Tag Archives: Growth

A Stark Look at Urban Planning in Charlottesville and Albemarle

What do most people think about when they think about “Charlottesville”?

The Downtown Mall? It’s in the City. Monticello? That’s in the County. So’s the Rotunda. And John Paul Jones Arena.

Know what doesn’t get shared effectively or efficiently? Planning how to get from Darden Business School to the Downtown Mall. Absurd, right?

Ever wonder about the differences in urban planning in Charlottesville and Albemarle?

I’ve often likened the relationship between City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle as that of estranged parents who get along just well enough to feed their kids. Most of the time.

Hmmmm ….

Sean Tubbs at Charlottesville Tomorrow writes a must-read piece this weekOne community, two approaches to urban planning in which he delves into the disparities between the City and County in population (the County has a lot more people), funding (the City has a lot more to work with) and ability to plan and implement said plans (the County is at a significant disadvantage to the City).

To guide that growth, the county has adopted four master plans that cover the U.S. 29 corridor, Pantops, Crozet and the Village of Rivanna.

However, the county’s proposed capital budget identifies no new funding to implement projects called for in those plans. For instance, one item that will be deferred is a long-awaited small area plan for the intersection of Rio Road and U.S. 29.

On the other hand, the Comprehensive Plan adopted by the City Council last year calls for small area plans, two of which are currently underway.

They are the “strategic investment area” in central Charlottesville completed by the firm Cunningham and Quill and the $340,000 streetscape of West Main Street.

The city’s proposed capital budget also includes $2.1 million in the next year to begin implementation of those plans.

“That’s money for design for whichever projects we decide to move forward,” said Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services, at the council work session. He said this could include street improvements or work to begin daylighting Pollocks Branch, a creek running underground near Friendship Court and the Ix warehouse complex.

The localities have a symbiotic relationship. The City of Charlottesville has the Downtown Mall and the “hustle and bustle” of a City. The County has Monticello. And a whole lot of UVA (think Boar’s Head, Klockner Stadium, office buildings along Emmett Street, too). Route 29 runs through the City and County for goodness sakes. One would think that the City and County would agree on how its citizens traveled. The City of Charlottesville is not an island. (found via Statchatva.org )

Courtesy Cooper Weldon Center for Demographics

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Posted in Albemarle, Charlottesville, Growth | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Downtown Charlottesville Redevelopment Planned

Growth within Charlottesville City limits is going to get even more dense in the future, and not just along West Main Street.

It’s long been said that the area south of the Downtown Mall is some of the best real estate in the City of Charlottesville.

It’s a big plan. Bold, edgy and, in my opinion will likely result in something sometime that will look a little bit like the proposed plan. In true Charlottesville fashion,

“It’s a conceptual study, and one of the things we recommend as an immediate next step is additional study,” Pierce-McManamon responded.

This is the sort of thing that anybody thinking about buying or renting anywhere near the City of Charlottesville should at least know about, if not know. Everything will be touched by this plan – by its implementation and by the conversation about the possibility of the implementation. Thoughts of “what if” will impact property values and buyers’ decisions.

This proposal touches on everything – the economy, transportation, infrastructure, affordable housing (Friendship Court would be gone), jobs, the real estate market – everything. Keep in mind that this is a visionary plan. So far as I can discern, there is no developer in the wings pushing for this plan.

You may want to spend some time reading the linked documents – 300 plus pages – at Charlottesville Tomorrow. The historical section that breaks down the development history of downtown Charlottesville is particularly interesting.

By 1990, connectivity in the area had decreased dramatically. Although new buildings began to spring up along Garrett Street in the 1980s, the super-blocks remained. New development occurred in a piece-meal fashion, without a large-scale employer taking the place of the previous industries which had closed.

There is likely to be more discussion at cvillenews. Continue reading

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Do You Know What You Don’t Know about County Public Meetings?

What happens in public hearings affects darn near everyone.

So much happens in Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meetings that the public doesn’t find out about – and then get up in arms about, or support – until it (whatever it is) is too far along to change.

I try my best to follow what happens in these meetings as I think it’s part of my job to know more than my clients – whether buyers or sellers. I need to know what might be happening over there that might impact their quality of life, traffic congestion, shopping options, potential resale competition, growth and human settlement patterns, property taxes – you name it, it’s covered at local public meetings.

For example, the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting is chock full of stuff that will affect people’s lives and property values, and these public hearings are all over the County – Barracks Road, 29 North, Pantops, Crozet …

Public Hearings (links go to PDFs):
ACSA-2013-0002. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc
ZMA-2012-00003. Out of Bounds

ZMA-2012-00004. Avon Park II
ZMA-2013-00001. The Lofts at Meadowcreek

ZMA-2012-0005. Hollymead Town Center (A-1)

ZMA-2013-0007. North Pointe Amendment

ZMA-2013-0002. Pantops Corner

SP-2013-000015. Mahone Family

ZTA-2013-00006. Residential and Industrial Uses in Downtown Crozet Zoning District (“DCD”)

If you’re interested in following these public meetings, two of the more prolific tweeters of public meetings are Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum and Sean Tubbs of Charlottesville Tomorrow.

To be equitable, I looked for the Charlottesville City Council’s agenda but it has not yet been posted. (actually it’s postponed, per C-Ville) Continue reading

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A Big Shift in Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors

Virginia Board of Elections - Election Night Results - November 5th, 2013 - Snow-Palmer.jpg

A lot of money was raised and spent in these elections.

The Albemarle County elections last night brought about a resounding change on the Albemarle County Supervisors. Gone are Rodney Thomas and Duane Snow; in are Brad Sheffield and Liz Palmer. For what it’s worth, the Democrats won and the Republicans lost.

Looking at the races through the lens of VPAP data, I saw this in a Facebook conversation:

So which Supervisors are beholden to real estate development groups? Here are some of the top donations by industry… Notice a pattern?

Duane Snow, $17,800 Real Estate/Construction
Liz Palmer, $26,043 Miscellaneous
Rodney Thomas, $12,300 Real Estate/Construction
Brad Sheffield, $17,386 Miscellaneous

It’s hard to argue with money. Seemingly more than the ballot box, money matters.

Local elections matter. The localities vote on growth management strategies, property tax rates, the ways in which the emergency services operate and cooperate (or not) and notably transportation and infrastructure improvements. And yesterday, about 13,000 people in Albemarle County helped decide the near (and long) term future of Albemarle County.

J. Reynolds Hutchins at the DP says:

Palmer, Sheffield and McKeel ran campaigns hinged on the county’s growing transportation problems and angst over the Western Bypass of U.S. 29.

Whether the Western Bypass gets built will be an interesting (continued) debate. Will they build it? Will they shut it down? Will they study it more? Will they extend it so it’s a more logical and functional road?

The County needs infrastructure improvements … let’s see how the new Board chooses to take up that task.

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The Walkable City – Achievable in Charlottesville?

What would it take to make Charlottesville and Albemarle truly walkable? People who live in areas that are walkable are happier, leaner, have more money for leisure, spend more time with their families … is that really achievable in the Charlottesville area?

The answer is – the public would have to express its desire for this, the leaders would have to listen to the people, collaborate, plan and execute a vision that would enable the City of Charlottesville and County of Albemarle to create more walkable and bikeable localities. Of course, in an area that takes 30+ years to build a short Parkway, I think there’s a better chance of flying cars gaining prominence than thoughtful infrastructure being implemented.

What could be done to craft a truly walkable City/County?

Walkability matters – there are growing urban cores within Charlottesville and Albemarle and the sprawlish segmentation continues. But … what if each of these urban cores grows up and densely?

This is the original Google Map I did in 2007. I’ve updated it for today’s world. Biscuit Run is no longer planned. Albemarle Place is now Stonefield (and is built). North Pointe is far off in the horizon.

This is a map of the “town centers” in the Charlottesville – Albemarle area

(If you’re looking for homes near these, use the radius search on my search site) Continue reading

Posted in Albemarle, Charlottesville, Growth, Transportation | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

West Main Street – The Solution to UVA’s Housing Crunch?

That’s what it’s seeming like, and the Charlottesville City Planning Department is starting to realize the ramifications of being said solution to UVA’s growth.

Charlottesville Tomorrow reports (read the whole thing):

Several members of the Charlottesville Planning Commission said Tuesday they leaned toward not approving an apartment complex on West Main Street unless the needs of an adjacent public housing site are taken into consideration.

“I have grave concerns about the social justice and the environmental justice issues of putting a project like this next to Westhaven,” said CommissionerGenevieve Keller.

The developers of the proposed 189-unit development, the Standard, had a preliminary discussion with the commission during its meeting Tuesday night. The developers need a special use permit to allow for additional density and building height.

The ramifications – rents, homeownership rates, transience, transportation, the demand for ancillary services – of so many rental units coming on the market at pretty much the same time will be … interesting. We’ll know more in 24 months.

And here you have the story of transportation/infrastructure/”planning” of Charlottesville and Albemarle … in a nutshell (bolding mine):

The Planning Commission is slated to vote on the special use permit later this year, but Keller said she wanted to wait until the results of a $350,000 study of infrastructure required to guide redevelopment of West Main Street. No timetable for that study has been made available.

Look … I’m not saying they should wait for the study results, but I am saying that our localities’ respective proclivities to plan and study and plan to study and study the plan – while growth happens is harmful. To the localities, to businesses, to basic qualities of life of those of us who live here.

Background story on RealCentralVA from October 2012. Some of the other stories I’ve written about West Main Street.

A look at West Main on Google Maps.

I *really* wish Flickr allowed for geographic searching; searching for “West Main” isn’t so useful.

COeverywhere looks really promising from a mobile perspective for (hyper)local insight. Continue reading

Posted in Charlottesville, Growth, Transportation | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Local Elections Matter – Charlottesville and Albemarle Edition

The Virginia Public Access Project - Albemarle County

Local elections matter immensely – they’re where our growth, land use, property taxes, police and more relevant policies are implemented. I’ll be writing about the Albemarle, Charlottesville and Greene elections more as we get nearer to the elections, but for now, three of the most important resources available for Charlottesville and Albemarle and local/state politics, respectively are:

- Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Candidate Forum Calendar. They will be posting their comprehensive Election Guide soon.

- VPAP, the Virginia Public Access Project tracks money in elections. Sadly, it appears that Albemarle and Charlottesville are the only two local localities participating.

– Albemarle – So far, $86,303 is being reported as having been raised between the three races. Duane Snow is getting killed in fundraising – Liz Palmer reporting nearly $30k versus his $8,500
– Charlottesville – So far, about $12k is being reported as having been raised. Will this be the year a non-Democrat gets elected to City Council?

- C-Ville’s recent Albemarle County Supervisor interviews. Rio District, Samuel Miller and Jack Jouett. Continue reading

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Downtown Charlottesville Expanding

Essentially, that’s what’s going to happen if this Strategic Investment Area plan in the the City of Charlottesville comes to fruition – even in part.

More bike lanes, more connectivity, more density – Charlottesville could truly become more citified through the implementation of these proposals.

“It’s the center of the town, people live there, there are no cars and it’s wonderful,” Kuttner said. “This is such an amazing opportunity.”

The centerpiece of the plan is a linear park that would span the study area. A stream would flow through a central plaza on the Ix property to provide a public gathering place. Meadows and gardens would be created to filter stormwater. 
“There’s been a big focus on moving on this city to be a more green city,” Quill said. 

Several streets would be reconfigured with bike lanes and wider sidewalks. Second Street Southeast and Garret Street would be modified to accommodate additional buildings. 

View Larger Map

Click through to read the options presented to the City, or download the PDF here.

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