Albemarle County officials have unanimously approved a plan to add a tourism center on the first floor of the new Crozet Library. While patrons will be able to spend a day reading by the fireplace on the library’s upper floor, tourists will find an information center and retail space marketing Western Albemarle.
“The library was always designed as the linchpin of downtown Crozet. The [tourism] center will help to increase foot traffic. It will be good for local businesses, the library and Crozet,” said Bill Schrader, who is leading fundraising efforts for Build Crozet Library, a group focused on raising money for books, furnishings and technology.
The initiative follows a June proposal to create a Crozet tourism zone, which would incentivize the construction of a hotel.
“The library feels great about sharing the building,” said John Halliday, the director of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library system. “It was our understanding all along that the first-floor space would be shared with a community room or a tourism center.”
The space covers 4,796 square feet, including restrooms and an entrance lobby, and is broken into two sections, where officials plan to locate tourism and retail centers.
“The library would not need that space for many years,” Halliday said. “It depends on the population growth of Western Albemarle.”
Lee Catlin, Albemarle County’s assistant for community and business partnerships, told the board in October that a new tourism center was a necessity.
“The agreement that established the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau mandates that the CACVB operate a tourism center in the city and in the county,” said Catlin. “When the center closed down near PVCC, we do not have a tourism presence in the county right now, so something out in Crozet would fulfill that part of the agreement.”
Crozet is surrounded by numerous natural areas, tourist destinations, and cultural sites. The first floor space would serve as the aforementioned adventure outpost or “gateway” to things such as Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Monticello Wine Trail, the Brew Ridge Trail and the Appalachian Trail.
Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd asked at Wednesday’s meeting what was meant by an “adventure outpost.”
“There would be a level of programming that’s done there, for example the Shenandoah National Park might send a ranger down there to do a class… the artisans would have displays up there for people to look at, there may be an interactive piece with Crozet history and heritage going on,” responded Catlin .
“It’s really meant to not be a static place where you walk in and there’s brochures on the wall but actually a more engaged [place], some places that have this kind of concept have tours that start out from there,” added Catlin. “It really becomes a hub for active engagement with our tourism assets.”
Albemarle Supervisor Duane E. Snow asked about the operation’s staffing needs.
“We would make it the county’s tourism center, so the staff we have downstairs [in the Albemarle County Office Building] would move out there,” said Catlin. “Parks and Rec has indicated they might be able to provide part time support. Also the partners we have talked to have shown a willingness to set up a kind of rotational kind of system where they would provide people as well.”
Trevor Henry, director of the office of facilities management, discussed the retail operations that would accompany the tourism center.
“We were looking to uses that would create pedestrian activity for downtown Crozet,” said Henry. “We wanted it to remain compatible with the library’s mission and operations, avoid uses that the library has strongly objected to such as food preparation, and finally create a lively street front presence.”
Henry noted that they had found a candidate that they would like to move forward with but he did not give a name due to ongoing negotiations.
The Board unanimously voted to move forward with the proposal. There will be a public hearing in August to review the specifics of the lease on the first floor.
Editor’s Note: Story above replaced on July 8, 2013 with a longer version that couldn’t fit in the newspaper.