The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has agreed to spend an additional $2.5 million in public money on a public-private partnership to redevelop the Barnes Lumber yard in Crozet to provide the infrastructure for a more urban character.
Supervisors had previously agreed to the partnership in 2019. The original agreement required the county to pay $1.6 million toward the plaza and to provide the equivalement amount in tax rebates through a synthetic tax increment financing scheme.
Doug Bates is on the board of the Downtown Crozet Initiative, a nonprofit group also working toward the effort.
“For the last five years, we have engaged in an aspirational dream out in Crozet, hoping for a plaza,” Bates said. “A couple years back that dream began to get some real teeth to it when you as a Board acted to develop an agreement between New Town Associates, DCI, and yourself, the county itself.”
Bates said the addendum to the agreement is necessary to help jumpstart the economic development efforts to complete the project.
“It’s going to be your western outpost,” Bates said. “A moment of real inspiration to watch the mountains and see children play.
However, additional funding is required to help with cost overruns caused by inflation. The cost estimate for the first phase is now $7.88 million, higher than the $5.4 million originally anticipated.
“The roads in particular which are of most significance with respect with what we’re asking the Board to consider in its investment as a part of this package today,” said Doug Walker, the deputy county executive. (review Walker’s presentation)
Walker said the project would not happen without the public-private partnership.
“It provides public contribution to provide for public benefit including the developer’s contribution of his money in order to match [Virginia Department of Transportation] revenue-sharing money,” Walker said.
Walker said the closest equivalent to what the plaza hopes to be is the Charlottesville Downtown Mall.
“In fact, that is a plaza owned by and managed by the city Parks and Recreation [Department],” Walker said. “You can see the essential connectivity it provides to that business corridor and the life that it brings into that area.”
Walker said this project builds off of previous Albemarle investment into the Crozet Library which build a road connection to a future Library Avenue. It’s also interconnected with efforts to also transform what’s known as The Square.
“The Square is that piece of road that runs from Crozet Avenue in front of Mudhouse, Fardowners, Parkway Pharmacy, and then ties into what would be Phase One of this project,” Walker said. “That also is a VDOT transportation revenue sharing project.”
Staff suggested using $1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and $1.5 million from the Economic Development Investment Pool.
“This is an old industrial site being repurposed,” Walker said. “This is putting it back into constructive public and private use.”
As part of the amended agreement, the developer will build public restrooms in the first phase. Another $50,000 will go to the Downtown Crozet Initiative for seed money for an executive director to program the new space.
Supervisor Ned Gallaway wanted to know more about how that $50,000 would be used
“How will the relationship between the county and that entity and then the responsibilities for each to manage the space and that position be formalized?” Gallaway asked.
Lance Stewart, the county’s director of Facilities and Environmental Services, said a management agreement would be worked out.
“I would expect a couple of work sessions with the Board in the future to make sure we are comfortable with the role that they would hold and the management responsibilities that they have,” Stewart said.
Gallaway said he just wants to avoid a county employee being required to run the plaza.