Design task force weighs in on UVa projects

A city committee charged with reviewing designs for public spaces learned more Thursday about the University of Virginia’s plans to redevelop land in the Ivy Road corridor.

“We’re talking about [an area] from the intersection of Ivy and Emmet to Copeley Road,” said Alice Raucher, who was named as the UVa architect in July 2015.
Raucher gave a presentation Thursday at the February meeting of the PLACE Design Task Force and also provided an update on plans for the Brandon Avenue area.

In early 2015, the University of Virginia School of Architecture conducted a student design competition for the Ivy Road area. The Board of Visitors later commissioned a more detailed study.

“We see it as extension of the Grounds with a strong academic component in the area but with retail to support the population and the Lewis Mountain neighborhood,” said Mary Hughes, the university’s landscape architect.

Raucher said the Ivy Road concept is not a master plan because it is not yet known how UVa will use the 14 acres of land owned by the school or its real estate foundation.

The original idea was to develop the area as a gateway, but Raucher said the school now sees a different opportunity.

“The more we look at it, we realize it seems to be more [like] connective tissue between central Grounds and north Grounds,” Raucher said. “We understand that Ivy Road is an entrance corridor so we’re being mindful of that but we are thinking about ways to connect areas of grounds that encourage pedestrian and bicycle connections.”

The university has control over all of the property in the study area except for the bank at the northeastern corner of Copeley Road and Ivy Road.

“BB&T Bank is aware of what we are doing and are interested in participating in some way when we get to the point when we do develop those parcels,” Raucher said.

What happens at Ivy Road also will be informed by a study of north Grounds that is just getting underway to encourage greater connectivity between the two campuses.

“People graduate from [the Darden School of Business] never having been to the Rotunda,” Raucher said. “That’s like a spear through the heart, so we’ll do whatever it takes to make the connection.”

The Board of Visitors will be presented with a recommendation on the future of the Cavalier Inn at its meeting in June, but Raucher said the structure is unlikely to be retained.

“We’re operating under the assumption that it will come down,” Raucher said, adding it is likely that another hotel would be built somewhere in the Ivy Road area.

The building that currently houses the Italian Villa will be demolished to make way for a new turn lane into the existing University of Virginia parking garage.

Planning Commissioner and PLACE member Genevieve Keller said existing conditions along Ivy Road are not ideal. She wants the university to consider historical interpretation in the area and added that an opportunity was lost when the former Buddy’s Restaurant was demolished to create a pocket park in the northeast corner of the Ivy Road and Emmet Street intersection.

“That was probably Charlottesville’s most significant civil rights confrontation,” Keller said. “Maybe make some gestures to the previous character of Ivy Road and Emmet Street.”

In the Brandon Avenue area, Raucher said the university has more of an idea about what uses are needed.

“The driver of the master plan is the need to house more upper-class students who were displaced by first year housing when a state mandate for enrollment growth” was handed down, Raucher said.

The university is proceeding with plans to build a 300-bed student residence at the end of Brandon Avenue.

“That’s going to be student apartments rather than a residence hall because it’s targeted for upper-class students,” said Julia Monteith, the university’s senior land-use officer.

Keller supported the redevelopment plan.

“We have some concern about this becoming yet another destination that could create congestion and pull from goals we have for West Main,” Keller said. “But this is very good.”

Monteith said the site is on four bus lines and also will have bike-sharing stations.

“There’s not going to be not nearly as much need for car activity as you might see in some other areas,” Monteith said.

The two plans will go before the Board of Visitors later this year.