Category Archives: Placemaking

Crozet Master Plan talk turns to implementation; Crozet Plaza update

(This article is adapted from the June 21, 2021 Charlottesville Community Engagement)

The Albemarle Planning Commission will next take up the Crozet Master Plan at a work session on Tuesday, June 22. At the June 9 CAC meeting, committee members and participating residents got a presentation on the implementation of projects intended to bolster Crozet’s urban character. They also had the chance to comment on the plan update to date.  

But first, the implementation projects. The master plan is a large overview of the entire area, and further studies are suggested. The draft implementation chapter shows a list of ten potential topics ranging from a Downtown Neighborhood Architectural and Cultural Study to a stream health study for Parrot Branch, a local waterway. Initial feedback has already been submitted and planner Tori Kanellopoulos gave the rundown for how planning projects scored.

“The top ranked projects were the Crozet Avenue Shared-Use Path feasibility study, the Three Notch’d Trail feasibility study, and the Route 250 West design guidelines,” Kanellopoulos said. “And then the policy projects were also ranked and the top priority was updating residential zoning designations to allow for more preservation of natural resources.”

Potential capital projects were also ranked. Kanellopoulos said the highest ranking projects are the completion of Eastern Avenue, downtown Crozet intersection improvements, and sidewalk connections. 

Let’s hear more about that Three Notch’d Trail.

“Lately there’s been a lot more focus and attention on the potential Three Notch’d Trail which would ideally connect from the Blue Ridge Tunnel along Crozet and over to Charlottesville,” Kanellopoulos said. “A feasibility study would look at this alignment and there are opportunities to partner with [the Virginia Department of Transportation] and the Planning District Commission and trails groups to look at the feasibility study for the alignment.” 

Supervisor Ann Mallek said later in the meeting that VDOT planning may not have staff to conduct that feasibility study this year, but community work can be done now to prepare for that work possibly in 2022. 

“And the other blessing that goes along with that is 2022 is when [Virginia] is going to take over the rail access right of way from CSX and therefore that increases greatly the possibility that we will be able to have a trail beside the rail,” Mallek said. 

Another “catalyst” project now in the implementation chapter is Western Park, which has long been called for in the plan and for which the county received 36 acres in 2010 as part of the Old Trail rezoning. A master plan for that project was created in 2018 that identified three phases. The first is recommended for funding, a decision which would be made by the entire Board of Supervisors during the budget process.

“This phase one would include the access road with parking, a playground, and additional support of infrastructure and utilities,” Kanellopoulos said.

Committee member Sandy Hausman noted the rankings were based on responses from fewer than a hundred people. 

“I wonder if anybody feels like this there needs to be a bit more outreach, like a mass mailing to everyone who lives in Crozet,” Hausman said. “It just feels to me that this is a relatively small group of people who tend to be paying attention to this stuff and everybody else will be unpleasantly surprised in a year or two when things start happening.”

Committee member Joe Fore said he wanted to see all three phases of Western Park listed as catalyst projects, meaning they would be prioritized first.

“I think just given the fact that it’s been in the works for so long, that the phases of at least getting started, the land is already there,” Fore said. “I understand it’s expensive but it’s not an Eastern Avenue or Lickinghole Creek bridge expensive.” 

Fore also said he would support the creation of a special taxation district to help pay for new infrastructure. The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has previously been briefed on how service districts or a “business improvement district” could be levied in certain areas to fund amenities. 

“I looked through currently, and this may be a comment for the full draft, there’s only one mention of service districts in the entire draft and that’s in reference to funding ongoing activities and services at the plaza and downtown,” Fore  said. “But I would like to see maybe a little bit more and maybe a full suggestion saying maybe this is something we should explore in Crozet to fund some of these capital projects so we’re not constantly having these be projects are ten years out.” 

The Board of Supervisors last had a formal presentation on service districts at their meeting on December 7, 2016. (presentation) (story)

Fore has looked up the section of Virginia code that allows for the creation of such districts.

“It’s a pretty broad statute as I read it,” Fore said. “Things like sidewalks, roads, programming, cultural events, economic development, beautification and landscaping. It’s a very broad statute. It seems to me you could raise money for most of the kinds of projects that we’re looking at.  When we look at the list of priorities and say, yikes! Where are we going to get all the money for this? Well, rather than say let’s raise taxes on everybody in the county, you might be able to say let’s raise funds specifically from Crozet that would stay in Crozet for some of these projects we want to see in Crozet.”

CAC member David Mitchell is skeptical of the idea and said it would lead to Crozet receiving fewer direct funds from the county.

“Over time we will start to be looked at by the other Supervisors as ‘they have their own money, they can do their own thing’ and you’re going to slowly over time lose your share of the general fund,” Mitchell said. 

Supervisor Mallek agreed.

“I would really discourage our citizenry from burdening themselves because I think David is right,” Mallek said. “We need to go to toe to toe, to say, this is a need that’s been on the books.”

Mallek singled out the Eastern Avenue connector road that will provide north-south travel. A major obstacle is the cost of a bridge required to cross Lickinghole Creek. 

“We have made all of these zoning changes prior to 2007 that were counting on that bridge and we absolutely have a moral obligation to build it,” Mallek said.

Eastern Avenue is ranked #8 on the county’s transportation priority list and there was an update in May. There’s not yet a full cost estimate on what it will cost, but engineering work is underway. 

“This project is currently being evaluated through an alignment study and conceptual design which is funded through the Transportation Leveraging Fund in the [Capital Improvement Program],” reads the update. “The alignment report was presented to the Board in January and the preferred alignment was selected. This project is being considered for a Revenue Sharing Grant application.”

Allie Pesch, the chair of the CAC, said she wanted Eastern Avenue to be the top implementation priority.

“I like seeing Eastern Avenue at the top of that list,” Pesch said. “That is a priority for everyone in our area and just so overdue.”

After this discussion of implementation, county planner Rachel Falkenstein turned the conversation to the working draft of the master plan. The draft that will be reviewed by the Planning Commission at their work session on Tuesday incorporates feedback from the June 9 CAC meeting. (download the draft

“We still have a couple of steps to go before we get to our public hearings and we’ll continue to accept feedback and make revisions to the chapters and to the content,” Falkenstein said. 

A work session with the Board of Supervisors will take place in August. (Watch the CAC meeting on YouTube)


A few days after the CAC meeting, the Downtown Crozet Initiative held a public meeting to talk about a 30,000 square foot plaza intended to be located at the former Barnes Lumberyard. The plaza would anchor a mixed-use building and a hotel through a public-private partnership. The idea involves construction of a connector road using revenue-sharing funds from VDOT. That process requires a local match. 

Frank Stoner is a principal at Milestone Partners which seeks to redevelop the space. They’re putting up $2 million to serve as that match. 

“This project started in 2014,” Stoner said. “We developed this road plan in 2016, 2017. Most of the design elements of the road have been resolved. We felt strongly and I think the community felt strongly and the county felt strongly that the streets had to be appropriate for the small town that is Crozet and not be a highway through the middle of downtown which is kind of where VDOT wanted to go with it.” 

In all, VDOT is providing $2.49 million in funds for the road improvements. Milestone is paying $2 million and donating the land for the plaza and roads. The Downtown Crozet Initiative will raise $1.6 million or more to program the plaza. Albemarle County has contributed $1.6 million in cash to the project, and will provide another $1.6 million in rebates through a process known as tax increment financing. (read the June 2019 performance agreement)

Stoner said the idea is to build an urban plaza, not a park. 

“And most importantly we wanted this plaza to be the heart not just of the neighborhood but the Crozet community,” Stoner said. 

CreditDowntown Crozet Initiative

VDOT is contributing $2.5 million and the Downtown Crozet Initiative is seeking to raise over a million in private funds. 

“Which will be used to fund essentially the furniture, fixtures and equipment, sculpture, artwork, seating, all of that kind of stuff that goes in the plaza,” Stoner said. 

The designs aren’t close to final yet, but Stoner wanted to get feedback from the community. There are also no identified tenants for any of the spaces yet. 

“We haven’t really been in the position to take commitments because there have been so many unknowns because of the VDOT plans and then we had some stormwater issues we had to work through and so it has just been one obstacle after another,” Stoner said. 

Stoner said if all goes according to plan, construction could get underway next year. To Stoner, success means making sure it’s a place to expand what already makes Crozet Crozet.

“If we can’t create a place that’s affordable for local businesses, then we’re not going to succeed,” Stoner said. 

In April 2020, the firm Downtown Strategies unveiled their report on a Downtown Strategic Vision for Crozet. Stoner suggested interested parties might take a look. (take a look)

Nearby there is a separate VDOT project to rebuild the existing Square to add sidewalks and address ongoing stormwater issues. (watch the June 14 presentation)

UVa making plans for Ivy Garden redevelopment

(This installment was originally posted in the June 9, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors met earlier this month. One of the items on the Building and Grounds Committee’s agenda was approval of a master plan for the redevelopment of Ivy Gardens, an apartment complex between Old Ivy Road and Leonard Sandridge Road that was built in the late 1960’s. 

University Architect Alice Raucher explained the purpose of creating a master plan. 

“It is in general always good to have a plan and physical master planning helps to set priorities to inform future plans,” Raucher said. “It often aligns limited physical resources with often equally limited financial resources and provides the opportunity for broad University and community engagement to create a shared vision.” 

Ivy Gardens is made up of 17 acres and has 440 residential units close to North Grounds, Darden, the School of Law, and the Miller Center for Public Affairs, and the Center for Politics. 

“In 2016, at the direction of the University, the Foundation purchased Ivy Gardens and although its structures are aging, the property is currently income producing with units that primarily house our graduate students in a low-density, automobile-oriented development,” Raucher said. 

The proposed redevelopment plan would increase the number of units to 718 and would add about 46,000 square feet of academic space and 69,500 square feet for commercial uses. The latter would be clustered in a new Town Square that would front onto Old Ivy Road. To the immediate north would be a Residential Commons with different kinds of housing types. In the middle would be a Central Green. A pedestrian bridge would cross Leonard Sandridge Drive, allowing safe passage to Darden and the Law School. 

Source: University of Virginia Office of the Architect
Read more

Oversight group discusses Cville Plans Together initiative

(This article originally appeared in the May 25, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

The steering committee overseeing the Cville Plans Together initiative met on May 19 to take a mid-month review of the latest round of the public engagement efforts. To recap, Rhodeside & Harwell is overseeing an update of the city’s Comprehensive Plan as well as a rewrite of the city’s zoning code. They’ve already produced an affordable housing strategy that City Council adopted in March. (review the plan

In February 2019, Council voted to approve spending up to $1 million to hire an outside consultant to take over oversight of the Comprehensive Plan. For background, read my story from then to explain the reasons behind the decision. 

The latest version of the schedule for the process

The work got underway in January 2020 and continued during the pandemic with virtual meetings. There were two previous community engagement periods last year in addition to the one underway now. 

Jennifer Koch is a project manager with Rhodeside & Harwell.

“We fully recognize there are folks in the community who may not have been aware of this process that was going,” Koch said. “We’ve been working hard to reach folks but it’s been quite a year… We’ve been doing a lot of virtual engagement for the past year and we don’t anticipate that will completely go away as we move forward but we also know it’s really nice to speak with people in person.”  

First, members of the steering committee had the opportunity to weigh in. One of them is City Councilor Michael Payne, who will be one of five votes to adopt the Comprehensive Plan and the updated zoning code sometime next year. At this stage, he wanted to suggest a change in the title of one of the draft chapters.

“With the Economic Prosperity and Opportunity [chapter], I know it mentions community wealth building in the update but I still wonder if it may make more sense for the chapter itself to be focused on community wealth building, again to try to gear that chapter towards more system change thinking about things like community land trusts, community development corporations, [and] community gardens all interconnect as a system for wealth creation that’s different than the normal way of doing economic development,” Payne said. 

Seven draft chapters of the Comprehensive Plan are available for review (download)

Christine Jacobs, the interim executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, applauded language about regional partnerships. However, she wanted her organization to be more specifically referenced given the number of bodies it runs on which Charlottesville City Councilors serve. 

“The TJPDC does have the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO,” Jacobs said. “It also has the Regional Transit Partnership and the Regional Housing Partnership.” 

Diana Dale represents the leaders of neighborhood associations in the city, some of which have expressed concern about too much density. She drew attention to the chapter on Land Use, Urban Form, and Historic and Cultural Preservation. 

“And I’m thinking in particular of goal two,” Dale said, reading from the chapter summary. “Protect and enhance existing distinct identitiess of the city’s older neighborhoods while promoting housing options, a mix of uses, and sustainble reuses in the community.” 

Dale said some residents of neighborhoods are concerned that some of their portions have been changed from low-intensity to medium-intensity, such as most of the Lewis Mountain neighborhood and some of the Martha Jefferson neighborhood. That could allow between four to 12 units per lot, but that will remain unclear until it is time to rewrite the zoning code. 

“What is aspirational? And what is actually codifiable?” Dale asked.

The zoning rewrite will be conducted by the firm Code Studio, a subcontractor whose work will be informed by the affordable housing plan and the Future Land Use Map. 

“I’m not certain that we have a whole lot of the answers,” said Lee Einsweiler of Code Studio. “We were hoping we could work through things at the more generalized level of the Future Land Use Map and then begin to craft strategies for implementing those tools.” 

Einsweiler said that each category on the future land use map will not be represented by a single zoning district. 

“There would be two, three, four implementing zoning districts that might all have appropriate strategies for different types of the community but those can’t quite be figured out until we can understand where they are likely to be applied,” said Lee Einsweiler. 

Dale remained concerned. 

“The vagueness is not helping people’s confidence in the plan,” Dale said.

The Lewis Mountain Neighborhood has been designated as medium intensity in the draft future land use map. (interactive map)

Dale also expressed concern about the impacts of a more people on the existing infrastructure. She said roads might need to be widened to accommodate additional traffic, and stated the city has issues delivering on infrastructure projects such as frequent buses and a consistent bike and sidewalk network. 

“The guidance is recommending multimodal strategies, and that’s going to take time and funding to implement and that’s been a long struggle for a lot of improvements over time for those of who have been in the city,” Dale said. 

There are 19 neighborhoods across the city, and the 2007 Comprehensive Plan contains an entire appendix of specific requests from neighborhoods that came from a city-wide design day arranged by a now-defunct non-profit called the Charlottesville Community Design Center. That approach was abandoned for the 2013 Comprehensive Plan and the 2017 process did not seek a thorough capturing of what residents of neighborhoods wanted. 

Ashley Davies, who represents the Charlottesville Area Development Roundtable on the steering committee, suggested an approach that built upon previous efforts to plan at a neighborhood level. 

“I think people are hungry to give you feedback that is more specific to their area and I think it’s a shame that we can’t have the time right now to do the small area planning because I think that’s what a lot of people want to inform the land use plan,” Davies said. 

Neighborhood plans were drafted in the 2007 plan, as described on page 285. If you’re a Charlottesville resident, what was said about your neighborhood? (download the plan)

There’s a lot of discussion of what role the Future Land Use Map plays. Is it advisory? If so, what does that mean? Ron Sessoms is with Rhodeside and Harwell.

“The future land use map is a critical component of a Comprehensive Plan and sets the stage for the city’s long-term vision of how it’s going to grow,” said Ron Sessoms of Rhodeside & Harwell (RHI). “You can think of this as the 10,000 foot view of the city and defining where there are opportunities for growth.” 

Sessoms said the land use map is a guide for development, but is not binding like zoning. 

“As we think about the future land use map, it’s much more broad and the zoning code is much more detailed with specifics of what it means to fulfil the future land use map,” Sessoms said. 

The medium intensity residential category is new with this comp plan update, and encourages construction between four and 12 units per lot. Sessoms said that did not have to be out of scale with existing buildings. 

“They can be integrated into the fabric of a neighborhood,” Sessoms said. “They don’t have to be five stories to get fourplexes or any of the medium intensity development types.” 

Ashley Davies said she liked that the future land use map begins a process of reducing the amount of areas colored as low-intensity residential, but thought there should be some sense of what types of housing units are prioritized. 

“It seems to me the strategy for adding units in the city and adding residential, maybe we need to talk about the hierarchy of that can truly happen in Charlottesville,” Davies said. 

Dale said the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association’s Board of Directors supports soft density by adding accessory units and permitting apartments within structures. But they don’t support being colored as medium intensity. 

“Is there an opportunity to merge the ambitions of transforming Charlottesville to general residential, which is a big step to begin with, and to merge some of the intentions of the medium intensity?” Dale asked. “I recognize this may happen as you move to more strata, more levels of medium density.”

This draft also includes a name change for Low Density Residential to General Residential, which recommends up to three units per lot. 

Lena Seville, a Belmont resident who is on the steering committee, wanted to know why General Residential didn’t recommend allowing four units per lot. 

“There are plenty of little houses that are split into four,” Seville said. “At two stories, it’s four apartments. They’re easier to build. They mirror each other. They have the same footprint.”

Much of what is happening in Charlottesville is patterned off an effort in Minneapolis, where their City Council voted to permit duplexes and triplexes in all R-1 areas. Here’s Lee Einsweiler with Code Studio again. 

“You may have followed the exercise in Minneapolis in which they began talking about four but ended up adopting three,” Einsweiler said. “Part of the conversation was about the likelihood that the existing house would be replaced as opposed to split. The three is most likely an additional building on the property and a main unit carved out of the main house.” 

At the meeting, some members expressed concern about a perceived lack of engagement. Valerie Washington represents the Charlottesville Low Income Housing Coalition

“While this process has been going on for a while now there are still many folks in the community that I’ve spoken to who have no idea about this process,” Washington said. “Is there any plan to really put some education out there for folks who are having difficulty understanding the planning process so they can better participate?”

LaToya Thomas of the firm Brick and Story acknowledges that many people are not knowledgeable in planning issues, but the Cville Plans Together initiative wants to educate more people especially as the pandemic recedes.

“We are reaching out to as many people that we can get connected to, but we also know that many of you are connected to folks and so we will continue to make ourselves available if there are groups of folks that you want to convene,” Thomas said.

Dale suggested a pause while people get caught up on the planning process. That would give people the chance to read the many recommendations in the affordable housing plan adopted by Council in March. 

“Most of the community doesn’t really understand how it informs the plan,” Dale said. “It was previewed with the public last fall when everyone had their head down dealing with Zoom school and Zoom work and health care and everything else. It was a 100-year health event.”

The housing plan was adopted in March 2021 and informed the development of Future Land Use Map (download)

S. Lisa Herndon is a Realtor on the steering committee who wants to see a map that depicts where redlining occurred which overlays areas proposed for more intense development. 

“Going back to the history of Vinegar Hill and Gospel Hill, there [are] communities that were negatively impacted and now we’re going through redevelopment again and we see a lack of equity in terms of participation and I see nothing within this which shows where we were and how we’re going to prevent that negative effect in communities of African-American historical context,” Hernson said. “I don’t see that.” 

Sunshine Mathon, executive director of the Piedmont Housing Alliance, said he has been through this process in other communities where he has worked.  He reminded people the intent of the initiative is to guide change. 

“One of the things that gets lost in the translation is that change is constant and people have this assumption that their neighborhoods are a thing and have always been that thing which is fundamentally not true,” Mathon said. “One of the changes that we are seeing across the city regardless of the form of the city, one of the real changes is a dramatic increase in the cost of living in the city. That’s a fundamental change. The plan itself can’t be the change that solves that on its own, but it is an ingredient in that tool set.”

Comments will be accepted through June 13 now that a two-week extension has been granted. The Planning Commission is expected to have a work session on June 29. 

Proposed apartments for Fifeville draw attention to planned railroad underpass

(This article was originally a segment in the May 11, 2021 Charlottesville Community Engagement)

Tonight, the Charlottesville Planning Commission will have a joint public hearing with the City Council on a rezoning on a cul-de-sac on the western edge of Fifeville.  A property owner on Valley Road Extended seeks the rezoning and a special use permit to build four apartment units on just under two-thirds of land. The applicant is proffering $48,000 to build a portion of sidewalk and have suggested it could be part of a larger network. (meeting info)

“Sidewalk improvements along the new parcel frontage along Valley Road Extended that ultimately may be incorporated into a more robust pedestrian and bicycle improvement network if the multi-use tunnel under the railroad right of way, as called for in the [2015] Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan,” reads the narrative.

The narrative references a map on page 38 of the plan that depicts many desired projects throughout the city. One of them is this underpass at the northern end of Valley Road Extended.

However, there is no active project planned for such a tunnel at this site to occur, according to city Communications Director Brian Wheeler. In all, there is a distance of 4,500 feet where the railroad bisects the Fifeville neighborhood from the University of Virginia without a pedestrian or vehicular crossing, between Shamrock Road and Roosevelt Brown Boulevard. 

The University of Virginia is also not planning for a tunnel at that location, according to its non-voting representative on the Planning Commission. After the city agreed to hand over right of way for the Brandon Avenue corridor, UVA agreed to study for a railroad crossing and settled on a different planning concept closer to Monroe Lane and Paton Street. However, they are not pursuing a crossing at this time but will work with the city on an easement should it choose to proceed.

This map is Charlottesville’s 2015 Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan and can be found on page 38. (download the plan)

Ash trees are in a “state of emergency”

(This article originally appeared in the May 11, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

The Charlottesville Tree Commission got an update on several topics at its meeting on May 4, including an update on several projects planned for Charlottesville’s McIntire Park. 

“In McIntire Park there are three projects going on that are really private-public partnerships,” said Peggy Van Yahres, a member of the Tree Commission.

Van Yahres is part of one project to install a memorial grove in McIntire Park to commemorate people who have been awarded the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce’s citizenship award. 

“We wanted to preserve the landmark oak trees  on the top of McIntire Park on the east side,” Van Yahres said. “The other objective was just to enliven the park and make it a better place for people to go and sit underneath these beautiful trees.” 

The memorial would be a stone terrace on which the names of the past and future award winners would be displayed. 

“There will be a beautiful lawn, people can play, a walkway, and of course, a lot more oak trees to continue the tradition,” Van Yahres said. 

Van Yahres said the grove has been added to the schematic design for the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont. That’s the new name for the nonprofit that entered into a memorandum of agreement with the City of Charlottesville to operate in the northeast section of McIntire Park. She said the grove will hopefully be installed by this fall. 

A rendering of the proposed Grove in McIntire Park. Learn more on the Chamber and Grove website.

As for the garden, Jill Trischman-Marks is executive director of the newly renamed organization. There was a naming contest.

“We had over two hundred responses and selected Botanical Garden of the Piedmont because it was precise and concise,” Trischman-Marks said. “It not only identified where the garden is located but it also talked about the trees and other plants that will be highlighted in this garden.” 

The nonprofit is on the hook to raise funds to pay for infrastructure and to install the garden.

“The city of Charlottesville has dedicated the land to this project but that’s where the taxpayer burden ends,” Trischman-Marks said. “All of the funds that are needed to design, construct, and maintain the garden will be privately raised but once it is built just like any other city park, the Botanical Garden will be free and accessible to all.” 

Trischman-Marks said the plan for the garden is to utilize native species and demonstrate the ecosystem of our area. You can weigh in on a survey they have listed on their website

“And share the survey with your friends, families, and neighbors because the more feedback we get, the better this garden will be,” Trischman-Marks said

Trischman-Marks will update the Charlottesville Planning Commission at their meeting on Tuesday.

The third project is a more low-key initiative from the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards to plant new specimens. 

Later in the meeting, the Tree Commission got an update on plans to fight the Emerald Ash Borer from the city arborist, Mike Ronayne.

“The Emerald Ash borer is an invasive insect from Siberia and it will be killing all of our untreated ash trees in Charlottesville,” Ronayne said. “And now it seems like it’s come through other parts of Virginia like northern Virginia and now we’re really just starting to deal with all the dead ash trees that we’re finding in Charlottesville.”

The goal is to protect 31 individual trees in the city, and have sought additional funding from City Council for the purpose and to remove the dead trees. About one to two percent of trees in the city’s parkland are ash trees. A draft cost estimate to remove the trees over five years is $480,000. That does not cover the cost of planting replacements. The cost to annually treat those 31 trees will be $8,425 a year. Todd Brown is the city’s director of parks and recreation.

“Basically this is a state of emergency situation,” Brown said. “These trees are dying. Ninety-nine percent of them are going to die and right now we’ve been hitting at a tiny fraction of them. For everyone we’re doing, there are ten more that need to be done and ten more that die. We’re chasing a moving target that’s eventually going to stop and eventually we are going to have to catch up to it.” 

Brown said that presents a safety issue and more and more limbs become prone to falling. For more on the Emerald Ash Borer, take a look at the Virginia Department of Forestry website. The agency is offering a cost share program for individual removals. (learn more)

The woods shroud this dead Ash tree near Crozet. The homeowner took advantage of the Virginia Department of Forestry cost-share program to help treat some of its fellow specimens, but this one was too far gone. (Credit: Grace Reynolds)

Charlottesville’s draft capital budget includes $50 million for middle school reconfiguration

The Charlottesville City Council will be presented with a $160 million five-year capital improvement program (CIP) that anticipates spending $50 million on a reconfiguration of middle school education. 

Council and School Board will meet Thursday, January 28 at 5 p.m. to discuss budget preparations. (meeting info)

Staff has not recommended new funding for the West Main Streetscape in Charlottesville’s proposed capital improvement program for the next fiscal year, though the first phase of the project is fully funded. The future of a second phase is not certain at this time.  

“The current CIP draft reflects priorities raised by City Council in previous budget work sessions,” said Charlottesville Communications Director Brian Wheeler. ”The inclusion of a $50 million placeholder for the City Schools reconfiguration project means other projects have to be reconsidered.”

The draft capital improvement program for FY22-FY27 is ready for review

While capital improvement budgets look ahead for five years, Council will only adopt an actual budget for fiscal year 2022, which begins on July 1. The proposed budget for FY22 is for $35.4 million, with $26.8 million anticipated to come from the sale of municipal bonds. 

The draft CIP also continues the city’s $10 million investment in a new parking structure at the corner of Market Street and 9th Street. The project’s purpose is to support a new General District court to be used by both Albemarle County and Charlottesville. 

The five-year budget anticipates a total of $13.5 million in investment in new construction of Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority including $1.5 million in FY22. 

“This funding is the second year of a original City projected commitment of $15 million for the redevelopment of the public housing sites,” reads a summary of projects.  In October, Council signaled they would approve a performance agreement governing the use of $3 million to help finance the Crescent Halls redevelopment and the first phase of redevelopment at South First Street. 

The draft CIP restores several budget line items that were zeroed out for the current fiscal year. Instead of spending about $6.7 million of general fund revenue for certain items that could not be paid for through the sale of bonds, Council agreed with a plan to put that money aside in case of a shortfall. 

For FY22, the draft budget restores funding to “non-bondable” items such as “city-wide traffic engineering improvements”  and “bicycle infrastructure,” as well as funding for parks. 

The draft budget also includes $800,000 a year in funding for the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund, for a total of $4 million. The specific use of those funds would be determined later.  

Another significant project that would be paid for with cash is $2 million for infrastructure at Friendship Court. That’s separate from $394,841 for the first phase of Friendship Court redevelopment and $750,000 for phase two. Council approved a performance agreement for that funding in October

School reconfiguration

The basic details of a plan to reconfigure Charlottesville’s middle schools were presented to the City School Board in December 2018. Michael Goddard is a project manager with the city who addressed Council at a work session on November 20, 2020.

“The plan is to utilize existing public properties so no land acquisition would be required,” Goddard said. “We would like to expand the pre-school and provide best-in-class wrap-around services, move 5th grade back to the elementary schools, reduce middle year transitions. By adding the 6th grade to Buford, we would make that a three year school.” 

Both Walker Upper Elementary and Buford Middle School were built in the 1960’s. Goddard said another goal is to eliminate students needing to go outside to transfer between buildings.

Presentation from December 19, 2018 Charlottesville School Board meeting

The project has a placeholder cost estimate of about $55 million based on work conducted by the firm VMDO. In the fiscal year budget for 2020, Council authorized $3 million for design and pre-engineering.

“What we expect to see from our architect as part of this initial phase is a visioning document which gives us a general idea of what we can do, a goals and objectives document which lays out exactly what it is we intend to accomplish,” Goddard said. 

West Main Streetscape

The firm Rhodeside and Harwell has been paid at least $2.8 million to develop design and construction documents for the three-quarter mile stretch between the University Corner and the Downtown Mall.

A value engineering study intended to reduce the costs will be shared with Council on Monday. 

A slide from the September 30, 2020 City Council work session on the West Main Streetscape. (preview story) (summary story)

A total of $12.95 million was requested for the West Main Streetscape project in FY22 , but was not included.  The project was split by Council into four phases in October 2017 in order to help secure funding. Phase 1 spans from West Main’s intersection with Ridge Street and McIntire Street to 6th Street NW. 

“Phase 1 remains funded from prior CIP allocations,” Wheeler said. “The local allocations to Phase 1 are $3,162,045 spent and $13,422,860 available.” 

The city received $3.2 million in VDOT revenue-sharing funds for West Main Phase 1, and the city will still spend $13.4 million in city funds. 

Phase 2 travels between 6th Street NW and 8th Street NW. The city received $2 million in VDOT revenue sharing and $2 million in VDOT Smart Scale funding for this phase. The city had anticipated spending $7.1 million in capital funds but that is not reflected in the current CIP. 

“We expect City Council to provide additional feedback on both phases in the budget discussions,” Wheeler said. 

City staff had not budgeted spending any city money on West Main’s Phase 3, which spans from 8th Street NW to Roosevelt Brown Boulevard. Last year, Council agreed to submit a $10.38 million request to the VDOT’s Smart Scale process. Last week, staff recommended funding of this project. 

As of last September, the city had not identified a funding source for Phase 4 which has a preliminary cost estimate of $8.7 million. 

A former chief operating officer at the University of Virginia said in a March 2018 letter to Council that UVA would allocate $5 million for the city to use on the West Main Streetscape. The offer still stands. 

“The University remains committed to its funding pledge for the West Main Streetscape project,” wrote UVA spokesman Brian Coy. “Per discussions with the City, our intent is to focus on safety and security improvements towards the western end of Main Street, supporting both students and the broader community.”

Jackson P. Burley High School now listed on National Register of Historic Places

(this story was originally posted in the December 1, 2020 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

The high school established by Albemarle and Charlottesville in the middle of the 20th century for Black students is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Jackson P. Burley opened in 1951 on Rose Hill Drive, eleven years after the city had built a new school for whites only. Jimmy Hollins of the Burley Varsity Club alumni group said Burley also was for Black students from Greene and Nelson. 

“Burley was a big part of the Black community back in those days,” Hollins said. “When they played sports, football or basketball games, those games was crowded. Pretty crowded.  And we not only had Black fans, we would have white fans that would come and stand outside of the gates and look at the games.”

Hollins said that’s because Burley was the only school in the area with a winning record. The National Register of Historic Places is an honorific designation that recognizes the historic significance of a property. (read the nomination form)

“The building represents a rare instance in which two localities—Charlottesville and Albemarle County—sought to achieve “separate but equal” educational facilities during segregation—and at a time when successful legal suits underway elsewhere in Virginia challenged the unequal and overcrowded conditions in black schools,” reads the page for Burley on the website for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

The two localities built the school in order to justify continued segregation of students by race, a practice that was declared unconstitutional in 1954 in the Brown vs. the Board of Education case. Burley did not close until 1967 after all surrounding counties had lost their fight to keep schools separate. 

Albemarle County now owns the building and operates as one of their middle schools despite being within city limits. All across Virginia, the majority of Black schools like the Christiansburg Institute and Dunbar High School in Lynchburg were closed rather than become desegregated themselves. That’s one reason Hollins says this designation is so critical.

“Originally in the state of Virginia, they had as far as Black high schools, they had 115 of the Black high schools,” Hollins said. “Now out of those 115, there are only three that are still high schools today that are working high schools.” 

Many of the alumni from those schools today continue to meet under the auspices of the Virginia Interscholastic Association.

Hollins graduated from Burley in 1965. 

“Personally I never through Burley would close,” Hollins said. “I always thought Burley would stay open as a high school.’

Hollins said when the pandemic is over, there will be an occasion to celebrate the listing. 

Credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Design panel shows tentative support for mural for Starbucks on West Main

The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review has indicated at a preliminary review that it would support a mural on the side of 1001 West Main where Starbucks wants to open a new pick-up only franchise.   

“It’s one of our latest new formats of a store that we’ve been rolling out,” said Ena Yang, a designer with Starbucks. “We have three stores that are open. Two in New York City and one in Toronto, Canada. This particular store we do not have any seating. Our lobby space is only 300 square foot where the customers are encouraged to pick up their order and be on the go.” 

At issue before the BAR was whether the east-facing wall that slopes down 10th Street should be adorned with a colorful mural. The building in question is a former auto repair shop that is a contributing structure in the West Main Architectural Design Control District. Historic preservation planner Jeff Werner said there were some restrictions 

“Anything within a mural that is interpreted as a Starbucks related or coffee related could be interpreted as a sign so be very careful with the artwork so that it doesn’t come across as ‘come in here and buy coffee,” Werner said. 

Yang said there would be no images to promote coffee. Chair Carl Schwarz said he supported the preliminary design of the mural. 

“This is an interesting part of town where you can have a lot of color and excitement and it’s not going to distract from anything historic,” Schwarz said. 

Werner encouraged representatives from Starbucks to reach out to the community and to be ready for comment. Yang said they would do so. 

“I understand it is a very prominent location and it’s a very busy intersection,” Yang said. “We don’t want to offend anyone. We are Starbucks. We are a global company. We want to make sure that what we put on a building of this size and at such a prominent location could be messaging that represents Starbucks. As to getting some of the community involvement, I would love your advice and guidance on what are some of the steps we can take to ensure this mural really speaks true to the community.”

Yang said the next step is to continue working with the artist in a way that will not cover up any of the existing windows. 

Credit: Concepts Studio at Starbucks

Public housing projects move forward after Council talks on CRHA financial sustainability, CCDC property tax liability

On October 19, 2020, Charlottesville City Council signaled they would approve a performance agreement for direct city investment of $3 million in public housing renovation and development. The funding will be used for the Charlottesville Redevelopment Housing Authority’s nonprofit to renovate Crescent Halls and new units at South First Street.

CRHA currently is authorized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to operate 376 public housing units, and many units were built in the 80’s and have not been well maintained. Brenda Kelley is the director of redevelopment for the city, and she presented Council with an ordinance to grant the CRHA $3 million in city funds to help finance the work.

(read the staff report including the draft ordinance)

“CRHA and its partners have been engaged in robust resident-led redevelopment planning efforts,” Kelley said. 

One of those partners is something called the Charlottesville Community Development Corporation, which is actually the CRHA Board of Commissioners, a body appointed by Council. The CCDC is a nonprofit entity that is eligible to receive and distribute Low Income Housing Tax Credits which help to subsidize the projects through private investment. 

“The funding will be disbursed as a grant to CRHA, CRHA will provide the funds to the CCDC, whereby the CCDC will lend the funds to the project as an interest-free 30-year loan,” Kelley said. “One hundred percent of the units constructed will be provided for rental by low and moderate income persons having household incomes at or below AMI. No fewer than thirteen units will be public housing units at South First Street phase one, and no fewer than 53 units will be public housing units at Crescent Halls.” 

AboveProject cost breakdown for South First Street Phase One

CRHA would not own the properties, but will continue to own the land and operate the buildings, but the CCDC will own the structures. That means they will be responsible for paying taxes. We’ll come back to that in a bit. 

These details are worth documenting. 

“The private sector project owner has an investment member and the investment member has a right to sell its interest in the project prior to the end of the 30-year LIHTC term,” Kelley said. “If the investment member’s interest cannot be bought out by CRHA, this could potentially result in termination of an extended use agreement after year 15. So year 15 may be a significant milestone whereby CRHA has an option to purchase the project. This raises unknowns also including how much this purchase price would be and where will CRHA obtain the funding.”

Council’s discussion centered around two issues. 

One is a clause in the resolution that compelled CRHA to complete a financial sustainability plan that was requested by Council in February 2019. CRHA has to complete that plan anyway as part of a plan with HUD. The federal agency considers CRHA to be a “troubled” agency and the local authority must document how they can hit performance measures. 

The ordinance before Council required that plan to be in place in order for the CRHA to get a third payment from the $3 million. 

CRHA Executive Director John Sales said that requirement would prevent the project from breaking ground by the end of this year. 

“It’s going to be really hard for us to close on both loans with that requirement in there because we won’t be able to show a bank that we’ve satisfied that requirement in order to close, so that could really put both projects at a point where they would not go forward,” Sales said. 

Council discussed a financial sustainability plan for CRHA in February 2019. Since then, it has gone through a leadership change, and Sales just became director in August. 

Councilor Heather Hill said she wanted the sustainability plan to be completed. 

“I want to know that by the time we get to that third draw which is our intention that we’re seeing real progress made to a reasonable end to the sustainability study because I just think that the longer this goes on, it’s not to our advantage,” Hill said. 

Councilor Michael Payne said he would be willing to drop the requirement

“I’m certainly willing to be flexible,” Payne said. “Our intention is not at all to have this jeopardize any funding or jeopardize these projects.”

Council agreed to require the plan to be produced by the time a second phase for South Street moves forward. 

The other issue regarded the taxes. The CCDC will not be exempt from local taxes. 

Sales said the existing resolution did not give a guarantee that future Councils might stop paying an annual subsidy “equal to the dollar amount of the real estate taxes assessed and billed to the new project owner.” Currently the CRHA makes an annual payment to the city in lieu of taxes. 

Jeff Meyer at the Virginia Community Development Corporation said the project will not attract investors if there is the potential for future liabilities that are not built into their proforma.

“No one is going to go forward with lending money or investing money into the project if we understand from the very beginning that they are not economically feasible because they have to pay the full liability for property tax,” Meyer said.  “The concern would be that a future city council could overturn what’s written in the ordinance here.” 

Under Virginia Law, elected bodies cannot appropriate funding beyond one fiscal year. 

“You can budget for payment of your obligations from one fiscal year to the next but you can’t enter into binding obligations over a long term that aren’t subject to what we call a non-appropriations clause,” said interim City Attorney Lisa Robertson. 

Robertson said there was no legal way for the city to waive the property taxes CCDC has to pay on the buildings. The CRHA will still own the land. 

One solution would be for the city to pay the next fifteen years of property taxes in one lump payment that could be put into an escrow fund that the CCDC could draw down from. 

Council chose to not go with that option. 

“Our budget picture is pretty brutal and there’s still substantial uncertainty about what the impact of COVID will be this budget cycle,” said Councilor Payne. 

Mayor Nikuyah Walker asked Meyer if the project would be halted if Council could not cover the cost of paying the next fifteen years of property taxes in advance. 

“I think we’ll make every effort to go forward the with project but I can’t say something won’t come up once the language in the ordinance becomes something that our other partners and the others funders are going to read, and everyone who is going to review all of the documents,” Meyer said. 

Walker pointed out that three current Councilors will serve until 2023. Payne said he would continue to support the city’s annual subsidization of property taxes for CCDC. 

“It’s not difficult fiscally for us to fund that each year and maintain that but to put it all up front in one year, especially at this time, is a challenge,” Payne said. “I certainly get the uncertainty but I think the community and the Council has a 100 percent commitment to this.”

As this was only the first reading of the resolution, staff will take a look at potential ways to address Meyer’s and Sales’ concern. One option is a line item in the capital improvement program.

“It would set forth the idea that there is a plan and the intent is that you are going to fund this over the five years,” said Krissy Hammil, Senior Budget and Management Analyst for the city of Charlottesville.

Speaking broadly about public investments in housing, Walker said it was important to understand what these complex arrangements will mean for future Councils.  Later in the meeting they took action on $5.545 million request for Piedmont Housing Alliance for the first phase of the Friendship Court redevelopment. 

“It’s important for us to understand what we’re setting future councilors up for and when you talk about commitment to housing, then we have to say that this is our commitment to housing,” Walker said. Walker is a member of the CRHA and CCDC Boards. 

Walker said Council also had to remember there would be future requests from CRHA and PHA for future phases.

“I just think if there’s a vote in favor of this, and I think both of these projects are very important, and I think the other Councilors agree, then we need to understand our limitation on doing other major projects while we figure out these two projects,” Walker said. 

Council to discuss future of $49 million West Main Streetscape

This article is the kind of in-depth article made possible through subscriptions and Patreon contributions. It was originally posted on the Charlottesville Community Engagement newsletter page. Coverage of the September 30 work session will be posted shortly.

The cost estimate for a multi-phase project to add wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and other urban amenities on West Main Street has climbed to $49 million, up from a figure of $31 million anticipated three years ago. 

The funding would go to implement a streetscape plan in development since 2013 that seeks to fulfil turn-of-the century visions of a West Main that would bring in more tax revenues through additional economic activity enabled through bigger buildings. 

“The corridor’s long promised overall redevelopment has been beset by fits and starts, with only a modicum of benefits to show for decades of effort,” reads page 70 of an influential study from December 2000 that set up a rezoning in 2003 that set the stage for several multistory buildings that now define the corridor. 

The current City Council will be briefed on the status of the project at a work session that begins at 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.  

“No other corridor in Charlottesville has been studied as well and as often as West Main Street,” the 2000 Corridor Study continues. Local planners refer to as the “Torti Gallas” study after one of the planning firms hired to do the work.

It has now been a fifth of a century since that document was published. In the past ten years, several developers have invested in the city by building well over a million square feet in building space on West Main. 

But what about the public realm? 

The view from the middle of West Main Street, September 28, 2020

Background and context for community engagement

No other roadway in the past ten years has transformed as much as West Main Street, which has seen construction of more than a half-dozen multistory buildings in the past eight years. There are hundreds more apartment units and hotel rooms, bringing more people to sidewalks, and bike lanes. 

To understand all of the changes on West Main, refer back to the 2001 Comprehensive Plan and page 3 of the urban design chapter. That plan copied language from the 2000 Corridor Study verbatim.  

“The West Main corridor is the most important link between downtown Charlottesville and The University of Virginia, between ’Town and Gown’. West Main Street links extraordinary physical, social and economic variety. The corridor ranges from a physically intact retail street to open parking lots and abandoned auto-oriented, service facilities. Though originally part of a continuous route into downtown Charlottesville, modern highway engineering and 1970’s urban renewal has cut West Main Street off from what is now Downtown. There is near universal appreciation in the community for the recent pedestrian streetscape improvements and the reconstruction of the Drewary Brown Bridge. However, the corridor’s long promised overall redevelopment has been beset by fits and starts, with only a modicum of benefits to show for decades of effort, the bridge not withstanding.”

In September 2003, Council rezoned West Main Street to allow for higher density as a way of increasing property tax revenues. This was done as an alternative to reversion to becoming a town in Albemarle County, which had been discussed in the late 90’s as a way to reduce the city’s financial obligations. Instead, the Torti Gallas report pointed the city in the direction of becoming more populous. It was understood there would need to be infrastructure to support more people.

To guide that infrastructure, a conceptual plan had been created by the firm LPDA in 2010. In October 2012, then-NDS Director Jim Tolbert told the PLACE Design Task Force that this document was not intended for direct implementation. They recommended a new study.

2010 LPDA plan

Rhodeside & Harwell is an Alexandria-based landscape architecture, planning, and urban design firm hired in the summer of 2013 to conduct a full review of the street at a time when the city was anticipating construction of several large-buildings. They began work in October 2013. City Council endorsed the preliminary design schematics in May 2017

Despite years of planning to make the street a more welcome place for pedestrians and cyclists, no new public infrastructure has been built on West Main Street until this year when a long-planned water line along Roosevelt Brown Boulevard was replaced at a cost of $1.16 million. 

That project is separate from the multimillion West Main Streetscape which was split into four distinct geographical phases in October 2017 in order to help secure funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation to complete financing for the project. 

Now, a relatively new City Council will hold a work session Wednesday to better understand what is going on with the streetscape project, which was last before elected officials in November 2019. 

The previous Council voted to remove the Lewis and Clark and Sacagawea Statue at the intersection of West Main, Ridge Street and McIntire Street. Such an idea was anticipated in the conceptual plan put together by Rhodeside & Harwell.

Wednesday’s meeting

The objectives for Wednesday’s meeting are “to provide a high level overview of project history, current status, [and] associated costs (project development, construction and maintenance).” 

The materials clearly state the event is “NOT intended to discuss design details.”

Another objective is to seek direction from Council on their continued support for the project, budget input, and the future of the statue. Another topic is value engineering, which is a process that seeks to reduce costs by substituting materials and finding other ways to provide the same function at a lower price. 

A new update on the project was made available this week. Prior to that, information about the West Main Streetscape has been hard to come by. The front page of a dedicated website for the project has not been updated since May 2017.  Elsewhere in the site, there is a reference to when the schematics went to the Board of Architectural Review for a presentation in April 2018.

Slide from April 2018 presentation to Board of Architectural Review

Tracking the progress to date

Until the packet for this week’s meeting was available, the most recent update available is from the Department of Neighborhood Development Services, which has traditionally managed transportation projects in Charlottesville. In April, a project update list described the status of the West Main Streetscape. 

“Scope being finalized for Phase 1,” reads the ‘status’ section of the update for the project. “Value engineering scope also being finalized for Phases 1-4; pre-application for Phase 3 has been submitted to VDOT for Smart Scale funding.”

Smart Scale is the name of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s main funding process, which ranks projects across the state by how they would meet a series of criteria. In the first-ever round, the city was successful in securing funding for three streetscape projects. 

In the second round, the city applied for $18.3 million in state funding and pledged $11.7 million in city funds to cover the $29,968,42 cost estimate. This application provides a glimpse into the overall vision. 

“West Main Street is an emerging, mixed-use corridor, which has seen significant private reinvestment in recent years,” reads the project description. “To keep pace with the evolution of the street and the adjacent neighborhoods, the City has recognized the need to create a new vision for the corridor- one that captures the needs of both today and the future. This vision has been translated into a plan that will improve the economic vitality of the City, improve the environmental sustainability of the corridor, and provide multi-modal connections to surrounding areas of the City.”

However, the project was not funded. 

In October 2017, Council agreed to split the project into four geographical phases to improve the chance at securing funds. The Smart Scale system favors smaller projects as well as projects that can demonstrate money from other sources. 

For the project’s first phase, the city applied for funding through a revenue-sharing program VDOT offers. They were successful in securing funding for Phase 1, which would run between Ridge Street and 6th Street. VDOT’s database breaks that down as $588,000 for preliminary engineering, $500,000 for right of way, and $11.5 million for construction.

In the third Smart Scale round, Charlottesville was awarded $2 million for the second phase of the West Main Streetscape, which covers 6th Street NW to 8th Street NW. The project has a total cost estimate of $12.7 million according to the VDOT database. The city also received $2 million in revenue-share funding for this phase. 

The city recycled elements of the first application in making the second, repeating the need to “keep pace with the evolution” of the street. 

“West Main Street provides a critical transportation linkage between the University of Virginia and the City’s Downtown,” reads the application for VDOT Smart Scale funding for that phase. “A community-focused design process has yielded solutions that improve the safety, efficiency, and aesthetics of the street.”

As a reminder, that community-focused process was the one led by Rhodeside & Harwell, with a public process that last had a dedicated meeting on December 18, 2016. 

Image included in public handout on West Main Phase 3

In the third Smart Scale round, the city was successful in an application for $12.7 million for Phase 3 which has this technical description. 

“Reconfiguration of West Main Street between 6th Street NW and 8th Street NW to widen sidewalks, improve bicycle facilities and increase safety for all users through this corridor,” reads VDOT’s Smart Scale page on the project. “Also included – landscaping/street furniture/historic interpretation.”

This August, the city formally submitted an application for $7.9 million for Phase 3 between 8th Street NW Roosevelt Brown Boulevard/10th Street NW. The current Council sanctioned that request. 

“To address increased travel demand/capacity, on-street parking will be reallocated to improved bicyclist/ pedestrian facilities, bus shelters added, pedestrian crossings improved, the latest ADA standards met, while improving aesthetic and safety of this important corridor,” reads an informational sheet on the application. “The signal at Roosevelt Brown Boulevard will be replaced, street furniture added, historic interpretive signage included as well as enhanced landscaping.”

Various city applications refer to a community-led process but the Rhodeside & Harwell work is not named or described. None of the current elected city officials were part of that experience or the decision to split the project into four phases. 

Construction takes place 

At the time of the first Rhodeside & Harwell tour of West Main Street in October 2013, there were several large buildings in the planning process that had not yet been built. 

Since then, the Draftsman Hotel, Battle Building, Flats at West Village, The Standard and the Lark on West Main all have been built on the western side of Drewary Brown Bridge where Phase 3 and Phase 4 will eventually be undertaken. 

The eastern side of the bridge has seen construction of the Marriott Residence Inn and Six Hundred West Main, Earlier this year, the Hotel Quirk opened and Council recently approved another apartment building at 612 West Main Street.

Several buildings along West Main have been built without the benefit of utility relocation. A good chunk of the $49 million estimate is to place these lines underground.

Recall that the Smart Scale application for Phase 1 and Phase 2 stated the goal is to keep up with development.

 “This vision has been translated into a plan that will improve the economic vitality of the City, improve the environmental sustainability of the corridor, and provide multi-modal connections to surrounding areas of the City,” reads the application.

Some infrastructure in this area has recently been replaced. A $1.16 million project funded by utility ratepayers that replaces an older cast iron water line was completed this August.

“This project will eliminate a problematic railroad crossing on 9th St NW, as well as improve the connectivity to the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s Urban Water Line at the intersection of 9th St NW,” reads that project’s description on the GIS viewer. 

The size of the line increases water capacity to handle a growing population. 

“The second phase of the water line project will be installed ahead of the West Main Streetscape and will move forward regardless of whether the streetscape happens,” said Lauren Hildebrand, the city’s utility director late last year.

Hundreds of pedestrians now live in large apartment buildings that have been constructed in this section of West Main Street.

The water main replacement has been anticipated for years, as was the construction of the apartments. Yet infrastructure under the planning control of the city’s NDS Department won’t be built for some years to come, with completion currently not anticipated until some time in the 2030’s. 

According to a staff email sent on December 10, 2019, Phase 3 is not scheduled to be advertised for construction until 2030. Phase 4 is not intended to be advertised for construction until 2035.

Further cost increases

The estimates for the West Main Streetscape were last shown to public officials during the last budget cycle. Since then, costs have increased. 

Materials provided for the meeting have raised the estimate for Phase 1 to $16.7 million, up from the $13.9 million presented during the development of the last budget. The preliminary engineering is now listed as $1.7 million, $863,835 million is set for right of way acquisition, and $4.3 million is allocated for utility relocation. The Construction estimate is now $9.8 million. The city has obtained $3.27 million through the revenue-sharing program and there is a locally required match of $13.4 million. 

The second phase now has a cost estimate of $13.5 million with $1.2 million in preliminary engineering, $383,488 in right of way acquisition, $4.6 million in utility relocation, and nearly $7.3 million in construction. Another $2 million in revenue sharing has gone to this project, as well as the $2 million in Smart Scale funds. The local match is $7.1 million. The materials state that another $2.4 million in funding needs to be identified. 

Phase 3, for which the city states it has asked for $10.4 million in Smart Scale funding, will surely have a cost increase in the future. That’s because the line item for utility relocation has not been filled out yet. Construction for this phase is estimated at $8.6 million 

Phase 4, which currently does not have any identified funding source, has a total estimate of $9 million. This is the section from Roosevelt Brown Boulevard to Jefferson Park Avenue. However, the budget is more precise than Phase Three. Preliminary engineering is estimated at $1.4 million, right of way acquisition is at $574,808, utility relocation is at $1.27 million and construction is estimated at $5.8 million.   

Local funds have gone to pay for a master plan for the overall corridor, which includes design development and schematic design. 

UVA involvement?

The materials include a March 2018 letter from Pat Hogan, then executive vice president and chief operating officer at the University of Virginia, committing support to the project.

“In the interest of supporting progress toward a safer and more bike and pedestrian friendly community, the University has set aside up to $5 million in support that we are prepared to provide to the City for its projects adjacent to the University Ground,” Hogan wrote.

Earlier that year, UVA had requested the Council convey property to allow for the construction of new infrastructure to support new buildings on Brandon Avenue, including two new dorms and a new student health facility. However, Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker asked they pay the fair market value of the property. 

“If Council decides to seek payment for Brandon Avenue (with a fair market value of $539,000) we are able to cover that purchase price from the funds that we have previously set aside,” Hogan wrote. “The remaining portion of our $5 million funding commitment will remain available for the West Main Streetscape project.” 

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