Land Use - Albemarle, Meeting Reports, Placemaking, Urban Design

Architectural review board ponders its role under a form-based code

Albemarle planners are very clear that creating a form-based code for a portion of the county’s designated growth area is intended to speed up the development review process. 

“The goal of this project first and foremost is to incentivize redevelopment in this area consistent with the Rio Road Small Area Plan that was adopted last year,” said Rachel Falkenstein, a principal planner in the Albemarle Department of Community Development.

Albemarle Supervisors adopted the plan in December 2018 as a way to transform 20th century shopping centers into a 21st century “place” where people can live, work and play. That lofty vision that could help the county meets many of its housing, transportation and employment goal, but the details remain to be written that will translate the idea into reality.

“The majority of the land in the Rio-29 area is in entrance corridor overlay,” Falkenstein said. 

Three members of the Architectural Review Board spent some time on October 7, 2019 discussing the matter. The ARB is charged with judging development proposals against the Entrance Corridor (EC) guidelines, a step that many developers argue adds time to the process. 

“Personally I would have no objection to providing a solution where staff could potentially administratively review and approve items,” said ARB member Dade Van Der Werf. 

County planner Michaela Accardi said the proposed form-based code and certain EC guidelines are compatible, pointing out that #9 and #12 are of particular note. 

“Building forms and features, including roofs, windows, doors, materials, colors and textures should be compatible with the forms and features of the significant historic buildings in the area, exemplified by (but not limited to) the buildings described in Appendix A,” reads number 9. “The standard of compatibility can be met through scale, materials, and forms which may be embodied in architecture which is contemporary as well as traditional. The replication of important historic sites in Albemarle County is not the objective of these guidelines.”

“Architecture proposed within the Entrance Corridor should use forms, shapes, scale, and materials to create a cohesive whole,” reads number 12. 

One ARB member said he thought the form-based code could be an improvement over the current system. 

“It seems to me that these character areas, for lack of a better word, will be a huge advantage over what we’re dealing with now where we sort of have this one size fits all approach, yet we have areas that are very different in terms of their architectural heritage,” said Frank Stoner. “I think it will be a great improvement.”

Another intent of the form-based code would be to encourage a more walkable community in part by bringing buildings closer to the street.  But which street? U.S. 29, or new streets that would be created to serve the new places? 

“What is the intended character of Rio Road and U.S. 29?” Accardi asked. “Are auto-oriented designs appropriate along this road? We in this ordinance need to be thinking about where buildings should front and face. Should that be on U.S. 29 or should it be an interior network? That has been an on-going challenge.” 

Stoner said there is one reality to consider.

“The highway is not going to go away,” Stoner said. “But most of the plans that I’ve seen at the schematic level are trying to reorganize things and create appealing spaces within these quadrants, not necessarily facing U.S. 29.” 

At the same meeting, the ARB approved a final plan for a chain restaurant along U.S. 29. In the near future, they’ll also review plans for a car wash at the corner of Woodbrook and U.S. 29 on land currently occupied by the law firm Allen, Allen, Allen and Allen.

“There will still be uses and businesses that their desire will be to front U.S. 29 for visibility,” said ARB member Frank Hancock.

Falkenstein agreed. 

“We hear from VDOT that they’re going to continue to maximize speed and capacity of this roadway and they’ve put a lot of money into doing so,” Falkenstein said. “I do think that it will continue to be very auto-oriented and perhaps we can think about that in terms of scale of things. The scale of architecture and development along U.S. 29 could be a more auto-oriented scale.”

Before staff gets to the details of how the EC guidelines would become the form-based code, there still need to other considerations. 

“We have to write the regulations for the forms and architecture of the building and we can focus on local interior streets,” Falkenstein said. “We have to specify where the buildings orient, where the pedestrian entrances should be, where the roof forms and the facade treatment should go.”

PROCESS TO DATE 

The form-based code has gone before the Planning Commission twice this summer and will go before that body again on Tuesday for another work session.  

“We’ve heard from the Planning Commission that we should regulate block size or allow for pedestrian passages to make sure we don’t have large expanses of buildings,” Falkenstein said. 

Falkenstein said the Planning Commission has recommended a by-right height of four stories with an additional two stories if the structure contains items the county wants, such as additional housing that is below-market. 

Another aspect of the code will be to determine where it will be appropriate to require ground-floor retail uses to create active streets.

“There might be an architectural component to this by having higher ceiling heights or more transparency along the first floor,” Falkenstein said. 

Falkenstein said another question will be whether the county could relax its minimum parking requirements to avoid large expanses of asphalt. 

Much of the work has been done in-house.

“We had a consultant early on back in 2016 and we had a grant from the state of $60,000,” Falkenstein said. 

Stoner asked what would happen if an applicant was unhappy with a staff recommendation or interpretation. Planner Margaret Maliszewski said there would be some sort of an appeal process to either the ARB or the Board of Supervisors. 

“That would be something that as staff we have to work through where there should be exceptions while balancing between flexibility and ensuring there is not an exception for every place, which would invalidate the purpose,” Accardi said. 

July 2020 is the target for adoption of the form-based code. On Tuesday, October 15, the Albemarle Economic Development Authority will be presented with the results of a series of stakeholder groups held with businesses in September. 









Land Use - Albemarle, Land Use - Charlottesville, Meeting Reports

Regional transit partnership paving way for better mobility in greater Charlottesville 

As the population of greater Charlottesville area continues to increase, so too will the need for alternatives to driving alone in single-occupancy vehicles. Doing so will reduce traffic congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create better communities. 

Both Albemarle and the city of Charlottesville have Comprehensive Plans which call for dense, urban communities where people can choose not to drive because there are alternatives such as transit and greenways.  But how do we make sure those plans get implemented and options increase? 

I will continue to advocate for improvements to make it easier for people to make a change. We will also educate people about how policies work and how they can be improved. That is the purpose of this article, which is based on the June 27, 2019 meeting of the Regional Transit Partnership (RTP). 

Background 

There are currently three major transit agencies that operate in the area. They are the Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT), which is solely owned by the city and operates under their public works department. There’s JAUNT, a public service corporation owned by local governments that provides paratransit and commuter routes throughout the greater region. JAUNT also provides door-to-door service for people in rural communities. Finally, there is the University Transit Service (UTS), which focuses solely on moving people around the University of Virginia. 

In the late 2000s, there was a push to create a Regional Transit Authority that would become the sole provider of bus service in the city and county. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) coordinated the effort, which included a committee tasked with thinking through the details of how the three agencies might come together as one. 

Among other reasons, the idea fizzled after the General Assembly failed to pass legislation allowing a sales tax referendum to pay for the authority’s operations. The regional transit committee eventually disbanded. Discussions on the future of transit revered back to the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). 

Several years later, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors began pressing city officials for more details about how their annual bill for the service was calculated. That resulted in the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, JAUNT and the TJPDC forming in 2017 a Regional Transit Partnership to address that and other issues. 

The group currently meets monthly to discuss ways that CAT, JAUNT and UTS can cooperate in the name of increased community mobility.  Each serves a slightly different constituency, but when they work together, the goals of less traffic congestion and greater community mobility are more likely to be met. 

The RTP is valuable to our region’s future and fits within the community’s goals for urban areas that function well. This article is intended to serve as a primer for a public body that needs a higher public profile. 

The current numbers

One of the most commonly used metrics for how people get around is the American Community Survey, a service of the U.S. Census Bureau. The 2017 survey found that 76 percent of Albemarle commuters drove to work in a single-occupancy vehicle and another 11 percent carpooled. Only two percent took public transit, one percent rode a bike and another two percent walked. 

The numbers get a bit better when you look at the 2017 numbers for the urbanized population of 103,716 people that includes the city of Charlottesville. Sixty-eight percent drove alone and 11 percent carpooled. The public transit figures rose to six percent and eight percent walked to work. Cycling remained the same at two percent. 

One of the catalysts for the RTP’s creation was a desire by Albemarle to have up-to-date information about ridership. That data was being provided regularly but the most recent data available on the RTP website is unfortunately from December.

Ridership on CAT was down 5.35 percent from December 2017 to December 2018. In real terms, the drop was from 144,811 passengers to 137,065. 

Ridership on all routes declined except the trolley-style bus and Route 2, which serves the Fifth Street Station shopping center. JAUNT also experienced a ridership decrease over that period, with a 12.9 percent decline. (March 2019 ridership report)

Ridership declined nine percent from 2013 to 2017, according to reports filed with the Federal Transit Administration

The declines could eventually lead to a loss in funding. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) continues to implement transit reform that passed the General Assembly in 2018.  For those interested in improving community mobility in the region, it is crucial to keep an eye on how policies are made. (bill)

States changes in transit planning 

For many years, transit agencies in the state that receive public funding had to create a transit development plan (TDP) every six years. According to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, such plans “help transit operators improve their efficiency and effectiveness by identifying the need and required resources for modifying and enhancing services provided to the general public.” 

While CAT submitted an updated plan to DRPT last October, the plan has not been adopted by the City Council. Its most recent director, John Jones, left the position in February. 

The draft plan recommended many route changes but acting director Juwhan Lee told the RTP at the June 27 meeting that the agency decided to hold off until a new director settles in.  A month later, City Manager Tarron Richardson selected Garland Williams for the post. Williams has been the director of planning and scheduling for the Greater Richmond Transit System

Williams takes the reins at a time when the DRPT is switching away from requiring a TDP in favor of a new “transit strategic plan.” CAT will be among the first localities to create such a plan when that work begins in the summer of 2020. 

JAUNT also created a new TDP but their Board of Directors had not adopted it as of June 2019.

“The recommendations that came out of the TDP were not fully-formed enough for us to carry forward,” said JAUNT CEO Brad Sheffield. As a result, his team of planners has been working to collect more data to provide more information. 

JAUNT is implementing some of the recommendations from its TDP, such as the August 5 launch of commuter service between Crozet and the University of Virginia. 

“There is a recommendation in there about on-demand transit and we are in the process of analyzing that concept and the platform that would be needed,” Sheffield said. 

The strategic plans will require agencies to demonstrate what they will do to increase ridership and enhance service. This is part of legislation that passed the General Assembly in 2018 that reforms how transit is funded in Virginia. (bill)

“The General Assembly has said ‘we want you to really tell us what you’re trying to get out of this idea you want funded,’” Sheffield said. Annual reports from the plan will also have to document whether progress is being made. 

RTP successes 

The most significant achievement of the RTP has been to forge an agreement between the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle over how CAT calculates the county’s contributions for fixed-route transit services. That agreement was adopted by elected officials in both communities this summer after months of negotiations. 

“That’s a big win because it’s the first time that’s ever been done,” said Chip Boyles, the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. 

The partnership has also resulted in agencies coming closer to sharing data with each other, including from e-scooter services. Better understanding of that data might help explain ridership declines as well as paint a more accurate picture of how people who don’t drive get around the community.

More funding through can come through discussion 

The meetings also provide an opportunity for the agencies to talk about new sources of revenue. In May, there had been a robust discussion about whether Charlottesville Area Transit should report more data to the federal government in order to qualify for more funding. 

In June, the acting transit director told the RTP that it would be a matter of hiring more staff or getting a consultant to report the additional data. This would allow it to qualify for the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Transit Intensive Cities program.  (flowchart

“The project is an additional $500,000 and so that’s our end goal and we’re trying to figure out how we get there,” Lee said. “We’re also waiting for a new transit director to be part of the discussion.”

We wait to see what Mr. Williams will bring to the table. 

Whither the RTP? 

Near the end of the meeting, one member of City Council asked an existential question.

“Is this RTP just going to go on indefinitely?” asked City Councilor Kathy Galvin. “Is this a task force? What is the end game?” 

Boyles said the goal is to either create a regional transit authority or create a regional system that works together despite being multiple agencies. He said his hope is that the regional vision will continue to evolve as CAT and other transit agencies work on their planning documents. 

“That will hopefully push us in a direction of asking whether the authority is the end game,” Boyles said. 

Boyles said another benefit of the continued existence of the partnership is better alignment between the University Transit Service and the rest of the community. UTS is entirely paid for through enrollment fees and does not have to report any data to the state or federal government. That could change.   

“Currently UVA is a non-voting member of this board and they are now interested in becoming a member,” Boyles said.

Boyles said he does not see the RTP ending in the near future because of the work that needs to be done.

“It’s more important than ever that we are accurately reflecting ridership because of the new funding requirements,” Boyles said. “That’s new since this partnership began. The other thing that we will have to adjust for is the likelihood after the 2020 Census that the MPO boundaries will change which will change transit service as well.”

Talk about the regional transit partnership could come up again in September when the Board of Supervisors and City Council meet for a third time this calendar year. 

The Regional Transit Partnership is scheduled to meet again on August 22. One potential topic is the role that transit can play in encouraging and supporting economic development throughout the region. 

Another hope I have for the partnership is that it can be a forum where people can bring forward ideas. For instance, how can we transition the public transit fleet to electric vehicles? 

Increasing carpooling 

The Regional Transit Partnership is more than just fixed transit. 

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission offers a program called Rideshare to help connect people who don’t want to drive alone to work. About eleven percent of people in the Charlottesville metropolitan area carpool together, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census

“Our main goal is to help reduce traffic congestion by reducing the number of single-occupancy vehicles,” said Sarah Pennington, the Rideshare coordinator. 

Rideshare is now launching a new app to try to increase that number. 

Pennington said she and her colleagues at the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission to offer alternatives.

“Many commuters are crossing those boundaries and we see many people come in from across the mountain over into Charlottesville for work,” Pennington said. 

Rideshare also operates a “guaranteed ride home” program where committed carpoolers can cover the cost of immediate transport if there is an emergency back home. 

“It’s kind of like an insurance policy,” Pennington said. “It’s one of the tools that we use to get people to change their behavior. Asking people to step out of their car is a really hard thing to do and people are a little hesitant at first. Knowing they will not be stuck is the first question.” 

Rideshare also coordinates information about park and ride lots in the area, which is where many carpools start from. Pennington also coordinates the van pools, which are more formalized than carpools.  A private contractor is hired to run the vans.

“Usually you’re looking at a minimum of seven to 12 people to put into a vanpool,” Pennington said. “There is a formal agreement they enter into in and then they pay a monthly fee for that seat in the van.” 

The TJPDC has hired a new person to assist Pennington in administering the program with an eye toward getting more out of their cars. Boyles said this part of an overall shift to market community mobility under one unified brand that spans the individual agencies. 

“This will start that process,” Boyles said. 

###




Land Use - University of Virginia, Meeting Reports

UVA Board of Visitors panel briefed on data science center, Brandon Avenue dorm

The new School of Data Science at the University of Virginia will be housed in one of the first new buildings in the planned Ivy Corridor. 

“That will probably be about a 70,000 gross square foot building,” said Colette Sheehy, the Senior Vice President for Operations at the University. 

The location of this key site was one of many topics of discussion at the June 6, 2019 meeting of the Buildings and Grounds Committee of the Board of Visitors. The $43 million building for the School of Data Science is included within the multi-year Major Capital Plan, a suite of construction, renovation and infrastructure projects with an estimated cost of $3.5 billion. That includes the academic division, the health system, and the College of Wise. 

The cost to build the Data Science center comes entirely from the $120 million gift from the Quantitative Foundation and one of its trustees, Jaffrey Woodriff. 

The location will be on Ivy Road along a corridor that the University of Virginia’s real estate foundation has been purchasing land over the past several years. In September 2016, the Board of Visitors approved a framework plan that envisioned a future where UVA could grow on land within the city of Charlottesville.  

Last fall, UVA President Jim Ryan appointed a task force to study possible uses for the 14.5 acres of land. [report] Their broad recommendations were to offer “nexuses” for creativity, discovery and democracy. 

The School of Data Science is slated to be one of the first new buildings along this new corridor. It will be built just to the north of where the Cavalier Inn stood and will face both Ivy Road and a linear park that will run through the Ivy Corridor. 

“This prominent site faces the public green with direct visual access to Central Grounds,” Sheehy said. “There’s great alignment between the principal goals of the Emmet/Ivy Task Force for inclusivity, transparency and visibility and the program for [Data Science] which is to be the anchor for the Discovery Nexus.” 

Other projects in the multiyear capital plan include $3 million for an addition to Campbell Hall, $28 million for an Environmental Health & Safety Facility and $35 million for a new parking garage to serve North Grounds. 

“The University is and will be facing a fairly significant parking crunch in the next few years so we’re proposing two new parking structures,” Sheehy said. That includes the North Grounds facility as well as one at the Fontaine Research Park. 

A new $10 million engineering building will house the Virginia Autonomous Systems Testing Facility. 

“It’s a high bay space to test and do research on autonomous vehicles both in the air, amphibious and on the ground,” Sheehy said. “It involves other departments in the University and not just the engineering school. Astronomy, Environmental Sciences, Architecture and Business are involved as well.”

Sheehy said there are a number of studies underway at the moment as well, including the future of the Ivy Gardens apartment complex in Albemarle County. 

“We’re going to do a master planning study on the potential redevelopment of that site,” Sheehy said. 

The committee saw for the first time the schematic designs for the second upper-class residence hall to be built on Brandon Avenue. The first, Bond House, is currently under construction. Raucher said the new dorms have more windows on the ground floor in order to have a more active street presence. The Buildings and Grounds Committee will vote to approve the designs at their meeting in September. 

Sheehy said the administration believes that Bond House will be ready for occupation for the upcoming academic year, though “it will be down to the wire.”  There are 313 students assigned to the residence hall for the fall. She said there is a backup plan in case the building is not complete. 

Timeline for Memorial to Enslaved Workers

The committee also voted on the official timeline that will be included in the University’s Memorial to Enslaved Workers. The Board of Visitors approved the basic design in June 2017.

“The memorial consists of a circular stone wall within which a timeline of events related to the history of slavery at the University will be inscribed,” reads the staff report for the meeting.

The timeline begins in 1619 with the inscription “First written mention of enslaved Africans in Virginia” and then continues with the history of slavery in the colony. An entry for 1817 states 

“Ten enslaved people begin to clear the land that will become UVA.”

The timeline ends in 1889 with the death of Isabella Gibbons, a formerly enslaved person at UVA who in 1866 became a teacher at what would become the Jefferson School. The memorial will be inscribed with this quote from Gibbons: 

“Can we forget the crack of the whip, cowhide, whipping-post, the auction block, the hand-cuffs, the spaniels, the iron collars, the negro-trader tearing the young child from its mother’s breast as a whelp from the lioness? Have we forgotten that by those horrible cruelties, hundreds of our race have been killed? No, we have not, nor ever will.”

 

Meeting Reports

Council moves forward with long-range planning package

*programming note – the newscasts are on hiatus for a  few weeks following initial proof of concept. For now, I will be experimenting with these non-audio stories. Feedback welcome*

The Charlottesville City Council has voted unanimously to spend nearly a million dollars to hire a consultant to help complete the review of a state-mandated vision for the future.

“The acute need is to get the Comprehensive Plan finished and to have an integrated affordable housing strategy within that Comprehensive Plan and then to roll immediately into the rezoning citywide,” said City Councilor Kathy Galvin.

Council also agreed to move forward with hiring a new position of “long-range planner” who would oversee the overall planning vision, including implementation of small-area plans.

“Now is the time to use the dollars for long-rage planning and to hire an individual with the skill set to shepherd these and other projects going forward and to have that person report directly to the city manager’s office,” said Mike Murphy, the city’s interim manager.

The city Planning Commission has been working on an update of the Comprehensive Plan for two years, and the plan’s review took a turn following the Unite the Right rally in August 2017. The commission’s membership changed, with four new members added in the last year on the seven person body.

Council got an update on the plan at their meeting on December 18. One area of concern related to a Future Land Use map that depicted more intense density in several areas of the city. Council indicated they wanted to take a pause and help the Planning Commission complete their work.

“One of the directives to the city’s manager’s office was to bring back what resources might be required for competion of the Comprehensive Plan,” said interim manager Mike Murphy.

A list of resources was compiled after consultation with the Planning Commission, the Housing Advisory Committee and others.

The total amount before Council to complete the plan and and hire a firm to do the zoning rewrite would be $975,890.

Just over $85,000 in the funding comes from a $100,000 Council previously allocated but has not yet spent. Another $200,000 was funding that had been set aside for a housing needs assessment. Another $600,000 would come from the capital improvement program fund contingency fund.

It is widely assumed and expected that a rewriting of the city’s zoning ordinance will be required upon completion of the Comprehensive Plan.

“We’ve been hurting terribly for a long time because our zoning is out of sync with our community vision,” Galvin said.

The funding for the long-range planner would come from a position that Council authorized and funded in the current fiscal year, but the city has yet to fill.

“We are going to be at least three quarters of the year having never used dollars that were in this year’s budget that were in for a long-range planner of assistant city manager,” Murphy said.

Councilor Wes Bellamy wanted to know if the new planner would have staff. Murphy said no.

“Think about this position as somebody who is making systems more effective, refining processes, steering big picture items and maybe relieving some burden from staff to direct things like the small area plans,” Murphy said. “They are operating from a level that’s not wedded to one department’s point of view. They’re operating across all silos.”

Earlier in the night, Council took action on a rezoning on River Road for a mixed-use development with apartments and storage units.

Mayor Nikuyah Walker said the discussion of the River Road rezoning helped her appreciate the reason for why the position was being proposed. But Walker expressed concern about filling the position before the city manager is hired.

Galvin said staff is overwhelmed with development review. She also said the position could change once the city has a new leader.

“The new city manager could decide that he or she wants to restructure everything,” Galvin said. “But that person is still an important and essential professional with skills that are going to be needed regardless.”

Walker said she heard loud and clear from the planning commission that they needed assistance following their five-hour meeting on January 5.

Murphy said he felt the position should be independent of the planning department.

“I find it pretty difficult to imagine that someone who reports to the NDS director and is [also] the agent-of-change in the development process,” Murphy said.

The position was one of several recommendations made by the Novak Group in an efficiency study of NDS. The draft budget for FY2020 will also include a support services manager in NDS to help with the caseload.

Council was unanimous in its vote.

Meeting Reports, Placemaking, Urban Design

Urban design group takes look at Emmet Streetscape plan

 

Conceptual design for streetscape between Ivy Road and the railroad bridge

A $12.1 million plan to update Emmet Street in Charlottesville could offer both the city and the University of Virginia the chance to turn a suburban thoroughfare into a place less dependent on motorized vehicles.

However the outcome of the project will depend on the totality of public comment from stakeholders.

“It’s hard to get 100 percent consensus and direction from the public because some people would say widen it and say increase the speeds to 45 miles per hour,” said Mike Callahan, a planner with the engineering firm EPR. “Most people are saying they want it more walkable and bikable and to slow the traffic, especially the University community.”

Callahan made his comments at the December 13, 2018 meeting of the PLACE Design Task Force, an advisory group formed in 2012 to advise City Council on urban design issues.

The scope of the project runs the roughly half mile between the Ivy Road and Arlington Boulevard. While most of the land along the corridor is owned by the University of Virginia or its real estate foundation, the public right of way is governed by the city. Over 25,000 vehicles a day passed through the corridor in 2017 according to traffic estimates from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

In 2016, the city was successful in obtaining the funding for the project in the first round of the VDOT’s Smart Scale program. The community engagement process began in April.

“We’re really at an important stage of locking in on the preliminary design of what the best improvements we can fit into this that will function well,” said John Stewart, an engineer with Clark Nexsen, a firm hired by the city to design the project. EPR is working as a subcontractor.

The final design will be finished next year. In 2020, the firm will begin utility relocation and right of way acquisition to prepare for a construction start date the following year.

“In early 2023 we would like to have this constructed,” Stewart said.

Several changes have come to the area in the past year. The University of Virginia has demolished the Cavalier Inn. In October, granted a special use permit that will allow the eighty-foot-tall Gallery Court Hotel an eight-story hotel on the site of a smaller structure that burned down in May 2017.

The streetscape project gives a rare opportunity for the city to help inform the plans of the University of Virginia. Earlier this year, the Board of Visitors approved a new master plan for the athletic facilities centered around University Hall, a structure that is also slated to be demolished.

While of the land in the area is vacant, there are homes in the corridor. The eastern side is the location of both the 174-unit Lambeth Field Apartments and the 69-unit University Gardens complex.

Working out the details

The existing public right of way in the corridor is 64 feet. The draft streetscape shows that being extended to 79 feet.

One item that has yet to be determined is the location of a shared-use path that was specified in the Smart Scale application.

“Does that go on the east side or the west side of the corridor?” Callahan asked. “We started out on the east but as we got going and talked to the steering committee and the public, a lot of concerns were raised.”

One of those was that the new hotel will be built much closer to the street than the previous structure.

“It meant the trail and the tunnel would have to go behind it,” Callahan added.

During community engagement efforts, Callahan said participants were clear that they want a physical barrier of some sort between the vehicular lanes and the bike lanes.

Another concern raised by the public is amount of time it takes to cross the intersection of Emmet Street and Ivy Road.

“We saw during our walking tour that it takes a lot of time to cross there,” Callahan said. “We want to make that a much safer intersection for bikes and pedestrians.”

UVA has plans to eliminate a lane that will allow motorists to turn into the Lewis Mountain Parking Garage from Emmet Street. That means the design team is considering adding new space for vehicles as a replacement.

“A lot of people use that according to our traffic analysis so adding a southbound right turn-lane that’s dedicated onto Ivy westbound was something people raised and we included,” Callahan said.

Another topic that has come up is whether there needs to be both bike lanes and a shared-use path in the project. The answer to this question will inform the amount of right of way that will need to be purchased or donated.

“A bike lane is going to be used by bicycle commuters going 20 miles an hour,” Callahan said. “A shared-use path is going to be better for those bicyclists that are more recreational and those who don’t feel that comfortable being that closer to [vehicular] traffic.”

City Councilor Kathy Galvin, an ex officio member of PLACE, pointed out that the John Warner Parkway has bike lanes as well as a shared-use path.

“If I’m in a rush and in more of a contemplative mode, I’ll go on the multi-use trail,” Galvin said.

Can the road be slowed down?

While one stated goal of the project is to make Emmet Street safer and welcoming for non-vehicular traffic, Galvin expressed concern existing conditions would make that difficult.

“My concern is that it’s just going to be a very fast road no matter what you do because you don’t have buildings on the edge of the right of way,” Galvin said. “You have nothing but an open field. Eventually there will be buildings on the west side but on the east side it will be [mostly] empty.”

Frustrated by the apparent widening of the Ivy and Emmet Street, a PLACE member who is a assistant professor in the UVA School of Architecture suggested removing that turn lane from the concept and routing vehicles bound for the parking garage to turn left onto Massie Road and then Copeley Road instead.

“This then becomes a viable pedestrian and bicycle Complete Street from Massie Road down to Ivy,” said Andrew Mondschein.

However, the scope of the streetscape doesn’t cover that possibility.

“It may be outside the scope but it’s up to the city to decide on a turn lane,” said Mike Stoneking, chair of the PLACE Design Task Force and himself an urban designer.

The University of Virginia’s Office of the Architect is developing a long-term plan for the Ivy Road corridor. No representatives from the office were at the PLACE meeting, but Galvin remarked that the draft plan calls for the Cavalier Inn site to remain open space.

“When the University just wants to keep open space at its gateway, it is just going to be a fast road,” Galvin said. “You’re not going to get any notion of place until you get to the Barracks Road area.”

In contrast, Mondschein argued there are opportunities due to the future hotel and the fact that traffic has to slow down once it travels north on Emmet into Grounds, where the speed limit is already 25 mph.

In recent years, Council has made several land use decisions to allow autocentric uses on Emmet Street between U.S. 250 and Barracks Road, such as a car wash at 1300 Emmet and a drive-through for a restaurant at 1248 Emmet Street. Galvin said those decisions have limited the ability to turn the rest of the roadway into a place more befitting for pedestrians.

“That boat has sailed and the only thing I can see as probably creating an urban place is at the intersection of Barracks and Emmet,” Galvin said. In 2017, the city received $8 million funding through another Smart Scale project to address that intersection. That project has not yet begun.

A developer who serves on the PLACE group said there are market reasons for why autocentric uses are prominent in that section of the street.

“There is overwhelming private sector demand for that type of use,” Henry said. “When you have 30,000 cars on the street, it’s like flies to honey for fast food.”

However, PLACE members were adamant that this streetscape project help inform a future where fewer people drive.

“I believe that from the bypass down to [Ivy Road] it’s going to be a tight urban condition one day,” Stoneking said. “The sooner the infrastructure projects that, the better.”

Stoneking summarized that PLACE would like to see a design with shared-use paths on both sides of the road, want to minimize widening of the Emmet and Ivy intersection and wants to find a way to improve the design of the passageways that travel under the railway embankment.

The project went before the Charlottesville Planning Commission on December 18, 2018.