has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2030 and fossil-free by 2050 and the Grounds Plan will take this into account, and how UVA will work with Albemarle and Charlottesville to achieve those mutual goals, as well as others. 

“Of course I think you are all aware that UVA is committed to facilitating the development of 1,000 to 1,500 affordable housing units, so that’s part of our discussion also,” Monteith said. 

Those are at the UVA North Fork Discovery Park, the Piedmont site on Fontaine Avenue, and Wertland Street. Monteith said the plan also will provide opportunities to think how the University Transit Service can work better with Charlottesville Area Transit and Jaunt to improve the regional transportation system. 

Supervisor Ann Mallek said she wants the University to make an investment to connect Old Ivy Road to points south. At the eastern end, there’s currently a narrow railroad tunnel with no sidewalk or other concessions for pedestrians and Mallek said that needs to change. 

“I do hope that the University will take on its responsibility for dealing with that trestle either with a walk over the top or something for pedestrians because it really is dangerous every day for the people who live there now,” Mallek said. 

Monteith said Old Ivy Road is the responsibility of the Virginia Department of Transportation, and she said the University is working with VDOT on potential solutions for both ends of the roadway. In addition to the Ivy Residences, Greystar Development is seeking to build over 400 units at the western end of the roadway. 

“We’re waiting to hear back from what the thinking is to approach that and long-term it has been discussed that it’s a priority for [Albemarle] County should funding appear but it’s quite a challenge to figure out how to realign the road to better move through that railroad trestle,” Monteith said. 

More information on the development of this plan, and all of the other plans, will come in future installments of Charlottesville Community Engagement. 

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 1, 2022 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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