The organization that owns and operates the University of Virginia’s research parks is proceeding cautiously as it considers development of the three facilities.
“UVa has been here for 193 years, and we’re going to be here for another 193, so when we’re planning, we’re not just thinking about what goes on for the next six months,” said Tim Rose, chief executive officer of the University of Virginia Foundation.
Rose and his chief of staff, Deborah van Eersel, briefed the Planning and Coordination Council’s Technical Committee on Thursday. The committee is composed of city, county and UVa planners and makes recommendations to the council, which is made up of elected officials and top UVa personnel.
Both groups were created after the entities adopted in 1986 a three-party agreement that laid out areas of common planning concern.
Rose said the foundation’s hottest property is the Fontaine Research Park, a 54-acre site off U.S. 29 to the southwest of UVa. The site offers 565,000 square feet of space spread across nine buildings.
Albemarle County supervisors in 2010 approved an expansion to a maximum of 875,000 square feet, but van Eersel said the foundation is not yet planning new construction because of upcoming vacancies at the park.
All park tenants are UVa-related, with the exception of the CFA Institute. That organization will move to the former Martha Jefferson Hospital in the city some time next fall, freeing up more space for another UVa tenant.
Additional space will become free when the University of Virginia Physicians Group, formerly known as the Health Services Foundation, moves to a new facility farther west on Fontaine Avenue.
The UVA Research Park, formerly known as the North Fork Research Park, is a 562-acre site near the Charlottesville Regional Airport and the National Ground Intelligence Center.
“It has developed more slowly than we had anticipated,” Rose said. “But I think there will be a tipping point like there was at Fontaine. With all that’s going on around it, it won’t seem so far away.”
Van Eersel said the reason for the slower-than-expected growth is a perception problem.
“The UVA Research Park is definitely considered to be very far away from the Grounds, and so that distance has been sort of been a deterrent for university groups and centers to move out,” she said. “The preferred use for the park is definitely for industrial and academic research partnerships including a preference for classified research.”
Van Eersel said there are no plans to develop the Blue Ridge Research Park, a 124-acre site at the interchange of Route 20 and Interstate 64. The land was given to the University Foundation by former Gov. Jim Gilmore.
“It was a [tuberculosis] sanitarium and UVa used it for some time but we recently demolished most of the buildings on that site and there are a number of buildings that remain that are essentially in mothballs,” van Eersel said. “They are of some historic value.”
Van Eersel said the site is occasionally used by the Department of Defense for training exercises, but is mostly being held in reserve.
The PACC-Tech and PACC committees also oversee sections of land that are referred to as Area B. The plans for much of the area have not been updated recently.
“They are in desperate need of updating and it has been our goal to get these incorporated into the city and county’s comprehensive plan so they are not floating around as extra documents,” said Elaine Echols, principal planner with Albemarle County.
Echols said staff is recommending that when the old Blue Ridge Hospital is developed, buildings should be limited to no more than four stories. There would only be emergency vehicle access to Route 53 and a series of paths would be built on the property to connect it to the regional trails network.
Staffers also recommend that sidewalks and bike trails be built along Ivy Road to serve the Lewis Mountain and University Heights area. Staffers also want to put in place plans to either relocate the intersection of Old Ivy Road and Ivy Road or improve the underpass that’s already there.
A master plan is also being developed for the county’s southern urban area, which includes the Redfield and Mill Creek neighborhoods. The plan will call for a Sunset-Fontaine Connector and the construction of the Southern Parkway, as well as the inclusion of the new road that will connect Avon Street and Fifth Street Extended known as the Bent Creek Parkway.
“They all have a relationship to how traffic flows in and out of the city and in and out of the university,” Echols said.
Another proposed road improvement in the southern urban area is set to move forward shortly. The city is scheduled to open construction bids for the Old Lynchburg Road improvement project Monday.