The Charlottesville City Council has reallocated some of the cost savings from the $7.5 million Downtown Mall renovation project which was completed under budget. Council voted to spend $800,000 on work to improve 2nd Street SE next to the stalled Landmark Hotel as well as improvements near the University Corner. However, Council opted not to approve a staff recommendation to use $300,000 to brick part of 6th Street SE between the Market Street Parking Garage and City Hall.

Jim Tolbert, the City’s Director of Neighborhood Development Services, said while the City expects approximately $1.5 million in savings from the Mall, he could only confirm $1.1 million at the time he appeared before Council on July 20, 2009. He offered three projects for Council to consider:

NDS Director Jim Tolbert had argued that 6th Street NE could use wider sidewalks to  improve pedestrian safety

Council did not feel that the 6th Street project was a high priority at this time. Councilor Satyendra Huja said he felt that improvements should be made first to 2nd Street Northwest between McGuffey Park and the Mall, 5th Street East between the Mall and Court Square, and 2nd Street North between the Mall and Lee Park. He asked for designs to be conducted for each project. Tolbert said those designs could be done.  However, rather than allocate the $300,000 to those projects, Council opted to place that money in reserve to carry over into the Capital Improvement Budget for fiscal year 2011.

“I’m not sure this is a time where we can justify improvements that are purely cosmetic in nature,” said Mayor Dave Norris .

Councilor Julian Taliaferro questioned why curbs are being replaced on Elliewood Avenue, given that delivery trucks will likely wear them back down again. Tolbert said the existing curbs were installed over 25 years ago, and needed replacement.

2nd Street SE is currently in a state of disrepair

Councilors also questioned whether improvements to 2nd Street East would be premature. Tolbert said the hotel developer, who must contribute $200,000 to the project by 2014, would be responsible for any damage done when construction resumes. Tolbert said that the design would allow for scaffolding to be placed on the building, and added that the project will no longer need heavy cranes given that the hotel’s structure is already in place.

Councilor Holly Edwards asked if the savings could be use to reduce the fees paid by vendors. Tolbert said he would look into it as his department reevaluates the fee structure this fall.

Councilor Huja also questioned the estimates for the other projects and asked his fellow Councilors if they would support reducing the amount for each project by $50,000 each. However, Tolbert said he would have to alter the Corner streetscape project dramatically if the budget was reduced.

“I promise you that we won’t spend a dime more than we have to,” Tolbert said.

Council unanimously voted in favor of reallocating $800,000 towards two of the projects recommended by Tolbert. The rest will be kept in reserve.