Less than a week has passed since Albemarle County adopted the Rio29 Small Area Plan, and architect and developer Greg Powe already is prepared to bet on the urban center envisioned at the intersection of Rio Road and U.S. 29.
Powe, principal of Powe Studio Architects, is hoping to amend an existing special-use permit to build apartments, instead of an office building, on the Greenfield Terrace cul-de-sac.
Powe was part of the work group for the Rio29 SAP and said that the plan will make the area an exciting place for potential tenants.
“It just seemed like a great place to live — to be very close to the center of the future action and [have] an easy commute up or down,” he said.
The building — tentatively named the Greenfield Terrace Apartments — would be a block away from a bus stop on Rio Road and the bike lanes on Berkmar Drive.
The plan proposes expanding the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the area and connecting the trail next to Berkmar Drive to the trail next to the John W. Warner Parkway. However, only part of that connection has funding.
“We think it will be very bikeable. Within five minutes, you can get right into the town center, but you’re living on the edge of it,” Powe said. “We’ve got bike storage for everyone in the basement.”
Powe brought the project to the county Architectural Review Board on Monday for a work session on whether the building met the West Rio Road entrance corridor design guidelines.
The building would be three stories tall and would include 33 one- and two-bedroom apartments. Powe has requested that the county decrease his parking requirement to 54 spaces, given the proximity to other forms of transit.
Six of the apartments would be affordable to households making 80 percent of the area median income. The median income for Charlottesville and the surrounding areas is $84,700.
The site currently is undeveloped, next to office buildings on Greenfield Terrace and a row of townhouses on Station Lane.
“There’s not much context of value to relate to out there,” said ARB member Frank Stoner, agreeing with Powe that it was appropriate to set a new architectural tone for the neighborhood.
The project is one of several that have come to the ARB in recent weeks near the intersection of U.S. 29 and Rio Road, but the Rio29 plan does not yet offer the board tools to enforce the new vision.
The next step for county staff is to create a form-based code for by-right developments that will emphasize elements of a building, such as height, rather than the use of the property. The ARB asked staff to hold work sessions with the board as the form-based code develops.
“If it were set up right, there are plenty of opportunities to avoid the architectural review. I can also imagine that on a sort of lower level or some other level, there is comprehensive exposure to development [review] throughout the district,” said ARB member Bruce Wardell.