As the community gets ready for election day on November 6th,
is preparing to mail our non-partisan voter guides featuring the results of interviews with each of the candidates for
Charlottesville City Council
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
Over the next few weeks, this blog will feature some of the questions that did
make the cut for the voter guide, but which still offer important insights into the candidates’ views on local growth and development issues.
Election Watch 2007 website
includes the complete audio and written transcript for each candidate interview.
Subscribe to our e-mails
to get immediate notification of the availability of the
2007 Voter Guides
. The content below are excerpts pulled from the verbatim transcripts.
CITY COUNCIL, FIRST IN A SERIES
What is missing in Downtown’s retail sector and what might City Council do about it? What will your priorities be for development in and around the Downtown Mall area, including the city-owned parking lots between Water Street and South Street?
David Brown (D)-Incumbent
: Well, two things are dramatically missing in Downtown. One which I’m sure everyone who’s answered this question has mentioned is a grocery store….We also need a sort of mainstream clothing and shoe store. I think it hurt a lot that residents who live near downtown of all socioeconomic levels when A&N left the Mall and so I think we need those two…
The other priorities I have for development in and around the Downtown Mall is that it not just be upscale. I think there was a proposed development in the gated parking lot on Water Street that would’ve been very upscale condominiums and I think that worried a lot of us… That kind of ignores its connection to the rest of the community and the rest of the area which is why we’re having a design competition this fall to see if we can come up with some great ideas that would entice the kind of development that would really benefit everyone Downtown.
And finally we need to keep the City Market downtown and that’s also a goal of the design competition is, but whether it’s in that location or some nearby location, we need to make sure we keep that Downtown.
Holly Edwards (D)-Challenger
: The retail shops on the Mall have become an upper-class boutique experience with high end prices. What’s missing on the Mall is stores that cater to an ordinary person with moderate means. Council could be instrumental through the Economic Development Office supporting more businesses by women, African Americans and other minorities. It would be feasible to explore a site for a grocery store and most importantly, provide residential housing and not just high-end condominiums for the people that work on the Mall. I mean, I’m talking about the people that work cleaning the gutters, emptying the trash, serving the food, pouring the coffee, changing the linen on the hotel beds, and that doesn’t exclude the people that choose to teach our children and keep our community safe.
Barbara Haskins (I)-Challenger
: I think there’s a pretty broad consensus that it’s a food store that’s missing, a grocery store and if you look at some of the City Council work documents that talk about a full-service, high-quality operation and, again, it’s setting the bar too high. These grocery stores are huge business operations. They have entire marketing divisions and they do their analysis very carefully and they figure out do we have the traffic, do we have the parking, do we have the road size, do we have enough people that would shop here to make it worth our trouble to open the store. They’ve done the math. It hasn’t added up…
And I think that we go towards higher density, and there really is a short-fall of places to go and get some kinds of groceries, then maybe we need to be thinking in a different way. In New York, there’s a corner grocery store on virtually every corner… maybe we need more smaller operations but, again, as long as they’re run by private business people, they have to make sense economically to those individuals… it may be that we can set up some kind of funding stream to lower the tax burden or to start people out with incubator funds for a smaller-scale operation…
The context in which I place development is that you have a choice—sprawl or density. You don’t get to have neither, so in many ways… density makes the most sense in the long run…. It makes sense of there to be mixed use development there. I’m fine with a height limit.
To me, the specific issues that I would pay attention again are the natural environment of the buildings… I would like the street level life of the buildings to be very inviting in some way on a human scale, you know, so that people are invited to pause and own the space, the street space, rather than just thinking, well, I have a bunch of bricks and windows at the end of the block, I’m done with this, so sometimes people have indentations for little green spaces or water spaces, play spaces, but to me, the most important feature would really be the street-level habitat of the buildings that go up and to the extent possible, some way to stay tied into the beautiful environment in which we find ourselves.
Satyendra Huja (D)-Challenger
: Well, I’ll encourage commercial development around the entrance corridors. The City can provide quality infrastructure to support this kind of development, and we want quality development, so quality development requires good reviews also. I’ll encourage mixed use in downtown area. At Water Street, also, I think that lots could be developed for mixed use including retail, office, housing, maybe farmers market, maybe even hopefully some parking. But it is a heart of our community, and it needs to be healthy heart, and a very important part of the economy so we need to support that development, but it needs to be harmonious and a quality development…. We don’t have a grocery store in downtown, but it’s not going to happen until we have a critical mass of population downtown. I think it is going to come, most likely we will have grocery stores, not with huge department-store kind of grocery stores. I don’t think we need those, the big ones. We do need some small grocery stores, small specialty stores, where you can go walk and go shopping.
Peter Kleeman (I)-Challenger
: Well, I am clearly a stakeholder in this. I live Downtown and… one of my pride and joys of being a Downtown resident is I can do almost everything I need to do walking other than things like grocery shopping although I can get to Reid’s Market. It’s a little bit of a hike and if you’re carrying lots of foods, it’s a long hike back and there’s no other way to do it. I can do that on a bicycle as well, but… as we grow and we have more and more mixed use development in the Downtown area and more and more people are walking to work, biking to work, we really need the opportunity for them on their way home to pick up the things that they need. It’ll keep them from having to get home, get in their car, drive to some shopping center to do their retail shopping…
I know there have been some attempts to recruit grocery store kinds of businesses into the core of the City…. Perhaps even some of the parking lots that you mentioned, if they are going to be redeveloped, I think it would be a wonderful opportunity to have a mixed use development that includes some retail shopping of the type that all of these expanding growth neighborhoods would use… There could even be some café spaces. There could be some retail stores that would be not on the Mall. They would be a little more affordable I would guess, but they could still be walkable and within the walkable community.
This is something I experienced in my trips to Europe. You go to places where even major tourist attractions you can still go to the bakery and the grocery store and the hardware store and the shoe repair store and they’re really in the same strip as the tourist-related shops…. I’m not sure what the economic disincentives are for it to happen here, but I would certainly explore that and I believe that that would be really beneficial to growth in the Downtown area.