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Planners tour Cherry Avenue in advance of hotel groundbreaking
Charlottesville Planning Commission, June 28, 2016
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Members of the Charlottesville Planning Commission at conclusion of small-area plan tour of Cherry Avenue
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Sean Tubbs | Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 10:11 p.m.

As Fifeville residents prepare for the imminent clearing of land to make way for a new hotel, several had a chance Tuesday to try and convince Charlottesville officials to address issues caused by a growing city.

“There’s traffic to the University of Virginia hospital between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. and again from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.,” said Carmelita Wood, president of the Fifeville Neighborhood Association.

“Fifeville was never designed to deal with this amount of traffic,” said resident Missy Wernstrom.

Both made their comments during the city planning commission’s walking tour of Cherry Avenue. The panel is taking monthly tours of several locations to determine which should be the subject of the city’s next small-area plan.

The Fifeville Neighborhood Association has been making the case that Cherry Avenue should be chosen because of looming development. They want the city to change zoning to encourage more uses that will make the street more than just a conduit for employee traffic to and from UVa.

Many in the neighborhood remain dismayed that the first major development this decade on Cherry Avenue will be a hotel.

Ground will be broken in July for the first phase of the so-called William Taylor Plaza, a controversial re-zoning in 2009 that also involves land on Ridge Street.

Cherry Avenue Investments, a limited liability company associated with Southern Development, sold 2.4 acres of land in late May for $900,000 to Virginia Hotels LLC, a company registered in Pennsylvania.

Some clearing of the land for the 117-room Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott is currently underway. The hotel is expected to open sometime in 2017.

Initial planning for phase two of the William Taylor Plaza is underway, but no specific plans have been submitted to the city’s department of Neighborhood Development Services.

Mary Joy Scala, the city’s historic resources planner, told the Board of Architectural Review about the second phase earlier this month. Southern Development is seeking a work session with the BAR in late July to discuss preliminary plans.

“They want to fit as many residential units on this site as they can,” Scala told the BAR. “I told them the BAR would expect trees and gabled roofs and would want to separate it into pieces like the rest of Ridge Street, even if it is one apartment building.”

The second phase sits on 0.4 acres. Under the terms of the planned unit development zoning, it can either be all residential or mixed-use. There must be a minimum of 10 homes and a maximum of 50.

Members of the neighborhood association want the city to get ahead of the future developments with the small area plan. About a dozen residents joined the Planning Commission’s tour, which began at Tonsler Park.

The group walked up a steep hill toward Ridge Street, passing a long line of idling vehicles waiting for the signal to turn green.

From the very outset, residents expressed concern that that traffic congestion would only get worse with the new hotel on the corner.

The group stopped in front of Kim’s Market, a 10,000-square-foot building constructed in 1954. Many in the community would like someone to take over the store and convert it back into a small grocery store. The store operated as an IGA franchise for many years.

City officials expressed doubt the economics would work out for that use. A new Wegmans is opening less than 2 miles away later this year.

“A grocery store is not going to come unless you have the population to support it,” said NDS Director Alexander Ikefuna.

The group walked westward on Cherry Avenue along sidewalks that were expanded last year as part of a streetscape project funded by the federal Community Block Development Grant program. However, the widened sidewalks abruptly stop about halfway down the street.

“We ran out of money,” said Missy Creasy, the city’s planning manager, adding there are detailed plans to complete the streetscape if City Council can allocate additional money.

The tour concluded with a brief discussion at the corner of Roosevelt Brown Boulevard and King Street.

“It feels like action could be taken on Cherry Avenue that would make an immediate impact,” said Commissioner Kurt Keesecker. “Here without a form-based code, if development pressure comes here, in two years there could be a 200-foot-long, blank wall facing Cherry that will kill half the street.”

City Councilor Kathy Galvin noticed there could be room for an alleyway system to be built between Cherry Avenue and Elm Street.

“A rear-loaded alley would better manage car access to properties along Cherry Avenue and reduce the number of random conflict points between cars and pedestrians alike on Cherry,” Galvin said in an email. “One member of the Planning Commission also suggested that accessory units could be built along alleys, thereby increasing the stock of affordable housing through market means.”

Galvin said that is one idea that could come out of a small-area plan if the council selects Cherry Avenue.

Ikefuna said a decision will not be made until after the Planning Commission finishes its series of tours. The next visit will be to the Emmet Street corridor in late July.
 

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