By Connie Chang

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Modifications to a proposed mixed-use development on West Main Street were approved unanimously by the

Charlottesville Planning Commission

Tuesday evening. The commission approved a special use permit that will allow developer Bill Atwood’s Sycamore project to offer up to 45 dwelling units, almost three-times the previous number.

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The site located at 1003 West Main Street was previously occupied by the “Under the Roof” furniture store and will be replaced by an approximately 66,000 square foot building composed of retail, commercial, and residential spaces.

City Planner Nick Rogers

While the proposal raised concerns regarding affordable housing, the Commission noted its enthusiasm regarding the project’s role in shaping the West Main Street corridor.

When Atwood received a previous special use permit for the project in August 2008, the Commission inserted a condition requiring two dwelling units to be set aside for affordable housing. These would be offered to people making no more than 60% of the area median income.

Earlier this year the General Assembly passed legislation which enables Charlottesville to use a more formal process for receiving affordable housing in the context of a rezoning or special use permit.

According to the new legislation, an applicant has a choice of devoting at least 5% of the square footage of a development for affordable housing units or donating $2 per square foot of the residential portion of the building to the City’s affordable housing fund.  Atwood’s West Main project would house 3,500 square feet of affordable housing space, equating to approximately 5-7 units ranging in size from 500-700 square feet.

Location of 1003 West Main St Site


Dan Rosensweig

asked staff if the city could require affordable housing units beyond  the minimum requirements specified in the legislation. However, City Planner Nick Rogers told Rosensweig the commission lacks the authority to require any additional units.

The original site plan had called for 16 larger “luxury-style” units, ranging from 2,000-2,500 square feet in size. With the approval of 45 units, a typical floor plan would become much smaller.

According to the applicant’s representative, Mark Kestner, the affordability of these units would increase with the revised proposal.

“Now we are going to be down to 500-2,000 square feet with an average of 1,200 square feet, so the affordability of the units is more likely at this point,” said Kestner.

A traffic model shows that the building would create an average of 665 additional vehicle trips a day on the West Main Street corridor. However, city planners said the site’s central location and access to bus lines would reduce residents’ dependence on cars.


Genevieve Keller

said she was concerned that the smaller apartments and higher-density would cause the building to become like a dormitory. She also lamented the reduction of commercial space on the site.

“I think our vision for West Main Street is very much one of a mixed-use area,” said Keller. “It’s disappointing to me that this will not be the prototype mixed-use development we thought it would be in the first place.”

However, Kestner ensured that the development would embody this vision.

“What we’re really after is the flexibility to create that mixed-use environment that makes this area of town a vibrant place to be,” said Kestner.

Commissioners hope this project will jumpstart the development of the West Main Street corridor, which was rezoned earlier this decade to encourage higher residential densities.

“Based on what’s on the site right now, we’re looking at an increase in retail, commercial, and residential uses,” said Chairman

Jason Pearson

. “Relative to what is there on site, what is proposed is a significant improvement.”


    01:00 – Neighborhood planner Nick Rogers presents staff report

    05:40 – Commissioner Dan Rosensweig asks how a new SUP affects affordable housing requirement

    09:00 – Rosensweig asks for clarification of Section 34-12

    10:10 – Chairman Jason Pearson asks whether existing property zoning is relevant to review

    12:30 – City Attorney Richard Harris addresses question

    14:52 – Councilor Satyendra Huja asks about affordable housing requirements

    18:33 – Rodgers addresses standard of review

    22:33 – Applicant representative, Mark Kestner presents

    25:56 – Rosensweig asks how many affordable units there will be

    26:32 – Commissioner Genevieve Keller asks about the size of the affordable housing units

    29:45 – Harris clarifies whether it is within the Commission’s purview to review the size of affordable housing units

    31:50 – Commissioner Kurt Keesecker asks about parking

    33:20 – Rosensweig asks why the site is “overparked”

    34:25 – Keller asks whether there will be an on-site resident manager

    36:45 – Keesecker asks about trip generation from the site

    37:25 – Huja asks whether units will be for rent, sale, or combination

    37:48 – Keller asks whether there will be building-oriented facilities on-site

    38:50 – Pearson opens public comment period

    43:16 – Pearson discusses previous SUP approval

    45:15 – UVA Architect David Neuman comments on setback

    50:00 – Keller comments on housing for medical students

    51:10 – Pearson asks Keller about discouraging economic activity

    52:50 – Commissioner John Santoski asks about original mixture of commercial and retail to residential space

    56:08 – Keesecker asks whether there can be a greater density if it is conditioned to be affordable housing units

    1:02:50 – Keller comments that she would like to see an on-site manager and more residential amenities

    1:05:22 – Rosensweig comments on potential gentrifying impacts

    1:09:37 – Pearson comments on structure of enabling-legislation

    1:13:00 – Keller moves to approve recommendation

    1:15:20 – Pearson asks for comment from applicant regarding amendments

    1:17:37 – Rosensweig comments on overall application

    1:21:52 – Pearson comments on mix of uses

    1:23:10 – Motion passes 7-0