By Brian Wheeler
Thursday, March 11, 2010
The University of Virginia Research Park adjacent to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport will be expanding with a rezoning unanimously approved by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Wednesday evening.
Thirty acres will be added to the existing research park providing a new main entrance off of Airport Road, once Lewis & Clark Drive is extended from the other side of the park.
“This has been in development over the last four years,” said Fred Missel, Director of Design & Development for the UVA Foundation in an interview. “It started in 2006 after the rezoning for the [Hollymead] fire station. Our goal was to have a continuous piece of property zoned as [Planned Development – Industrial Park] (PDIP) and available for its highest and best use.”
The expanded facility will allow an additional 700,000 sq.ft. of development in the research park, roughly a 23% increase in existing capacity. Today the UVA Foundation has only built about 500,000 sq.ft., or 17%, of the 3 million sq. ft. allowed prior to the expansion.
Local developer Wendell Wood was the only member of the public to speak during the public hearing. He encouraged the board to approve the rezoning as one way to increase local employment options.
“We sold the land to the University of Virginia in 1985 and have been patiently waiting to see some results,” said Wood. “I think we should do everything we can to support the further development when we have a world renown university.”
Valerie Long, an attorney with Williams Mullen representing the UVA Foundation, told the board that the research park is currently home to 1,100 employees.
A number of defense sub-contractors have established offices at the park to be near the Rivanna Station military base located on the other side of U.S. Route 29. UVA Foundation officials said that is a trend they expect will continue.
In 1996, the project was called the North Fork Research Park and it covered 525 acres. In addition to research park activities, the county has also approved special use permits to support laboratories, supporting commercial uses (e.g. restaurants and retail), and hotels.
Missel said this new rezoning has generated a lot of questions about the University’s plans for a hotel and conference center.
“A lot of people are excited about a conference center, but that has been allowed in the zoning since 1998,” said Missel. He said the University has no immediate plans for a hotel or conference center anywhere in the park.
Supervisor Dennis Rooker said he was reminded in his review of the proffers, the contributions from the UVA Foundation to mitigate the impact of the development, that a recreational playing field had been promised in an earlier rezoning. Rooker inquired about the status of the field to be donated to the county.
“I’ve never noticed playing fields and picnic areas,” said Rooker. “We have a better system in place today for monitoring proffers… and I just want to make sure we are following the proffers reasonably carefully.”
Long said that there has not yet been a request from the County for dedication of the playing field.
County Executive Bob Tucker said he would bring the matter to the attention of his Parks & Recreation Department to see if the time was appropriate to receive the donation of the field.