By Sean Tubbs and Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, February 9, 2012

A proposed retail and commercial center that has been dormant since it was approved in early 2008 could soon be moving forward.

“The 5th and Avon retail center will spur economic development and create 1,200 to 1,500 jobs for residents of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and surrounding areas,” said Alan Taylor, vice president of River Bend Management in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow .

The land has remained undeveloped since the Board of Supervisors approved the rezoning in March 2008. Nearly 87 acres of land was changed from light industrial to planned commercial zoning for the project.

Conceptual drawings submitted as part of the rezoning process depicted space for at least two large retail establishments.

“While we cannot discuss specific retailers at this time, we can say we expect to introduce exciting new retailers to the Charlottesville market,” Taylor said.

A meeting will be held next week between River Bend officials and county staff to discuss altering the rezoning.

As part of the proffers agreed to as part of the previous rezoning, River Bend agreed to build a connector road between 5th Street and Avon, committed to harvesting at least 25% of rainwater that falls on the property, and must guarantee to clean-up any breaches of an old landfill on the eastern half of the property.

At a joint work session on the county’s economic vitality action plan Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors discussed the possibility of creating a “fast-track” that would allow for zoning changes to be made more quickly for projects like Avon Center.

“We recognize that there are businesses that bring such a strong advantage to our community [through] job creation [and] higher-than-average wages,” said Lee Catlin, the county’s community relations manager.

“[These are] things that are particularly advantageous to the community as a whole that it may be worth looking at how we can get them as quickly as possible through the system,” Catlin said.

Supervisor Ann Mallek said she hoped the fast-tracking process could be invoked for other reasons as well.

“One category that is not on your list but is perhaps appropriate would be a project that had already been approved but needed to have some revision of some element in its plans in order to move forward quickly to grab a tenant,” Mallek said.

Taylor said River Bend is still committed to building the connector road .

“We will also construct new bike paths and hiking trails for use by Charlottesville-area residents,” Taylor said.


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