Albrecht Place recommended for approval behind Shoppers World

A new commercial development along U.S. 29 received a favorable recommendation from the Albemarle Planning Commission at its meeting Tuesday.

Albrecht Place will consist of a 48,000-square-foot commercial building and 183-space parking lot on about 3.4 currently wooded acres behind the Shoppers World shopping center and next to the Berkley neighborhood.

The property owner, Sue Albrecht, will be moving her Design Environs company, a commercial interiors firm, to a portion of the new development. Another tenant may include a local gym.

“I am very excited that we have gotten approval from the Planning Commission,” Albrecht said after the unanimous vote.

In its deliberations, the commission overcame concerns about potential traffic impacts that had led county staff to recommend against the project until more information could be considered.

VDOT evaluated the proposal and determined it did not meet the threshold of necessitating a full traffic impact study, but that some additional analysis by the developer would be beneficial. Access to the site would be via Shoppers World, Berkmar Drive, Commonwealth Drive and 29.

“The main issue of concern with this particular rezoning request has to do with transportation,” said Albemarle County senior planner Claudette Grant. “Submission of the traffic impact analysis will provide necessary information that will help us determine what impacts, if any, this development could have on the surrounding roads.”

Woody Parrish, an architect planning the development, said he had shared his own traffic consultant’s research with staff.

“The staff report does acknowledge that this is expected to have fairly light traffic impacts,” Parrish said. “We have had a traffic consultant look at this and they have come up with estimated trip generations and that number turns out to be less than 1 percent of the traffic than is currently using this section of U.S. 29.”

“We are having a hard time spending another $15,000 [on a traffic study] to quantify information that I think we understand well enough to affirm an existing zoning designation for an infill parcel in the development area that’s fully consistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan,” Parrish said.

That statement struck a chord with the commission.

“Would your traffic consultant be willing to write a letter?” asked commissioner Mac Lafferty. “This seems to me to be the major hold up”

Parrish said such a statement could be produced, and that satisfied the commission’s desire for more transportation data.

No members of the community spoke at the public hearing.

Albrecht purchased the property in 1995 and said attempts in 2007 to get a more substantial plan approved led to a “pretty bad bashing” by neighbors and local government, which was in the middle of the Places 29 Master Plan development.

Albrecht said she was encouraged by the facelift currently underway in Shoppers World, which will soon add a Stein Mart and a Jason’s Deli at the old Ragazzi’s building.

“I think that’s good,” Albrecht said. “It’s always been an awkward travel way through there, and they seem to be keeping it, but it’s going to look better.”

Albrecht Place’s long rectangular building will back up to the Staples building in Shoppers World.

“We put our receiving side back against theirs and let the beautiful side of our [building] face the neighborhood,” Albrecht said. “The people living up there look to the front of the building and the tractor trailer access is in between.”

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will review the proposal at a future meeting. Albrecht Place is currently being marketed for fall 2013 occupancy.