The Albemarle Economic Development Office has officially completed a planning study for a portion of the county around the Woolen Mills Factory on the western banks of the Rivanna River. (read the report)
“The general idea was to take the 46 and a half acres on the Broadway Corridor and turn that into a place that people, businesses, and activities all occur at the same time and everyone would like to be there,” said Roger Johnson, the county’s economic development director.
The Charlottesville City Council has officially adopted a plan to guide environmental protections along the urbanized portion of the Rivanna River. The Urban Rivanna Corridor Plan is now a referenced part of the city’s 2021 Comprehensive Plan.
“It’s past time but I’m glad we’re getting to it now finally to begin to recognize the fact that the Rivanna River is an asset to Charlottesville and is not merely a barrier,” said Charottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook.
Charlottesville City Council held a work session yesterday on how to cover the costs of sidewalk improvements for Stribling Avenue to support a 170 unit development on about 12 acres of undeveloped land. James Freas is the director of the city’s Neighborhood Development Services department.
“So, as many as you know, there’s a [Planned Unit Development] proposed for 240 Stribling Avenue,” Freas said. “The proposed project includes a mix of apartments, townhouses, two-family units.”
There are several makeshift memorials to people who died in crashes on 5th Street Extended in Charlottesville. Yesterday, a city-sanctioned memorial to Quintus Brooks was unveiled with a family ceremony. Brooks died on October 1, 2020 and yesterday would have been his birthday.
“A new application process is being launched for roadside memorials at the site of deaths resulting from automobile, bicycle or pedestrian accidents that occur on public streets within the City of Charlottesville,” said city Communications Director Brian Wheeler in an email announcing the event.
Will the city be able to build the infrastructure residents to allow for a more dense development on Stribling Avenue? At their meeting on September 14, 2021, the Charlottesville Planning Commission pondered this question and a public-private partnership could be worked out to cover the costs that a cash-strapped city cannot afford.
Southern Development seeks a rezoning to Planned Unit Development to build up to 170 units on about 12 acres of wooded land. That came after a directive at an earlier work session for the firm to increase the units in the development.
“The Planning Commission told us very clearly that you wanted to see something less dense and more suburban,” said Charlie Armstrong, vice president at Southern Development.
At their meeting on September 20, Charlottesville City Council held the first reading of entering into a ground lease with the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont, a nonprofit that has been working with the city to use a portion of land in the northeast corner of McIntire Park.
“Documentation previously approved at the Council level goes back to September of 2012 with a master plan of McIntire Park,” said City Manager Boyles. “There have been conceptual designs, resolutions for agreement, a [memorandum of understanding] with the McIntire Botanical Garden, and then most recently in 2017 a final site plan approval for McIntire Park.”
After several years of planning and study, there is an active construction site for the Belmont Bridge now that the project is fully approved and fully funded. The city held an information session on August 11 and Brian McPeters is with Kimley Horn, the firm that designed and engineered the bridge. The event was referred to as a Pardon Our Dust Meeting. (presentation) (watch the video)
“The project is primarily replacing the existing Belmont Bridge,” McPeters said. “That’s the bridge that carries traffic northbound and southbound over the railroad, over Old Avon, and over Water Street. It does include a secondary pedestrian-style bridge.”
That bridge connects to a new mezzanine to be built in the area leading to the Ting Pavilion, and will make the walkway from the bridge compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“But it will also build a concrete and steel structure that will be a great gathering place and create a sense of place for folks interacting with the bridge and accessing the Belmont Bridge,” McPeters said.
Construction of the bridge will take about 31 months from now to complete, according to McPeters, the manager of the city’s urban construction initiative. The informational meeting focused on how the traffic of all types on the roadway will be affected.
“There will be inconvenience and we do ask for your patience and it will be our job to inform you of what that inconvenience will be so you can plan accordingly and possible take an alternate route or be prepared for slight delays,” McPeters said.
Right now, construction activities have been limited to utility relocation and parking lot construction. When things really get underway, traffic will be moved around to different sections.
“Generally speaking, during daytime hours, traffic will always have one lane northbound and one lane southbound, and then you’ll have turn lanes at the intersections similar to what you have today,” McPeters said.
For the full details, take a look at the presentation.
Some highlights from the project:
Five-way intersection at Old Avon/9th/Garret/Levy will be simplified with removal of Old Avon movement, with a section of Old Avon become a pedestrian plaza space
Expansion of the pedestrian passageway from the bridge to the Pavilion area
A pedestrian passageway will be built at the Graves Street intersection to replace existing at-grade crosswalk
One of several major transportation projects intended to make Charlottesville an easier place to bike or walk passed a milestone last week. In 2017, the city was awarded $8.6 million in Virginia Department of Transportation Smart Scale funds for a project at the intersection of Barracks Road and Emmet Street. The design public hearing was held on July 7, 2021.
“The purpose of the project is to improve the operational performance of the Barracks Road and Emmet Street intersection while also enhancing bicycle, pedestrian and transit facilities serving the adjacent neighborhoods,” said the narrator of a presentation shown at the virtual meeting. (watch the full presentation)
The work will include a new northbound right-turn lane on Emmet Street, an additional west-bound left-hand turn lane on Barracks Road, upgraded traffic signals, increased medians, and a shared-use path up Barracks Road. Part of the work will involve something called a “pedestrian refuge” to allow slower walkers to cross Emmet Street and take a break.
“The scope of bicycle and pedestrian improvements on Barracks Road were less somewhat less defined which provided an opportunity to involve local citizens in the early planning and decision-making process,” the presentation continued.
One man expressed concern that this plan seemed to have come from nowhere and that it may not actually work.
“This has been a long time question for me about Charlottesville and planning and development,” said Joel Bass. “How do we actually develop in this town without working with [the University of Virginia] and getting feedback from them on their plans?”
Bass said what was needed from westbound Barracks Road was a right-hand lane.
Before we hear from city staff, some background. In 1986, Albemarle, Charlottesville and UVA signed a Three Party Agreement and until 2019 there was a public body known as the Planning and Coordination Council (PACC) where projects and planning were discussed in the open. Since late 2019, a private body called the Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee meets and those events are closed to the public. This LUEPC group last met on June 25, 2021 and there is one page of minutes. (read those minutes)
Back to the Barracks/Emmet project. There is a steering committee that includes a member of the UVA Office of the Architect and those meetings are open to the public. Kyle Kling in Charlottesville’s public works department.
“In our department, we meet quarterly with the University to discuss projects the city is administering as well as projects that the University has throughout their Grounds and during those conversations we always discuss how things will trend during the future and how projects may supplement each other so that coordination is ongoing,” Kling said.
Two other Smart Scale projects are in the planning states to the south on Emmet Street. The Emmet Street Streetscape had its design public hearing in December 2019. The Commonwealth Transportation Board just approved $20.6 million in funding for a second phase of that project that would span between Arlington Boulevard and Barracks Road.
There was some concern at the public hearing about the shared-use path that will travel about a third of a mile up the hill on Barracks Road to Buckingham and Hill Top roads. Gregory Kastner was appreciative to get a dedicated facility, but had a question about how that fits into a larger network.
“As you’re on the bike lane coming up the road, how does that transition to the current sidewalk?” Kastner asked. “With it ending at Hill Top, there’s still a fair bit of up to go where the rider is going to be going pretty slow and it really wouldn’t be a great place to get dumped out on the road.”
Kastner said he hoped the scope of the project extended up to Rugby Road where the hill flattens.
Kling said in the short-term, a sharrow would be painted on the road in the short-term as VDOT has strict rules about extending Smart Scale projects past the boundaries outlined in their initial application.
“I do know that there are some plans in the works on the city’s end to kind of continue bike and pedestrian upgrades further into town along this stretch,” Kling said.
About another two-thirds of a mile up Barracks Road is another Smart Scale project to address the intersection of Preston Avenue and Grady Avenue. That project has also not yet begun.
Next steps for the project include final approval by City Council this summer and completion of the design in the winter of 2022. If all goes according to schedule, construction would begin in the spring of 2023.
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.”