How many Town Centers do we need in CharlAlbemarle?

Just in CharlAlbemarle –

Hollymead Town Center (29 North)
Old Trail Town Center (Crozet, West of Charlottesville)
Belvedere Town Center (North Central Charlottesville) – link not yet live
Albemarle Place (Central Charlottesville)
North Pointe (29 North)
The Downtown Mall (City Center)
– Eventually there will be one in or around the Biscuit Run development to the South of the City.

Update 05-02-2007: Here is my first attempt at Google MyMaps; it was too easy.

What are the effects and impacts of the proliferation of town centers? Both short- and long-term?  A loss of identity. A loss of the “Small town” feel that has been so appealing. More shopping.

From a real estate perspective, these may have very different and varied effects:

– One will be that some buyers will want to be as close as possible to the town centers to take advantage of the “walkability” of what these town centers will offer.

– On the flip side, the town centers will drive perhaps an equal number away from these town centers; these people want access to the shopping offered, but don’t want to see or deal with the town centers and the traffic, congestion, sounds, smells, etc. on a daily basis.

– And even further, some will be driven further out in the rural areas so that they can get as far away as possible.

What is the common denominator? The automobile.

I fear that the analogy of Northern Virginia may in fact be coming to fruition, albeit on a much smaller scale. Midtown Reston Town Center, Reston Town Center, Sterling Town Center or Dulles Town Center, anyone?

Which town centers am I missing in the surrounding Counties?  Might there be any readers from Northern Virginia who live and work in or near their Town Centers? Any transplants to C’Ville who are willing to share their perspective?

Update #2 05/02/2007Interesting and relevant article from the WSJ blog today.

Right now, my husband and I are still renting, but we have started to think of making the big purchase. Already issues have come up: I want to be near the small downtown, within walking distance of the grocery store and pharmacy, while my husband prefers a more tranquil neighborhood farther out. I have no problem moving somewhere for a year or two and then trying something different; my husband dreads moving and wants to hold off until we find the perfect place – so we will stay put for a while.

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  1. Waldo Jaquith May 2, 2007 at 09:53

    This is the design approach taken by the Rouse brothers in creating Columbia, MD. They have a series of “village centers” throughout the sprawling suburban city. Problem is, Columbia sucks. By not having an urban core, the population density is never great enough to support mass transit or walkability on any scale.

    Having a series of cores could even mean that the overall population density for a city is enough to get close to that magic 50 people / acre, but the distribution is such that it’s still not dense enough.

  2. MB May 2, 2007 at 19:47

    I agree with the points made. However, from a more economic standpoint, the developers of these “Town Centers” have spend oodles of $$ on feasibility studies to calculate namely disposable income–if it’s there, then the retail is built. The growth/planning aspect is really another argument…which you guys touch on very well. However, from a free market perspective, I would say the developers of these projects (hopefully) know what they’re doing.

    Lastly, I would add in the Zion Town Center.

  3. Arthur May 2, 2007 at 21:57

    I lived in Fresno, Ca for a while. While it is different from Charlottesville in almost every other way, Fresno also has a downtown pedestrian mall that it created to compete with commercial competition to the north. The Fresno version has been much less successful, mostly vacant the last time I was there. The city continues to direct money into the area, building a snazzy ($46mil) new baseball stadium for the Giants AAA affiliate and renovating the train station ($6 mil), but this appears to have done little to stem the tide of business energy north. It seems like every 5 or 10 years a bigger, newer “town(e) center” would go up 5 miles north of the last one, its shiny new movie theater, macaroni grill and Outback steakhouse exercising their charms and luring shoppers and business up, up and away.

  4. Jim Duncan May 2, 2007 at 22:19

    MB –

    I don’t disagree with that at all. Typically these companies know what their clientèle look like, smell like, what time they go to bed, what they drive and how often. They don’t tend to make decisions that have not been calculated to the nth degree.

    My question is evolving to be one not whether they can build, but whether they should.

    I added the proposed one in Zion Crossroads.

    Regarding the lack of population density – it seems it would make sense for the region to build some form of transit between each of these “new cores.”

  5. Mike James May 3, 2007 at 07:48

    I live in Reston, and unlike Columbia, it’s a roaring success, with both internal and external transit services, five village centers — one of which is usually within walking distance of most residents — and a fabulous Town Center (I don’t understand the reference to a “Midtown Town Center” — there’s only one) which is easily accessible by transit, auto, and for the numerous residents in the urban core, as pedestrians. I have lived here for forty years, so have observed the development almost from the beginning. (By the way — you missed another local “Town Center” — Fairfax Town Center” This center, like most of the others you mentioned, is just a shopping pricinct with a glorified name.)

  6. Charlottesville May 3, 2007 at 08:14

    cVillain likes town centers because we get more gossip out of them.

  7. Arlingtgon Virginia Condos -- Jay May 3, 2007 at 10:23

    The Reston Town Center is indeed a raging success and I close on a condo there at the end of the month. The overwhelming majority of single and young professionals prefer to live in some sort of an urban village or town center where all the entertainment and retial is “walkie”. Also though many of the boomers are downsizing to these town centers as well.

    The most popular village of all is probably Clarendon in Northern Virginia but my understanding is that more are on the way in Falls Church, Dulles and maybe a smaller one a Merrifield in the Fairfax/Falls Church area.

    The good thing about town centers up here in Northern VA is that they usually revitalized areas or corridors that were hurting for redevelopment so everybody won including the greater tax revenues generated for the local county.


    p.s. I put you on my blogroll….

  8. 2centDonor May 4, 2007 at 08:00

    Northtown Center is a shoppping center Mr. Wood is working on across from Schewels on Rt. 29.

    UREF has a Town Center in its North Fork Business Park.

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