Learn MorePlanning commission reconfirms approval of West Main rezoningCity Council defers West Main ordinance to DecemberCouncil makes some decisions on West Main streetscape
Planners hired to create a new streetscape for West Main Street have returned to Charlottesville to resume work on the project.
“We’re delighted to be back here again,” said Elliot Rhodeside of Rhodeside & Harwell, who were paid $350,000 to develop a plan for new trees and wider sidewalks and bike lanes to improve West Main Street.
Work on the project got underway in October 2013 and a final plan was presented to the Charlottesville City Council at a work session last December.
The cost estimate for that version of the plan was more than $30 million, with a large portion of that going toward placing utility lines underground.
In January, Mayor Satyendra Huja announced he could not support the plan because he felt it was incoherent and too expensive. In September, council held another work session to give direction to Rhodeside & Harwell.
The project’s steering committee met with the consultants Thursday to discuss council’s recommendations, which included maintaining places for buses to pull out of traffic and to increase on-street parking.
The original plan had called for lowering the number of spaces from 88 to 52.
Council also wanted to see if anything could be done to widen the sidewalk by the new Marriott Resi-dence Inn, which is scheduled to open in March.
Rhodeside said it might be possible to increase the sidewalk width by as much as two feet, but any more than that would interfere with traffic lanes.
Rhodeside’s team also met with University of Virginia Health System representatives to listen to their concerns about the initial plan.
Council also had asked for consideration of a turn lane at Seventh Street.
“The turn lane would occur right in front of First Baptist Church to allow for turn movements into the Amtrak parking lot,” said Ron Sessoms, of Rhodeside & Harwell. However, that would likely involve eliminating more parking spaces.
The committee will meet again Jan. 14 to review several scenarios that will be presented to the council. Rhodeside had intended to develop just one plan, but former Mayor Bitsy Waters recommended against that strategy.
“With all of these discussions, we’re always up against the fact that we need too much,” Waters said. “We’re just squeezing a very narrow right-of-way.”
Waters suggested instead that the consultants come back with several different scenarios so the council makes the decisions rather than have the steering committee reach consensus.
“There are trade-offs and, listening to this group and our community discussions, I feel like we all do a good job articulating what we want, but I don’t think we can have all of what we want,” Waters said.
UVa’s landscape architect agreed.
“I’ve heard this three times now for studies of West Main Street, and every time it comes down to the issue that 60 feet is not wide enough to safely accommodate everything that the citizenry would like to see,” said Mary Hughes.
When Hughes suggested that on-street parking could be removed for wider streets and wider bike lanes, others around the table said they were needed and that other things could be taken out.
“The reality is there’s not enough space to do all of these elements,” said Peter Castiglione, a co-owner of Maya Restaurant. “And we’re finding ourselves back in this spot where not everyone is happy.”
Rhodeside will be paid $67,000 for this new phase of work, according to assistant planning director Missy Creasy.
On Monday, City Council will hold first of two readings on a rezoning for West Main Street that will lower the overall maximum building heights by removing the ability to get a special-use permit. A final vote will be taken up by the new City Council on Jan. 4.