Category Archives: Uncategorized

Places29-Hydraulic group gets first look at Greystar’s Old Ivy Residences project

A proposed rezoning requested by Greystar Development for about 36 acres of land off of Old Ivy Road will be slightly smaller than the 525 units requested in the first application, but it will still be fairly substantial. 

“Our current plan is to have about 490 units,” said Valerie Long, an attorney with Williams Mullen. “We’re still under 20 dwelling units per acre so well within the range that’s permitted. 

The Places29-Hydraulic Community Advisory Committee got a first look at the Old Ivy Residences project, which is currently not scheduled for a public hearing before the Planning Commission. (watch the meeting)

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Council selects Marc Woolley as the latest interim City Manager

Charlottesville City Council has introduced Marc Woolley as the next interim city manager. Woolley recently resigned as Business Administrator in Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania. The city has U.S. Census 2020 population of 50,099. Deputy City Manager Ashley Marshall and Sam Sanders will remain in place. 

“Together with the assistance of staff, Sam, Ashley, and Council, I will be focusing on some key issues currently before Charlottesville,” Woolley said. “Mainly the budget and the completion of the Comprehensive Plan.” 

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Bonumose to set up Hershey research plant at former State Farm HQ

An Albemarle County start-up that seeks to create an artificial sweetener for the mass market will set up shop at the former regional headquarters of the State Farm insurance company.

Governor Ralph Northam was on hand to announce that the firm Bonumose will partner with the Hershey Company to research and develop reduced or zero sugar chocolate.

“This is a $28 million investment that Bonumose is putting forth in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Northam said. 

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RCA grades health of the Rivanna River

If our collective efforts to guard the health of the Rivanna River were graded, we’re doing about average. The Rivanna Conservation Alliance has presented their first Rivanna River Report Card by sifting through five years of data from the 50 monitoring sites they have throughout the watershed to look for the presence of E. coli bacteria. 

“A stream’s biological health is measured by catching, identifying, and counting the different small organisms that live in it,” reads the report card. 

The RCA has been monitoring water quality since 2003 when part of it was known as StreamWatch. Monitoring sites closer to developed areas tend to register as poor or fair. 

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Studying the expansion of transit in Albemarle County

Charlottesville Area Transit is in the midst of studying how it might increase its service into northern Albemarle County. The northernmost stop for CAT has for many years been at the Wal-Mart on U.S. 29.

(This article was originally part of the August 11, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. Sign up today!)

At the same time, Albemarle County and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission are doing the exact same work as part of a study partially funded by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. 

Boris Palchik is a transit planning project manager with Foursquare Integrated Transportation Planning, a firm hired to help conduct the work. The other consultant is Michael Baker International. Palchik ran a meeting on July 26 that sought to get initial feedback for the study.

“It’s really a feasibility study and implementation plan for expanding transit service in both population and employment centers in Albemarle County,” Palchik said. 

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Albemarle design panel reviews Fontaine Avenue Corridor

The next time you walk, bike, or drive along Fontaine Avenue in Albemarle County, think about possible futures. Much of the land is owned by the University of Virginia or its real estate foundation. The road itself is one of Albemarle’s Entrance Corridors, and as such is under design guidelines of the Architectural Review Board

“The majority of the land is either owned or controlled by the University,” said Fred Missel, director of design and development at the University of Virginia Foundation. “Some land, primarily Foxhaven Farm, Morey Creek, Observatory Hill, are all being held for long-term needs of the University. 

The Albemarle Architectural Review Board reviewed the corridor at its meeting on March 15.

Fontaine Avenue is sign-posted as U.S. 29 Business and runs through the county for a brief stretch before hitting the city line. 

Physical context of the Fontaine Research Park in relation to the rest of the UVA Health System. Source: UVA Architect, Fontaine Master Plan, Page 5

The University of Virginia adopted a master plan for the Fontaine Avenue Research Park in September 2018 as a “flexible road map for future development.” This plan ultimately envisions up to 1.4 million gross square feet of building space. 

“We developed that over the span of about 25 years,” Missel said. “We started in the mid-90’s and we sold the Fontaine Research Park to the University back in I think it was 2018 so that is now considered Grounds, University Grounds.”

Other undeveloped properties include a 12 acre site to the west of Buckingham Circle which the UVA Foundation purchased from the UVA Physicians Group in 2016. The latter secured a rezoning for the Morey Creek property in July 2011 but never built the proposed office building. Missel described this as a “long-term hold for the University.” 

Proffers associated with both the Fontaine Research Park and the Morey Creek involve making the area more pedestrian friendly. The Fontaine property serves as gameday parking for UVA football. 

Another property that could have future buildings scrutinized is the 69-acre “Granger tract” which is undeveloped and currently zoned R-1. The land is currently owned by Stribling Holdings LLC. 

“Access is a real bear because you do have to go under the railroad tracks, but that would not, I don’t believe any of the Fontaine viewsheds but probably would I-64 and potentially U.S. 29.

Another UVA-owned property in the area is the Piedmont Apartments complex run by University Housing for faculty. 

“There has been discussion about whether or not what’s at Piedmont is still the highest and best of the property or if there is some other alternative use that might could be considered longer term and I can tell you that that’s been a question that has been around as long as I’ve been at the Foundation and that’s been 20 years.” 

At the city line begins a Smart Scale funded streetscape project for which a public hearing is expected in “early 2021” according to the initiative’s website.  

Page 29 of a presentation on the Fontaine Avenue Streetscape given to Council in January 2020

Coordination of land use planning in this area used to the purview of a public body called the Planning and Coordination Council. PACC consisted of officials from Albemarle, Charlottesville and the University of Virginia and meetings were open to the public. However, that ended in late 2019 when both the city and the county agreed to convert the body to one not subject to open meetings rules. 

“PACC was formed out of the Three Party Agreement that was established by the UVA, the city and the county back in the 80’s and PACC was dissolved about a year and a half ago,” Missel said.

In its place is the Land Use, Environmental and Planning Committee, which is not open to the public. However, the meeting notes are posted on a public website. Missel is a member of LUEPC in his capacity at the UVA Foundation. And this newsletter is intended to shine as much light as I can on what’s happening. 

Council briefed on Fire Department’s Neighborhood Risk Reduction program

At their meeting on March 16, Charlottesville City Council got a report from the fire department on their new approach toward Community Risk Reduction, which is intended to lower service calls through various preventative measures. Joe Powers was hired from Henrico County to be the first deputy chief for community risk reduction. 

“We’re one of the few fire departments across the United States that has invested in community risk reduction at an executive level,” Powers said. “From a traditional standpoint, we’ve always heard of fire prevention as a part of the fire department. We’re changing that mindset and taking it from a section of the fire department and making it an organizational process.”

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Ridge Street CDBG projects move forward

One item on Charlottesville City Council’s consent agenda for the March 15, 2021 meeting were the recommendations of a task force for how a small pool of federal funding should be spent in the Ridge Street Neighborhood.

The group is suggesting that $25,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money be spent on traffic calming and another $220,000 be spent on three sidewalk projects. As part of the traffic calming, speed limit signs would be installed on the old section of Ridge Street. 

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Thomas Jefferson Planning District region grew by 10.5% in last decade

The Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia has released its annual population estimates for localities across the Commonwealth. Albemarle County has grown by 11.7 percent since the 2010 Census, with an estimated population of 110,545 as of July 1, 2020. The population of the City of Charlottesville increased by 13.8 percent to a population of 49,447. (Weldon Cooper Center site)

There are also increases in most other localities in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. Fluvanna County jumped 5.9 percent to 27,202. Greene County is estimated to be at 20,323, or an increase of 10.4 percent. Louisa County increased by 11.6 percent to a population of 37,011 people. Only Nelson County is estimated to have declined over the past ten years, losing just over a hundred people to 14,904 people. 

When added all together, the planning district as a whole increased 10.5 percent to a total population of 259,432. Other planning districts that experienced that level of growth include Northern Virginia with 13.5 percent growth, the Rappahannock-Rapidan with 8.7 percent, the Richmond Regional at 10.6 percent, the Crater District at 7.7 percent and the George Washington Regional Commission at 14.9 percent. 

The U.S. Census Bureau, however, organizes localities into Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The Charlottesville MSA is similar to the Planning District, with the exception that Louisa County is replaced with Buckingham County. When viewed that way, the MSA grew by 10.4 percent. Buckingham County remained flat in the Weldon Cooper estimate with an increase of just 16 people. 

The U.S. Census results are expected to be posted later in the year, later than the usual release date of April 1.

Source: Weldon Cooper Center

To put this into perspective, I asked Hamilton Lombard at Weldon Cooer a few questions.

These numbers show a ten percent increase in growth in the TJPDC. How does this fit into overall demographic trends in Virginia?

Growth in the TJPDC was the fastest outside Northern Virginia and Richmond (I’m counting Winchester as part of NOVA since it is in the same combined statistical area). The Charlottesville area has grown in part because of UVA, most other college metro areas around the country and in VA, such as Blacksburg and Harrisonburg, have also grown as universities have expanded their enrollment, employment and spending. But the majority of the region’s growth has come from people moving into the Charlottesville area from Northern Virginia and Richmond, particularly younger families and to a lesser extent retirees.

What can you tell us about the Census? When will we see those numbers come out?

The 2020 Census numbers are coming out much later than they have in the past. Right now we probably won’t have any local numbers until the end of September at the earliest. When the 2020 numbers are released they are going to need to be used carefully for two reasons. One reason is that the disruptions from the pandemic may have impacted the Census count.

For example, many UVA students were no longer in Charlottesville when the census was conducted on April 1st, 2020. The bureau has made an effort to ensure students were counted where they attend school but Charlottesville’s 2020 numbers may still be missing some UVA students.

The other reason the 2020 numbers will need to be treated with caution is the bureau’s use of “differential privacy” in the 2020 census which masks respondents identities by moving some respondents to different geographies. As a result the 2020 Census numbers below the state level won’t be 100 percent accurate. For smaller geographies or populations, such as the population of Mineral or the number of Stanardsville residents who identify as Black, the 2020 Census numbers will often not be reliable enough for use. See more here.

Council to seek lower costs for West Main Streetscape through value engineering

An audio and written summary of Council’s September 30 work session on the $49 million project

The current Charlottesville City Council has directed staff to proceed with a study to find ways to bring down the costs of the West Main Streetscape, a long-planned project that has a current cost estimate of $49 million and a construction start time of 2024. 

They also told staff to proceed with removing the Lewis, Clark and Sacagewea statue by using local funds as a separate project that would happen sooner. 

Take a listen to the audio of this story!

The origins of the plan date back to 2012 when Council followed a recommendation from the PLACE Design Task Force to hire a consultant to develop an overall design for the three-quarter mile stretch between the University of Virginia and the Charlottesville Downtown Mall. The Alexandria-based firm Rhodeside and Harwell was hired to do the work. They have been paid $2,854,389.18 to date according to city communications director Brian Wheeler. 

At the beginning of their September 30 work session dedicated to the topic, Council was reminded up front that the overall West Main Study was more than just the development of construction documents for sidewalks, bike lanes and street trees.

“This was not just a streetscape project,” said Jeanette Janiczek, the city’s urban construction initiative manager. “This was an overall look of West Main.”

That overall look at West Main Street included a 2014 parking study from the firm Nelson Nygard. There was a land use review which resulted in a rewrite of the zoning rules for West Main Street. 

For background on why West Main has been the subject of so much study over the years, read my last story on this topic

Janiczek is the city’s liaison to the Virginia Department of Transportation. She became manager for the overall project a couple of years ago, taking over from a person who had been hired by the city to be the urban design planner. 

Local funding has been used to cover the costs of turning the concept approved by a previous Council into construction documents, and those are currently at what engineers refer to as the 60 percent phase. 

The Rhodeside & Harwell process was overseen by a steering committee that met seven times between the fall of 2013 and March 2016. 

“There were also stakeholder group meetings where we grouped people by interest or by relationships,” Janiczek said. “So, independent foundations, and landholders, developers, businesses and restaurants, community groups, that was over a two-day period.” 

There were four large public meetings with the last one in December 2016.

“We are planning to continue with our public involvement depending on our direction forward,” Janiczek said. “Then we’ve also been meeting the City Council and updating you.

When Council opted to move forward in March 2016 with a conceptual design, Janiczek said they disbanded the steering committee. At that time, they became the steering committee.

(link to resolution

Since then, Council took over oversight directly. 

Since then, there have been two elections and all of Council has been replaced.

Councilor Heather Hill was elected in November 2017. To begin the meeting, she asked for an update on what’s happened since. 

“I know that a couple of times, things have been put in front of me through two-two-ones, or some things to Council,” Hill said. “What do we say is what’s the current status, apart from us obviously keeping moving forward. What has been the gap that we’ve been seeing in these timelines when it was a lot of movement going on, and know there’s been kind of lull?”

Janiczek said one reason for the delay is that staff oversight of the project moved to her department. 

“We have been working with the consultants in adapting what was developed as a local project into now a state-funded project,” Janiczek said. “Revisiting the contract, making sure all of the requirements are met.” 

Project’s budget history

The West Main Streetscape has been in the city’s Capital Improvement Program since FY2009, when a total of $1.75 million was anticipated to be allocated over five years at $350,000 a year. 

“This initiative will allow the City to address design and construction of improvements to West Main Street by partnering with private developers,” reads the narrative for the project at that time. “Over the next few years the City will have opportunities to partner with several development projects which will allow for continued streetscaping projects, similar to what the City has done in previous years in partnership with UVA. This project is being phased in accordance with potential coordination with private development efforts.” 

Like many major infrastructure projects, the funding source was anticipated to be through the sale of bonds which the city would pay off through debt service. Interest is low due to the city’s AAA bond rating. 

In 2008, none of the anticipated multistory buildings talked about on West Main were even close to production. An economic downturn also put a freeze on many construction projects. At the time, Gary O’Connell was city manager. 

Due to the lack of a design for construction, allocation of $350,000 in each adopted budget was theoretical and actual appropriations were deferred for several years. That means it was not actually put into a virtual bank account to accrue money for eventual use. 

The project local cost increased sharply in FY2014, when the five-year program suddenly anticipated $750,000 a year for three years for a total of $2.25 million in local funding. By this point, Maurice Jones had been city manager for three years, and the Flats at West Village and the Battle Building were under construction. 

Fiscal year 2015 began on July 1, 2014. That was the first year in which Council voted to program funding for West Main, which means that $750,000 was set aside and began collecting a balance. By that point, Rhodeside & Harwell was under contract for the streetscape project and the community process was underway. 

In January 2015, then-Mayor Satyendra Huja announced he would not support the plan. At this point, the project had a working total cost estimate of $30 million, which included undergrounding utilities. Former Councilors Bob Fenwick and Dede Smith also opposed the project.

Nevertheless, the project continued accumulating money.  

Fiscal year 2016 saw another $500,000 allocated to the project. The other four years anticipated setting aside $1.5 million each year as the Rhodeside & Harwell process envisioned many urban amenities. 

The election of November 2015 saw Councilor Kathy Galvin re-elected, but both Fenwick and Smith were defeated in the Democratic primary that year. Mike Signer and Wes Bellamy joined Galvin on Council. They would lend their support to the project and voted to select a design concept in March 2016. As noted above, they became the steering committee. 

The city made their first application to VDOT’s Smart Scale process that year, and asked for $18.3 million in state funding with a match of $11.7 million in local funds. 

The adopted budget for FY2017 programmed another $3.25 million in local funds for the project. 

“Utility betterment costs will be funded by the City (a local contribution at $1,670,500) and CIP funding ($10 million over the next five years),” reads the application. 

However, the project was not funded. In October 2017, Council agreed to split the project into four phases in order to leverage multiple sources of revenue including millions of dollars in capital funds. 

The FY2018 capital budget programmed another $3.25 million, as did the FY2019 budget. Another $4 million was programmed in the FY20, and another $4 million for the current fiscal year. 

Janiczek said that local funds have been used to develop the master plan for all four phases of the concept. 

“Each of these phases can be done independently,” Janiczek said. “That’s a requirement that there is a logical termini, that they serve a transportation use, that they do not require you to complete another phase and do not preclude you from doing something else. We could do one, or two, or none, or what have you of these phases.” 

The expenses listed for Phase 1 total $16.7 million. Funding sources include $3.276 million from VDOT’s revenue sharing program, which requires a local match. In all, the city is placing $13.4 million in local funds towards this phase.

The expenses listed for Phase 2 total $11.1 million. Funding sources include $2 million from VDOT revenue sharing, $2 million from a successful Smart Scale application, and $7.1 million in local funding. There is another $2.4 million that has not yet been identified. 

The total cost to acquire right of way for all four phases of the project is listed as $12.58 million.

“A lot of the right of way on this corridor is for temporary construction easements,” Janiczek said. “The other is permanent easements for the utility undergrounding. We’re not looking to acquire any parcels, displace any businesses, or anything of that nature.” 

No bonds have been sold yet for the project, but subsequent decisions by Council in each budget cycle has authorized millions of dollars to be spent on the West Main Streetscape project. 

“We have about $18.2 million that have been approved in terms of approved CIPs to sell bonds for for this project,” said Kristy Hammil in the city’s budget office. “There’s an additional $4 million contemplated in the FY22 CIP.”

The city has applied for $10.4 million in additional Smart Scale funds for Phase 3. In all, there is likely only about $20 million in the pool of money for which the city qualifies. 

“We will hear about the outcome of that in early 2021, and we would expect funding to be available at the latest July 1, 2025, with the possibility of escalating if we actually got funded and we can move these phases along faster,” Janiczek said, adding that the costs have been increased to anticipate rises in construction costs. 

There is currently no identified source of funding for Phase 4. The packet for the work session included a March 2018 letter from a former top official at the University of Virginia committing as much as $5 million toward the project.

Other projects on West Main

Another cost facing the city is replacement of water and gas lines on West Main Street.

“We’re at the end of our useful life for the waterline,” Janiczek said. “We also need to increase capacity for all of the things that are being built on West Main. So we’re looking at 3,700 linear feet of 10 inch water line that will need to be installed and its being upsized to 12 inch. The gas line that is 10 inch is also at the end of its useful life, or if you’re digging up the water line you may as well dig up the gas because it wouldn’t be far behind. That was installed in 1930 and we’re looking at 5,000 linear feet of low-pressure 10 inch gas line that will be replaced with a high-pressure four inch gas line.” 

These utilities will be replaced before the streetscape is built, but Janiczek said doing so will create room for where overground electric and communications cable wires will go when they are undergrounded. 

The cost of these utilities are not included in the West Main Streetscape. They are paid for from the capital improvement program for the Department of Public Utilities.

Let’s hear from Janiczek about how this process would work out. This gets us closer to some idea of when this project would get underway. 

“The soonest we could get things going would be the water and gas line design mid 2021 with construction and bidding ending mid 2022,” Janiczek said. “That gives us time to design not only the rest of the streetscape but also the undergrounding of the public utilities and completing the right of way acquisition for both of those activities. That would allow construction of undergrounding to start at the end of 2022 and ending at 2024, and then the streetscape project itself would be for a year. We’re only looking at phase one and phase two hopefully, and that would be through 2024.” 

Dominion will not pay for the cost of undergrounding power lines. Neither will VDOT.

Statue

Council discussed the matter of the Lewis, Clark and Sacagewea statue at a work session on November 15, 2019. Their message was clear. (minutes)

BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the City of Charlottesville, Virginia that staff is directed to present the Council with a plan for the removal of the statue from West Main Street and such plan shall include a cost estimate for the removal of the statue as well as options for the disposal of the statue; 

and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED by the Council of the City of Charlottesville that staff is directed to present a plan to the Council of a new statue of Sacajawea and other memorializations of Virginia native people with primary consultation from indigenous people on the design of the statue and other memorializations of Virginia native people.”

Janiczek said staff is assuming the cost to relocate the statue is $125,000 as part of the West Main project, or it could be relocated before that project gets underway.

“This will impact how the coordination with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources takes place and I need to know what the eventual direction is because we don’t want to relocate something with state funds only then to take local dollars and completely remove it,” Janiczek said. 

Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker said the intention had been to remove the statue as quickly as possible. She reiterated she wanted it moved as soon as possible but she wanted to hear from the three new Councilors. 

“I thought it was already decided that the statue was being moved,” said Vice Mayor Sena Magill. “I honestly thought that was already a done deal and we were just waiting on it to double check if it was going to Darden-Towe and the Lewis and Clark Center there.”

Janiczek said a plan needed to be developed before the statue was relocated. 

“What I would like to do is that if that plan does not come to fruition before West Main that the city would use local dollars and move the statue before West Main began and give assurances to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources that that is our intent and that what is planned to do,” Janiczek said.

Snook said the November 15 resolution clearly states that the plan had been for staff to prepare a plan. 

“Are you waiting for additional guidance from Council before developing the plan or who is waiting for whom?” Snook asked. 

“I think there’s a question as to where the money will come from in the CIP to move the statue,” Janiczek said. “I think it also creating a plan of where that will eventually be housed appears to be a long process.”

“A long process for us, or a long process for other people?” Snook asked. 

“I think we know we want to get rid of it but I don’t know if there is agreement for where it’s going to go,” Janiczek said.

Walker said she had expected to have been presented with that information as well as what a replacement might be for the existing space. Phase 1 calls for a pocket park at that location. 

“And then there were some concerns about where it sits currently what would happen at that space and I thought we would be presented with what those options were,” Walker said. 

Janiczek said she was not sure if those options were.

“I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be doing that,” Janiczek said, but added the area was being reserved for a future public art area but the West Main project did not anticipate a specific replacement statue. 

Janiczek said the plans for Phase 1 currently anticipate the statue being moved 25 feet away anyway in order to remove the right-hand turn lane from West Main Street onto southbound Ridge Street. That is a core element of the project.

“We’re trying to remove that and create a little pedestrian area,” Janiczek said. 

Snook asked how much Albemarle County spent to remove the Confederate statue from Court Square. In response to a question from city staff, Albemarle officials said they had spent $106,000 to do so. About two-thirds of that was construction related to remove the concrete pedestal. 

If local funds are used to pay for removal, the work might not trigger review required by the Virginia Department of Historical Resources. That would come into play if state funds were used. 

“VHDR does not want to dictate what the locality does with their resources but if we do use state funds then yes, they do have a say,” Janiczek said.

Magill said she wanted to see an estimate of using local money. Walker suggested putting out an request for proposals to see if any entity would pay for its removal. 

Value engineering

Value engineering will seek to find efficiencies in the project that has been designed to the 60 percent stage and to see if there can be alternatives.

“We always consider the project’s purpose and need when evaluating these alternatives, the previous public input, other city department’s responses, public commitments to other boards, and if we’re going to change something we’re probably going to have to redesign it and incur those costs as well,” Janiczek said.

Value engineering saved $1 million on the Belmont Bridge.

The firm RK&K will be paid to do the work. They were the firm in charge of designing the Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange and are currently working on the Fontaine Avenue Streetscape

Janicezk said the hope is to coordinate Phase 1 and Phase 2 at the same time. There will need to be a design public hearing under VDOT’s process. The value engineering work could be revealed at that meeting.

Hill supported the value engineering. 

“I certainly want us to stretch ourselves to try to value engineer this as much as possible but also have the option to evaluate like, ‘Oh does that even make sense? Or is that going to diminish the objective of the project is,” Hill said.

Janiczek said possible variables could include the kind of light fixtures used, what kind of transit stops are built, and mechanisms to place new street trees in a way that would allow them to grow without infiltrating nearby utilities. 

In this latter point, the Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review was shown in April 2018 how the new trees would be installed in something called a “silva cell” as part of an intricate stormwater management network. They are manufactured by a company called Deep Root.

“There are ways to save money but I’m not sure,” Janiczek said. “With this project more than any other project this has a lot to do with design.” 

Councilor Michael Payne said he could see the need for a value engineering study to question some of the fundamentals of the project and to acquaint the new Council with the project. 

“The intent of the project from the design perspective and some of the bigger picture visions of the project, what of those things get lost or sacrificed in bringing down the cost and some of the questions that brings up,” Payne said. “It’s so expensive because there’s this much larger vision of it being a unique streetscape from a design perspective way beyond the most necessary infrastructure needs.” 

Janiczek said the University of Virginia’s contribution of $5 million could go to Phase 3 or Phase 4. 

“They came up with that figure based on a letter from the city where we took all of the pedestrian improvements from each of the phases and tallied them up and that’s how the $5 million figure kind of got established,” Janiczek said. “I would imagine they would be most interested in applying it to as close to Grounds as possible.”

Bridge Builders

The conversation also touched upon how the streetscape would change the Drewary Brown Bridge. The group Preservation Piedmont has called for signage and a greater awareness of the names enshrined upon the bridge, including the late John Conover. 

“It had to do with adding some additional signage on the bridge, that’s certainly doable,” Janiczek said. “Adding banners to the light poles. We’ll just have to make sure that can be accommodated on the light pole that we choose.”

Janiczek said a third option was to put artwork on the bridge itself, but she said the West Main Streetscape had not intended any work on the actual structure due to the additional cost as well as coordination with Norfolk Southern. 

“It sounds like it may make more sense for that to be done, something done the city does as a separate process but sort of timed in conjunction with the West Main Streetscape,” said City Councilor Michael Payne. 

“Please let’s not have the engineering division do that, yes,” Janiczek said. 

Mayor Walker said the project has to be balanced against other city priorities. She said she would support cutting the project’s price tag in half. 

“If we start comparing, for me and my one fifth vote, projects like this up against where we are now with schools, reconfiguration project and things like that then it takes a very different turn for me than it has been for me because we’re in a different climate,” Walker said. 

The firm RK&K will be paid to do the value engineering. They were the firm in charge of designing the Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange and are currently working on the Fontaine Avenue Streetscape

“It’s good to communicate to them that we might be open to something that we wouldn’t necessarily have been open to on previous projects,” Janiczek said, adding it would take about two months for the work to be done. 

Possible cost savings could come through changing the selected light fixtures, the type of materials used in the sidewalk, and more alterations to the design the city has already paid for. 

Councilor Payne said one of the questions he will have when the report comes back is whether the original intent of the streetscape project matches where the community’s values are now in the midst of a pandemic and a need for other capital costs. 

“If cuts are reached to the point where we are sacrificing the original intent and vision of the entire streetscape project, the question of what is really the purpose or intent of what we’re doing if we’ve made cuts to that extent, which I think is tied into other conversations, thinking about other competing CIP needs with school reconfiguration and housing.” 

Payne also supported efforts to emphasize the city’s history on West Main Street, and not just at the Drewary Brown Bridge. 

“Part of what I want this project to do is to connect the university to downtown at a bike pedestrian level in a way that is inviting, that causes people to say, ‘oh that’s an easy walk,’ or ‘that’s an easy bike ride,” said Councilor Lloyd Snook. “Right now it’s not a very pedestrian friendly place. For one half of it is under construction of various sorts. Hopefully by the time that 2024 rolls around we will have gotten through all of this construction. I would like to see it be almost a kind of boulevard sensibility that causes to like it as a bike and pedestrian way and hopefully we get away from some of the cars along there.” 

Walker said this is one item that coucome up at Council’s joint work session on October 28 with the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and UVA officials.

“If the goal is to connect UVA to the downtown, then UVa needs to participate at a higher level if they are going to be the primary users of this service and with the cost,” Walker said. “If they are the primary consumer, then their $5 million is not sufficient.” 

Since September 30 

It’s been three weeks since the work session. I asked Brian Wheeler to tell me what’s happened since that time. 

  • Conducted coordination meeting with the VDOT.
  • Conducted coordination meeting with Rhodeside & Harwell.
  • Responded to and posed questions to Bridge Builders regarding banners & signage requests.
  • Verified estimate and gave notice to proceed for the VDOT to conduct historical review and coordination with the VDHR.
  • Executed scope and gave notice to proceed to RK&K to conduct Value Engineering Study.
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