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January 11, 2012

City planners briefed on plans for new apartments near UVA

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Atlanta-based developer of student housing has submitted plans to build a 300-unit apartment complex near the Barracks Road Shopping Center.

If approved by the city of Charlottesville, the development would replace several office buildings with two five-story buildings at the intersection of Arlington Boulevard and Millmont Street. 

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Rendering of the Arlington and Millmont development

“It is an ideally interconnected site because it has sidewalk and pedestrian access to both the University of Virginia and the Barracks Road Shopping Center,” said Jeff Githens of Peak Campus Development. 

On Tuesday, Githens briefed the Planning Commission to get its input in advance of a February public hearing. 

Though the land is zoned for dense residential housing, the city must approve a special use permit before the project can go forward. 

The development would be built in two phases. The first would be a five-story building with 230 apartments. Parking will be in the form of a 480-space garage that would be built underneath the first building. The second phase would be a second five-story building with 70 apartments.

Currently the land is home to medical offices, some of which are rented by UVa’s Department of Psychiatry. 

“The reason for the phasing is that we have a tenant whose lease will remain beyond the start of construction,” Githens said. 

Peak Campus Development is hoping to start construction in May in order to be able to rent the first units in August 2013. The company will market the development to graduate students and young professionals. 

Jim Tolbert, Charlottesville’s director of neighborhood development services, said the project is consistent with the city’s housing goals. 

“It is a dense urban student apartment complex that will put a lot of students within walking distance to classes, services and transportation,” Tolbert said. 

Commissioner Lisa Green requested that Githens be able to discuss more about how the project will fit in with the surrounding landscape at the February hearing. 

“We’re not injecting ourselves into a single family neighborhood,” Githens said. “Our neighbors are multifamily and commercial in nature. We’re supported by alternative modes of transportation, and the size of the building is allowed under the zoning code.” 

Commissioner Dan Rosensweig encouraged Githens to reduce the number of parking spots to make room for more bike lockers. 

Githens pointed out that the project would actually decrease traffic over the current use because most tenants will likely leave their cars at home while they attend classes. 

“It’s not often a new development can make that claim,” Githens said. 

As part of the project, Githens said the firm would comply with an affordable housing provision in the city’s zoning ordinance buy making a cash contribution to the Charlottesville Housing Fund. 

The project is not subject to design review from the Board of Architectural Review because it is not located in an entrance corridor. 

In other news, the commission agreed to amend a special use permit it originally granted in December 2008 that allows developer Bill Chapman to build a 27-room bed and breakfast and a 36-unit apartment complex off of Oakhurst Circle near UVa. 

Since then, Chapman has been unable to start construction. 

“The applicant has had some trouble financing the project,” said city planner Ebony Walden. “Mixed use projects are really hard to finance.”

Chapman’s solution has been to subdivide the property into two parcels to allow him to seek separate loans for each type of development. That required the original approval to be changed. 

As part of the development, Chapman is required to rebuild the intersection of Jefferson Park Avenue and Emmet Street to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The existing northbound right-turn lane will be eliminated in favor of a T-junction.

Chapman said the project will be built in one phase, including the intersection realignment. He added he hopes ground can be broken this June with a completion date of August 2013.

 

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