Charlottesville planners hope to have a long-awaited trail system ready to serve up to 400 new residents when the City Walk apartment complex opens.
But nearby business owners are worried about the impact on customers using parking spots that will be eliminated.
The City Council has directed staff to find a solution in partnership with City Walk’s developer.
The Coal Tower and Meade Avenue trails would lead from the Downtown Transit Station to Meade Park. From there, a stretch of new sidewalks on Chesapeake Street would provide access to Riverview Park along the banks of the Rivanna River.
“The trail project was funded by [the Virginia Department of Transportation] years ago,” Jim Tolbert, director of Neighborhood Development Services, told the City Council. “It was actually in our 2003 Bike and Pedestrian Plan.”
In fact, the city originally expected both trails to be built by 2009. But the developer, who had offered to build both Water Street Extended and the Coal Tower Trail as part of City Walk, delayed construction because of the recession.
Four years later, work on the road, Coal Tower Trail and the apartment buildings is well underway. But the second leg of the trail system — a path running from the railroad tracks to Meade Park — has come under fire.
“We estimated that there are 30 on-street parking spots on each side of Meade Avenue,” Joshua Hunt of Beer Run said. “We’ve been told that we will lose all the spots on the east side to the trail.”
“The businesses at the corner of Market and Meade— the Lunchbox, Moto Saloon — they all use these parking spots as well,” Hunt said. “Given the tax revenue and job creation the Woolen Mills Pointe shopping center provides, I think the city would be shooting itself in the foot.”
The city had planned to begin building the trail this month. “The bid we received is substantially below the estimate, so it’s a really good bid,” Tolbert said. “We were anxious to get started.”
But Hunt and Woodriff’s concerns prompted the council to ask that the project be delayed so staff could deal with parking. The work has been put off until next spring.
That has allowed staff to investigate a variety of ways to preserve parking space, Tolbert said.
“One alternative is to try to widen Meade Avenue,” Tolbert said. “But our engineering staff did a quick estimate, and their best guess was [it would cost] between $500,000 and $600,000. We thought that was not a prudent use of tax dollars to save 25 parking places.”
City Walk under construction near the Coal Tower
Tolbert thought marking spaces on the west side of Meade would make room for seven or eight more cars. The new Water Street Extended also could include on-street parking.
“Our engineers have determined that by widening the street, we could pick up 17 spaces there. That would be on a public street, but it has to be coordinated with the developer of City Walk,” Tolbert said.
“Why wasn’t the Water Street Extended already designed with parking on it,” Councilor Kathy Galvin asked. “It just seems like if it was something we had as part of a standard street section, it would have been done by the developer already.”
Tolbert said he plans to meet with developer Nathan Metzger in the next two weeks. If properly timed, all the replacement parking will be in place when the Meade Avenue Trail is built next spring.
Hunt and Woodriff thanked the council for the compromise, but added a suggestion of their own.
“The Meade Avenue corridor is booming with business and more will come,” said Woodriff. “Maybe the city would consider running a trolley or part of the bus service through the corridor.”
Councilor Dede Smith agreed.
“I love the idea of exploring bus service [on Water Street Extended],” Smith said. “It’s a logical link.”
Beer Run’s success “has been the genesis of this problem,” Tolbert said.
“When you get a business that’s so successful, how do you deal with that?”