Grounds Framework Plan points way to future of UVA’s built environment

There’s almost a billion dollars of construction projects underway at the University of Virginia on land that is exempt both from local control and taxation authority. Each project came out of a series of plans. What’s being planned for the future, and how can anyone in the public find out?

In addition to the watching the Building and Grounds Committee of the UVA Board of Visitors, the public can inspect materials available on the website of the UVA Office of the Architect

One very important document is the draft of The Grounds Plan: A Framework for Campus Planning dated March 2023. The executive summary refers to the plan by its more common name. 

“The Grounds Framework Plan is a comprehensive guide intended for the overall development of the University of Virginia’s (UVA) Grounds over the next 10–20 years,” reads that summary. 

The plan calls for flexible redevelopment to support a variety of UVA-wide initiatives in support of a strategic plan called the 2030 Great and Good Plan. One overarching theme is regional cooperation.  (read September 2022 story)

“Acknowledge the importance of being a good neighbor and a strong partner to the greater Charlottesville region,” reads a bullet point. 

There are several planning principles listed to guide the plan’s development to follow that goal.  

  • “Support development of a comprehensive, integrated regional transit system that better serves staff, faculty, students, and visitors.” 
  • “Collaborate with the City, County, regional agencies, and community groups to address mutually beneficial issues.” 
  • “Use land and infrastructure on Grounds efficiently for compact growth, collaboration, and protection of natural areas.”
  • “Conserve significant natural features on Grounds while maintaining public access to trails.” 
A series of planning principles for the Grounds Framework Plan (view the draft)

The main idea in the plan is to direct growth into three redevelopment zones 

“The Academic-Mixed Use and Residential-Mixed Use Redevelopment Zones allow for higher density development with integrated green space and infrastructure that supports placemaking and improves connectivity on Grounds,” reads page 5 of the plan. “Occupying approximately 230 acres in total, they have capacity to accommodate UVA’s projected facility growth in the next 20+ years.”

One zone would seek to extend Central Grounds towards the Emmet Ivy Corridor. The student neighborhoods in North Grounds would get “varied uses and amenities over time.” West Grounds would seek to implement “opportunities to intensify existing academic, research, and student housing facilities.” 

One thing to note on the map is that the property on Grove Street at Roosevelt Brown south of the railroad tracks is shown as Residential Mixed-Use Redevelopment Zone. 

“The university paid $8.73 million in late August [2016] to acquire a total of 2.63 acres on seven properties on Grove Street and King Street,” I wrote in September 2016 for Charlottesville Tomorrow

This purchase was unusual because UVA purchased it directly rather than have the UVA Foundation make the acquisition. That entity’s creation was called for in 1986 Three Party Agreement between Albemarle, Charlottesville, and UVA. (view the agreement)

Stacey Hall on West Main Street is within an Academic Mixed-Use Redevelopment Zone, though a matrix on page 40 of the plan indicates that residential would be okay as a primary use. 

Directing the next set of master plans

The last Grounds Plan was adopted in 2008 and introduced the concept of Redevelopment  Zones that directed the creation of master plans for the Brandon Avenue corridor, the Emmet-Ivy Corridor, and redevelopment of sites on the northern side of Ivy Mountain. 

When adopted, the draft framework plan will direct new areas for the next generation of master plans. 

Overall map of the scope of the UVA Grounds Framework Plan 

The plan refers several times to the impact UVA activities have on local governments. 

“Connections for pedestrians and cyclists between Central Grounds, North Grounds and Fontaine Park, are reliant on the City and County road network,” reads page 13 of the plan. “The combination of a varied topography, busy streets, a rail corridor, and athletics fields make this a difficult challenge to overcome. The opportunity addressed by the Grounds Plan is to continue to build more direct, lighted pathways separated from busy roads across Grounds.” 

The new framework also states UVA’s objective to provide enough housing for all second-year students. 

“This may increase the demand for more amenities on Grounds,” the plan continues. 

The framework also restates UVA’s commitment to the Affordable Housing Initiative. 

“This initiative is supporting the development of 1,000- 1,500 affordable housing units over a decade in Charlottesville and Albemarle County on parcels owned by the University and the UVA Foundation,” reads page 14. 

According to the website of the President’s Council on UVA-Community Partnerships, two of the three announced areas are still in the request for proposal stage. In February, five entities were asked to submit their proposals for the Piedmont site on Fontaine Avenue and the Wertland Street site. 

What uses are proposed in each node? Refer to this matrix, which indicates UVA might build student housing south of the railroad off of Roosevelt Brown Boulevard.

Closed-door group discusses the Grounds Framework Plan

This draft is from March. Have you heard about it? Has the closed-door group known as the Land Use Environmental and Planning Committee (LUEPC) discussed it?  

The group has met once since April, but their website has not been updated. Thankfully the city’s representative provided an update from the missing meeting at the Planning Commission meeting on June 16. 

“The discussions were regarding the water supply plan, and also what’s going on with the UVA Grounds and the Framework plan and any progress being made,” said Commissioner Hosea Mitchell. 

Mitchell said he had sent the presentations for both discussions to his fellow Planning Commissioners. I’ll work on getting those, but will note that this one sentence prompted a deep dive into what’s in the Grounds Framework Plan. 

That’s all the information in part because Mitchell’s comments at previous meetings have drawn the concern of officials who would prefer that what happens at LUEPC stays at LUEPC. 

There will be a change to the charter of LUEPC, according to the minutes of the April meeting

“Jodie [Filardo] will develop a sample statement for initial consideration by the Planning Team regarding the confidential nature of the conversations within LUEPC,” reads agenda item 2.d.i. 

Filardo is the director of community development in Albemarle County.  

But anyway, enough about that for now. There’s more in the framework plan that’s worth the attention of anyone interested in the future of the community. 

North Node notables: 

  • The plan anticipates redevelopment of the intersection of Copeley Road and Massie Road, including the replacement of the “dated” Copeley Hill Residences
  • Commercial space could be built in parking structures to support area residents, athletes, and spectators. 
  • A future transit hub is anticipated with a bike parking station.
  • The city’s Emmet Streetscape project would be used to tie North Grounds and Central Grounds together.
  • This node anticipates the future development of Ivy Gardens (read June 2021 story

Emmet-Ivy interest points:

  • The Emmet Ivy Redevelopment Zone is under construction with the Virginia Guesthouse, the Karsh Institute of Democracy, and the School of Data Science. 
  • New buildings would include a performing arts center and flexible space for academic use. Nothing is specified but “wet lab” space is ruled out as being too far away from core facilities that could use that space. 
  • A pedestrian central green space will be created as bioremediation features are built. 

West Main / JPA Node tidbits:

This one starts off with a bold statement.

“Development of the West Main / JPA Node will be transformative, entailing almost all of the entire West Complex redevelopment zone,” reads page 51 of the plan. 

  • There is a concept to redesign Hospital Drive with future buildings fronting that as well as Jefferson Park Avenue. 
  • A plaza is called for in front of the historical medical building. 
  • While academic uses are the primary use, student housing and food establishments would be acceptable. 
  • “The appropriate height and massing of future buildings will require further study.” 

Whitehead Node wonders: 

  • Redevelopment of this area would help create a hub for the School of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences. 
  • The Albert H. Small building would be redeveloped with a new academic building as well as a plaza. 
A conceptual map for the Whitehead node (Credit: University of Virginia)

Fontaine Node nuggets:

  • A new public plaza would be created in the northern section of the park including a pedestrian bridge over Fontaine Avenue. 
  • Ray C. Hunt Drive would be shifted to accommodate a roundabout.
  • The plan doesn’t mention the Biotechnology Institute that will be built here. 

How will it all develop? Stay tuned to future installments of Charlottesville Community Engagement to find out. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber to ensure I can continue to keep an eye on what’s happening. 

If you’re not a reader already, you’re not reading this. If you made it here, you’ll want more. Sign up for free, but paid subscriptions increase likelihood all of this will be covered.

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 June 18, 2023 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

3 thoughts on “Grounds Framework Plan points way to future of UVA’s built environment

Leave a Reply