Despite heavy use of the 25 on-street spots on Fontaine Avenue, a planned upgrade of the Charlottesville street between U.S. 29 and Jefferson Park Avenue might eliminate parking altogether.
Stakeholders and members of the public who have participated in the Fontaine Avenue Streetscape Improvement Project have prioritized bike lanes and sidewalks above parking, according to RK&K, the consultants tasked with redesigning the street.
“I’m surprised. Usually we get to this phase and everybody wants everything at the expense of anybody that’s in their way, and we’re not seeing this here,” said Owen Peery, a director of transportation at RK&K.
Home to the University of Virginia’s Fontaine Research Park, restaurants and residences, including those of many students, the Fontaine Avenue project was awarded $11.7 million in Smart Scale funding from the Commonwealth Transportation Board in 2016.
Based on input from a community meeting, the project’s steering committee pasted together a preliminary streetscape that has bike lanes, sidewalks and trees on both sides of the road — but no parking.
The preliminary design would largely fit into the existing right of way.
Members of the steering committee in attendance included city Planning Commissioners Jody Lahendro and Hosea Mitchell; Board of Architectural Review member Carl Schwartz; Jess Wenger, of the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association; and university transportation and health system administrators.
“This is the first time I’ve heard that no one wants parking, and how much of that really is a rejection of students who park there but live [in an adjacent neighborhood],” asked PLACE Design Task Force Chairman Mike Stoneking when RK&K presented the preliminary streetscape to the group on Thursday.
(Stoneking is a member of Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Board of Directors.)
Peery answered that the team intends to show multiple streetscape options, including versions that have parking, at the next public meeting. He said he hopes that will help to determine who is using the parking and whether it is necessary.
Plans for Fontaine Research Park include building a parking garage with 1,260 spaces to free up surface parking lots for future development.
“The great thing about having a parking structure here, as well, is that … it allows us to move parking away from the center and start building the connective tissue in a way so that you can park once … and then use our University Transit [System] or [Charlottesville Area Transit] or JAUNT to get around,” UVa architect Alice Raucher said at a joint meeting of officials from the city, Albemarle County and UVa in October.
The Fontaine streetscape project received a high score in the Smart Scale ranking process partially because of its ability to improve safety in the area. Between 2013 and 2017, there were six crashes on the street that injured cyclists or pedestrians.
The next steering committee meeting is March 25, and there will be another public workshop in late April or early May. Resources from past meetings are available at fontainestreetscape.com.
Emily Hays grew up in Charlottesville and graduated from Yale in 2016. She covered growth, development, and affordable living. Before writing for Charlottesville Tomorrow, she produced a podcast on education and caste in Maharashtra, India.