The University of Virginia is considering an ambitious mixed-use redevelopment of land along Ivy Road that would include a 130-foot-wide linear park at its center.
“In March 2015, our Board of Visitors and our administration charged us with studying this almost 14.5-acre parcel for potential redevelopment to look for opportunities to maximize the green space for the benefit of the university and the local community,” said UVa Architect Alice Raucher.
Raucher briefed Albemarle and Charlottesville officials on the idea at the November meeting of the Planning and Coordination Council, a group formed in 1986 by the city, county and UVa.
The plans extend from Emmet Street to Copeley Road and would involve consolidation of several parcels purchased over time by the University of Virginia Foundation.
A 30-foot-wide pedestrian and tree-planting zone would extend north from Ivy Road into a section of buildings and courtyards. The scale of these buildings would increase toward the 130-foot open space, which would include a water feature.
“There currently is a day-lighted stream which is a tributary from Meadow Creek, which we consider an attribute of the site,” Raucher said.
Another set of buildings would be constructed between the open space and the parking garage. Railroad tracks mark the northern perimeter.
“That is really a way to connect Central Grounds with North Grounds,” Raucher said. “The other issue was one of pedestrian and bicycle connections.”
Raucher said UVa does not yet have plans for what would go in the future buildings.
“That’s still the next phase and what we have been approved to do is really move forward with the civil [engineering], the utility work and the landscape work while studying economically viable development,” Raucher said.
The Cavalier Inn would be removed and nothing would be built in its place. The building that houses the Italian Villa eventually would be demolished to make way for a new entrance to the Emmet Street parking garage.
The Board of Visitors wants to work with the city on its Virginia Department of Transportation-funded project to make pedestrian and bicycle improvements on Emmet Street between Ivy Road and Arlington Boulevard. The $12 million project qualified through VDOT’s new Smart Scale funding process.
“We’re hoping to be involved with the process,” Raucher said.
“There are some really lovely things about this,” said City Councilor Kathy Galvin.
However, Galvin said she thought the concept as presented would create more congestion.
“Because there is no through-road through your new developed block means there is now distribution of traffic on other sub-roads,” Galvin said. “You create kind of a superblock on that corner, so it’s a concern.”
Galvin also said the city would stand to lose between $200,000 and $300,000 a year in tax revenue when the properties are redeveloped and if they become property of UVa as opposed to its real estate foundation.
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer questioned if the design was the right fit for the city.
“I’m concerned that the aesthetic drive of this [plan] is pastoral on a Grounds that is more urban and more dense,” Signer said. “Does it get to a place where the amount of people and the amount of activity happening is at a level of density that we’re accustomed to?”
Raucher said there would be buildings in the block that would help create activity.
“We’re very cognizant of the fact that the Lawn does not exist without the buildings,” Raucher said. “You need form-givers to that space so that park is going to be an urban experience.”
Signer said the city wants to make a similar presentation about its plans for West Main Street at a future PACC meeting.
“It’s in our interest to get all of the stakeholders involved here with the university and county caring about the success of this project as much as we do,” Signer said.
Albemarle Supervisor Liz Palmer said she wants the PACC to hear a presentation on the county’s future Hedgerow Park.
“We’ve got people in the county who are clamoring to start fundraising to get that up early,” Palmer said. “I think it would be really wonderful for this group to know what that park might mean for the university and the city.”
The next PACC meeting will be in February.