Boundaries for the "strategic investment area"

The Charlottesville City Council will spend less on creating new small area plans over the next five years, but remains committed to spending at least $1 million a year to implement projects called for in one of the completed plans.

“If you know something is likely to cost a certain amount, you make sure you have that much money,” said Councilor Kristin Szakos said a budget work session Thursday.

Councilors debated the appropriate level of funding to construct projects called for in the “strategic investment area,” a small area plan completed last year by the firm Cunningham and Quill.

The plan covers south-central Charlottesville between Ridge Street and Avon Street and includes future concepts to guide redevelopment of public housing sites, Friendship Court and the Ix property.

The proposed capital improvement budget anticipates spending a million a year to implement parts of the plan, though the details of what that would pay for are not yet developed.

At a work session Thursday, Mayor Satyendra Huja said that amount was too high to focus on just one neighborhood.  

“I’ve seen the report and I’ve read the report and I must say that I am not ready to commit a million dollars a year,” Huja said. “If it shows up in the CIP that means we have to carry through… It will create expectations on the part of people.”

Councilor Bob Fenwick, who recently called for spending on outside consultants to be reduced in half, agreed with Huja.

“I think it would make more sense to start low,” Fenwick said.

One of the central projects called for in the SIA study is to daylight Pollocks Branch, a waterway that currently runs through a pipe under the city.

City Councilor Kathy Galvin said it was her hope the money for implementation would go towards creating a linear park around a daylighted Pollocks Branch. The waterway currently runs through a pipe under the city until it flows past Elliott Avenue.

“We [will have] a very large public park that will also be a stormwater management facility, “Galvin said. “That’s a facility in a park that’s not just for one neighborhood but the entire city.”
Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services, said the money will pay for projects to be built.

“The million dollars is not for planning work,” Tolbert said. “[Councilor Galvin] is talking about widening roads, or narrowing roads, or building a streetscape. There are some places in there where it calls for possibly punching a new road in. But this is for parks and all the improvements.”

Galvin said public investment could have a multiplier effect.

“It’s the very kind of investment that does facilitate private investment,” Galvin said. “It was found in the report that a $5 million to $10 million public investment there could be a $300 million  private investment.”

Council also reduced the amount that will be budgeted for future small area plans. Staff had initially recommended increasing the amount from $300,000 to $325,000.

“I can’t comprehend in my mind when you’re putting $325,000 or something like that,” Huja said. “Once you put in that number, that’s what you’re going to get as your bid.”

Tolbert each plan will likely cost a different amount because each one will be different. Future plans may also be cheaper because the city plans to hire an urban designer to take on some of the work that now is performed by consultants.

The SIA was the first small area plan and the firm Cunningham Quill was paid  $199,000. Rhodeside & Harwell is under contract for a two-phase study of West Main Street.  The first phase has cost $340,000 and includes development of concepts for a new streetscape for the rapidly developing corridor.

“When we put the bid out for design firms, we said we wanted them to take it from conceptual design to completion of plans and then managing construction of the project,” Tolbert said.  

However, to get construction documents drawn up, the city will need to pay between $150,000 and $175,000 according to Tolbert. That money will come from next year’s capital budget.  

“If Council decided not to fund that in 2015, then the contract would end,” Tolbert said.

Huja asked for the amount to be lowered  to $200,000 a year beginning in FY2016.  The rest of the Council agreed.

Council will hold a public hearing on the budget at its next meeting on April 7.