Council calls for East Water Street to be opened to traffic
The Charlottesville City Council has formally accepted a new road into its street network, and now councilors want city staff to get it open as soon as possible.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for that street to be open, and I’d like to see it open,” said Councilor Kristin Szakos.
City staff approved a site plan for the 300-unit City Walk development in 2009 that required a vehicular connection between 10th Street Northeast and Carlton Road.
Though built by developer Coal Towers Associates, the city spent over $365,000 in 2014 to add street trees and other amenities to the road, which appeared to be ready for vehicles by the end of that year.
Coal Tower Associates made a formal request in March 2015 for the road to be accepted into the city’s road network. However, city engineers were not satisfied with the quality of the work and required the contractor who built the road to address a list of 60 unresolved items.
These included new streetlights, distressed trees and sunken areas of asphalt.
“At this time, all work required to be completed for road acceptance is done to the satisfaction of all reviewing city departments,” wrote city engineer Martin Silman in a report to the council.
However, city staff had recommended keeping the road closed until after utility work was completed for Water Street Promenade, a 24-unit development of single-family homes built in and around the historic Coal Tower.
Water Street Promenade is being developed by Riverbend Development, the original developer of the City Walk project.
“Keeping the road closed during the initial phase of the new development will prevent traffic and construction conflicts, will promote the public safety of potential users and will expedite the initial phases of construction that would otherwise be prolonged if vehicular traffic was permitted,” Silman said.
Staff recommended closing the northern sidewalk but also officially opening the southern walkway to the public.
At their meeting Tuesday, councilors accepted the roadway but directed City Manager Maurice Jones to open the road more quickly.
“I do want to look at the continued closing of that street and request that we either open the street or have some sort of fee [levied as] we would have with any open street [being] closed for any period of time,” Szakos said.
All five councilors agreed.
“In order to allow the street to open with the construction taking place right now and the lateral lines that are being built for the other development along there, they would have to be one way and have flag men to be part of that,” Jones said.
Szakos pointed out that work on any other Charlottesville street would require permission.
“If people were putting lateral lines in and having to close the street, there would be a way to deal with it,” Szakos said. “You wouldn’t just close the street for six months.”
Jones said that was true.
“The reason staff suggested this this time is simply because of the timing of it with the other project, but if council wants us to move in that direction, we can investigate that,” Jones said.
Jones said he will return to council with a plan at the next meeting.
“In the meantime, we would delay the opening until we have a chance to come back to council,” Jones said.
The new section of roadway is part of a changing Water Street corridor.
Utility work is underway for Market Plaza, an L-shaped, nine-story mixed-use building that will create a permanent space for the city market. Developer Keith Woodward and architect Gregory Powe are hoping to complete the building by 2018.
Staff members are still reviewing plans for a 70-foot-tall mixed-use building on a lot at 550 E. Water St. The Board of Architectural review issued a certificate of appropriateness for the new building’s structure, but developer Andrew Baldwin has not returned to the panel for a final approval.
City staff members also are considering eliminating a traffic light at the intersection of Water Street and Third Street Southwest.