Imagine a linear park stretching from Garrett Street to Elliott Avenue that straddles an openly flowing waterway.
Or, consider a transformation of Second Street Southeast into a thoroughfare that connects the Downtown Mall with a new public space on the site of the former Frank Ix and Sons factory.
Those are two of three scenarios recently unveiled by architects working on a plan to guide future development for the area between Avon Street and Ridge-McIntire in central Charlottesville.
“The idea is to create a vision that can guide future development so that individual developers when they’re looking to improve their property and build something new, the city can look at this general framework,” said Nandor Mitrocsak, an architect with Cunningham Quill.
The City Council is paying the firm $145,000 for what has been called a “strategic investment area” plan for a part of town that includes several public housing sites run by the Charlottesville Redevelopment & Housing Authority.
The expected outcome is a blueprint for future development, similar to a 2004 plan by Wallace, Roberts & Todd for West Main Street. That plan, for instance, envisioned developments such as a 595-bedroom apartment complex currently under construction.
The Cunningham Quill team has visited the area several times since February to tour and interview area residents, city staff and business officials.
The firm unveiled three directions the plan could take at a meeting Thursday at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church.
“What we presented were overall plan components that would run all throughout the plans,” said Lee Quill, principal of Cunningham Quill. These were intended to promote connectivity, green infrastructure and economic development in the study area.
“In this area, people can really live car-lite and so the bike and pedestrian connections is really what we’ve been focusing on,” said Yolanda Takesian, with Kittelson & Associates.
One of the scenarios would envision a greenway through a watershed of a Moores Creek tributary that is now largely hidden.
“Pollocks Branch is currently piped underneath Friendship Court and the Ix area, but then daylights south of Elliott Avenue,” Quill said. “The idea would be to express that in a more meaningful manner.”
Another idea in this scenario would be to add stormwater management features on the side streets of western Belmont in order to clean up Pollocks Branch.
“Right now they are just wide streets with no sidewalks, curbs, gutters, or street-trees,” Quill said. Adding those features would assist the city with its stormwater management goals.
The second scenario would see the creation of “neighborhood nodes” that would create neighborhood amenities in the area.
“Instead of the grand linear element, we looked at the idea of a series of small pocket parks and they could take on different characters,” said Jim Malone of Cunningham Quill. “The one in the Ix property could be more retail focused, whereas the ones to the north and south could be quieter and more residential.”
The third scenario would build a central plaza, perhaps on the Ix property, a site once eyed for the City Market , that would be a gathering place for the neighborhood.
Quill said this would not be intended to compete with the mall, but to augment the city’s inventory of public spaces and building stock.
“As the city grows and more opportunities come in with more people, where can that happen?” Quill asked. “You either tear things down and rebuild or you can take advantage of things that are open space and we have a bit of both here.”
The plaza would be lined with mixed-use buildings, with retail uses on the lower floors and residences above. This central space would see Second Street built up with more of a street front that would connect the mall to the Ix site.
“If you can make Second Street a very pleasant experience, it provides a really strong framework to connect across the train tracks to downtown,” Mitrocsak said.
At this point in the planning process, the details are vague. However, that’s part of the point of doing a neighborhood plan, participants say.
“At this point, it only needs to be conceived of as a mix of uses,” said Eric Smart, of Bolan Smart Associates. “It’s big enough that it can accommodate 25 or 30 years of growth and not the next five years.”
This scenario also envisions a slight redevelopment of the western edge of Friendship Court along Second Street. The apartment complex serves low-income residents and is subsidized through federal vouchers.
“Right now the frontage is the back of the townhouses, and a stockade fence, and a little grass area,” Quill said. “The fence would go away to open up the area.”
The streetfront along Second Street could be developed for retail or small business uses.
The Cunningham Quill group will be back in mid-July to unveil a final set of scenarios to the public.