Charlottesville design panel takes first look at West Main hotel

The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review has taken a first look at a proposal to build a new hotel on West Main Street. 

“We’re not dealing with a 400 foot long block,” said Jeff Werner, the city’s historic preservation & design planner. “This is a parcel that limits the width of the front.”

West Main Street is within one of the city’s Architectural Design Control Districts which gives the BAR the ability to approve the general design and aesthetics of new construction. That includes the Standard apartment complex that’s next door to 843 West Main Street and just south of the Westhaven public housing complex owned and operated by Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. 

Werner recently met with developers who want to build a hotel on a property that is now mostly a surface parking lot. There was a previous proposal for an office building in 2018 that never came to fruition. 

“My recommendation was that this building, recognizing it is fronting on West Main, that it not turn its back and not present itself as another wall to 10th and Page,” Werner said.

A conceptual rendering for the proposed hotel slated for 843 West Main Street (Credit: Mitchell / Matthews Architects and Planners

Werner added that City Councilor Michael Payne has already submitted comments to that effect. 

The building would be designed and built by Mitchell Matthews, the same firm who designed the Standard apartment complex.  

“This is a hotel that will have almost a hundred rooms,” said the firm’s Kevin Riddle. “What we have adjacent to the street is an entry plaza and then going through the reception area we have a courtyard within, so we’re trying to make some for some outside spaces.” 

Riddle said there may be room for a new mural to be on the east side of the building and they would reach out to local artists. 

The project is being pursued by-right under the existing zoning and would not require any special use permits. The draft zoning code would designate the property as Corridor Mixed-Use 5. 

Vehicular access to the site will be via a driveway to the east of the Standard.

“We think it’s important that the paving of the entry drive be something other than asphalt,” Riddle said. “We’re not sure if that will be a scored concrete or what but we think it will be nice for it to have a nice paved quality to it.”

Such decisions about driveways, landscaping, and bus stops might have been guided by the West Main Streetscape, an urban design that cost millions but will not ever be implemented now that Council canceled the project and the millions in Virginia Department of Transportation funding assembled to pay for it. This came up at the end of the discussion. 

“I don’t know if this is still a thing but is the streetscape plan still a thing?” asked BAR Chair Breck Gastinger. “Is it worth asking even how this relates?” 

“It’s completely dead,” said BAR member and Planning Commissioner Carl Schwarz. 

“Can we talk about something else?” said Werner. 

“They have officially removed it,” Schwarz said. “It’s gone.” 

Millions. Millions were spent. Who got the money? Where did it go?  

This was a preliminary discussion and the project will return for a certificate of appropriateness at a later date. 

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 March 27, 2023 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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