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October 26, 2011

Developer and MPO seeking grant for JPA/Emmet intersection improvements

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By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

JPA-emmet-improvements-sche
A schematic of the planned intersection improvements adjacent to the new Oakhurst Inn and Apartments

The developer of a new bed and breakfast in Charlottesville has received the support of the Metropolitan Planning Organization to pursue a state grant to pay for improvements to the intersection of Emmet Street and Jefferson Park Avenue.

When completed, motorists heading down JPA towards the University of Virginia Medical Center will have to pass through the traffic signal, improving conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists.  The grant would facilitate the redevelopment project.

“It will be a lodging business right next to the university, and I think this is a good way to fund some much needed renovations to these buildings,” said Bill Chapman, the developer of the Oakhurst Inn and Apartments and co-founder of C-Ville Weekly

The project will consist of a new 36-unit apartment complex, a renovation of an existing 5-bedroom house, and the conversion of three buildings into a 27 room bed and breakfast.

The Charlottesville Planning Commission granted a special use permit for the project in December 2008. One of the conditions was that Chapman design improvements at the intersection and pay for its construction. 

The area was first identified for potential safety improvements in a study conducted by the city and the University of Virginia in 2000.

“One of their recommendations at the time was to realign that intersection,” Chapman said. “Since we’re developing the adjacent project we decided to take it on.” 

Chapman said the project could cost around half a million dollars. He said he hopes to pay for it by applying for a transportation enhancement grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation. 

The fund has been used in the past to pay for such projects as a handicap-accessible ramp at the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center at Darden-Towe Park. The city also recently received enhancement grant funding to pay for a bridge over the railroad tracks running through McIntire Park. 

 “We don’t usually apply for transportation enhancement grants, but are eligible to do so,” said Stephen Williams, the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission

Williams said Charlottesville officials asked the MPO to prepare the application because transportation planners are currently overbooked with city projects. He added that UVa did not want to submit the application because the project is off Grounds. 

Under the plan, the existing right-turn yield lane at the intersection would be eliminated and all traffic heading to the medical center would have to use the traffic signal. Two separate 5-foot wide paths would be built on Chapman’s property to separate cyclists and pedestrians from vehicular traffic.  This work will complete a gap in a bike lane at the corner.

“Removal of the yield controlled right turn and reconfiguration of the intersection will shorten the distance pedestrians have to walk to cross the intersection and require motorists to come to a stop rather than yield, making the intersection easier for pedestrians to navigate,” said Jeanie Alexander, the city’s traffic engineer. 

Earlier this month, council agreed to spend $75,000 from its strategic investment fund to make the required match for the VDOT grant. The fund’s use was justified after the economic development office concluded that project would generate $100,000 a year in additional tax revenues. 

The final site plan for the apartments and the bed and breakfast were approved this past summer. Chapman said he is working to obtain financing for the project and he anticipates a June 2012 start with completion in the summer of 2013. 

In other news, the TJPDC will host another in a series of workshops this afternoon as part of its One Community livability initiative. The public is invited to comment on the area’s existing land use and transportation policies. 

“We think this could well be the largest of the workshops because those are two very important issues and many people have a lot of questions and concerns,” Williams said. 

The event will be held at the County Office Building from 4:00 to  7:00 pm. 

Following the workshop, cycling activist Mia Burk will give a talk in Lane Auditorium on how she and others helped make Portland, Oregon a bike friendly community. 


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