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March 06, 2012

Council OKs task force to study Belmont Bridge corridor

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DailyProgress

2010-belmont-picture2

View looking west from the Belmont Bridge overseeing several properties that will be redeveloped in the future 

Related Belmont Bridge stories:

Belmont Bridge’s future: Winning design faces obstacles, 3/5/2012 by Sean Tubbs

Council to take up Belmont-area redesign Monday, 3/5/2012 by Graham Moomaw

Council opposes grant application for new Belmont Bridge design, 2/22/2012 by Sean Tubbs

Winning design for Belmont: No bridge, more connectivity for Belmont and Downtown Mall, 2/21/2012 by Courtney Beale

UVa teams unveil Belmont Bridge concepts, 2/12/2012 by Sean Tubbs

UVa teams finalizing designs for new Belmont Bridge, 2/11/2012 by Courtney Beale & Sean Tubbs

UVa architecture school to spend next 10 days imagining a new Belmont Bridge, 2/1/2012 by Brian Wheeler

Belmont residents seek new design for city bridge, 1/30/2012 by Sean Tubbs

Belmont Bridge design coming into focus, 6/22/2011 by Sean Tubbs

City to pay $14K to fence off Belmont Bridge sidewalk, 4/13/2011 by Jason Ha & Sean Tubbs

JPA bridge replacement funded by money from Belmont Bridge project, 1/27/2011 by Sean Tubbs

Belmont Bridge replacement offers opportunities for cyclists, pedestrians, 12/1/2010 by Sean Tubbs

City adopts new strategy to accelerate Belmont Bridge project, 5/19/2010 by Sean Tubbs

MMM Design selected to oversee new Belmont Bridge design work, 4/8/2009 by Sean Tubbs

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Charlottesville’s City Council voted Monday to allocate up to $150,000 to hire a consultant to study development opportunities and infrastructure requirements in the area around the Belmont Bridge.
 
However, the study itself will not directly address new designs for the bridge’s replacement.
 
“I’ve not included the Belmont Bridge in this because I think that’s a separate process moving forward that we need to continue with,” said Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services.

The city has been planning for a replacement of the bridge since 2003, when engineers determined it was rapidly deteriorating. Plans for a replacement produced by the firm MMM Design did not meet with approval from the Board of Architectural Review in September. A grassroots design competition was held in February to solicit more design ideas.

 
“It is abundantly clear from the flurry of bridge activity that the public does not want and will not support moving forward with the current proposal that initially inspired the competition,” said Belmont resident and architect Jim Rounsevel, whose entry placed second in the contest.
 
Rounsevel and several other speakers asked councilors to appoint a citizens’ committee to oversee the continuation of the design process.
 
However, Tolbert responded that his staff will meet next week with MMM Design planners, Iñaki Alday of the University of Virginia School of Architecture and landscape architect Beth Meyer to sift through ideas that originated from the contest.
 
“I had not envisioned having a committee to work on [the bridge],” Tolbert said.
However, Councilor Dave Norris asked for Belmont residents to be part of next week’s meeting with between staff and MMM Design. Tolbert agreed but said that would not take place during the initial review. No timeline has been established for when their work will be completed.
 
The bridge project will be the first item reviewed later this year by a new task force also approved by the City Council on Monday.
 
The Placemaking, Livability and Community Engagement design task force (PLACE) will have seven members representing the architecture, arts and development communities, as well as the public at large.
 
“[It is] tasked with several things, primarily looking at the development of public properties,” Tolbert said. “I think it would have been a very useful group to have had when we started the Belmont Bridge process.”
 
Rounsevel urged the council to make sure the review process is as transparent as possible.
 
“We got into this mess because … representatives of the Belmont neighborhood continued to ask for a whole host of things that we felt like MMM summarily was not able to provide,” Rounsevel said. Specifically, Rounsevel wanted the company to build models depicting how the bridge would fit into the environment.
 
“We have learned from our experience and we will do better,” said Mayor Satyendra Huja.
 
The review of the bridge design will be concurrent with the land-use study to be undertaken by a consultant.
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The CRHA plans to redevelop the property at the corner of Avon Street and Levy Avenue on which this former service station still stands 
Tolbert said a request for proposals to identify a consultant will be issued to solicit information on several issues regarding undeveloped land around the bridge’s southern landing.
 
The $150,000 to pay for the study will come from money that has already been set aside for implementation of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s master plan.
 
The first phase of CRHA redevelopment involves building a new public housing site at the corner of Avon Street and Levy Avenue on land recently purchased by the city. The first phase also calls for a new structure to temporarily house residents displaced by the renovations of Crescent Halls on Monticello Avenue.
 
“We need to do some more work with the community to really talk about what that is,” Tolbert said. “We would want to put that as a first priority in the development of an RFP.”
Councilor Kristin Szakos said she could support using CRHA money to study the corridor to connect more people to those jobs, but said she was cautious.
 
“I just want to make sure that we don’t take money that was designated to benefit people who are now in public and Section 8 housing and divert it to a general city planning process,” Szakos said.
 
Tolbert said the draft scope of work also extended to the former Martha Jefferson Hospital campus, given that the CFA Institute is moving its headquarters there next year. That will bring more than 400 jobs to that part of Charlottesville, and Tolbert said the study would address ways to improve bike and pedestrian connectivity.
 
“It’s really all one corridor there from Martha Jefferson all the way down Avon Street,” Tolbert said.
 
Councilor Kathy Galvin, an architect familiar with Albemarle County’s master plans for its designated growth areas, said she supports issuing the request for proposals.
 
“Cities can help by creating master plans for whole urban neighborhoods that front-load the environmental and community review process so individual developers can construct projects more quickly on the back end,” Galvin said. “We get this going, and a master developer could take the ball and run with it.”
 

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