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July 18, 2012

State transportation board transfers funds for Hillsdale Drive

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

RICHMOND — The Commonwealth Transportation Board has approved the transfer of $9.7 million in additional funds for Hillsdale Drive Extended

That fully funds the current $13.8 million cost estimate for the Charlottesville road and completes a series of promises made by top Virginia officials in exchange for local support of the Western Bypass of U.S. 29
 
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Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton (file photo)
“We’ve made commitments to the community that we would fund certain projects and now we’re fulfilling them,” said Sean Connaughton, Virginia’s secretary of transportation. 
 
At their June meeting, the CTB fully funded the $14.5 replacement of the Belmont Bridge as well as a $7.7 million project to add a second lane on the west-bound on-ramp at the interchange of U.S. 29/250 and Emmet Street
 
The CTB also awarded in June a $136 million design-build contract to a team consisting of Skanska-USA and Branch Highways to build the 6.2-mile bypass. 
Hillsdale Drive Extended was supposed to have been funded at that time, but VDOT officials said a mistake was made with the paperwork. 
 
“We had indicated we would bring it back to the board fully funded through a transfer process,” said Reta Busher, VDOT’s chief of programming and planning. 
 
The funding was reallocated from four projects elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Lynchburg District donated $1.25 million, the Salem District donated $2 million and rest came from two projects in the Staunton District. 
 

Continue reading "State transportation board transfers funds for Hillsdale Drive" »

July 15, 2012

Soundboard 7-13-2012 - Charlottesville's news straight from the source

Soundboard

Soundboard: Charlottesville's news straight from the source

A collaborative local news radio program by WTJU 91.1 FM, Charlottesville Tomorrow, and C-Ville Weekly.

Each Friday from 4-5 PM, tune in to hear area journalists and guests discuss local news, culture, and community issues in the Charlottesville area. Whether we're talking about city politics, scientific innovations, or the local music scene, you'll get to hear in-depth discussion about stories that matter.

Soundboard is co-hosted by WTJU's Lewis Reining and Charlottesville Tomorrow's Jennifer Marley.

Podcasts may be downloaded from this website, via RSS, and via Charlottesville Tomorrow on iTunes.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120713-Soundboard

The July 13 show features contributors Giles Morris, Laura Ingles, Ryan McCrimmon & Graelyn Brashear (from C-Ville Weekly) and Sean Tubbs & Ian Lamb (Charlottesville Tomorrow) discussing: 

Soundboard is produced by Robert Packard and Nathan Moore. We hope you enjoy it, and we look forward to your feedback!

 
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May 07, 2012

New deli in Shoppers World moving along

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, May 7, 2012

The old Ragazzi’s restaurant in Shoppers World soon will be given a new lease on life as the home of a Jason’s Deli. Albemarle County’s Architectural Review Board reviewed the company’s plans to alter the exterior of the building during its meeting Monday. Plans included additional windows but no outdoor seating.

20120507-ARB-Jasons-DeliAlex Williams, district manager for Jason’s Deli, said at the meeting that the company was looking forward to having a store in the Charlottesville area.

“[We are] excited, very excited, to have our store in this location,” Williams said. “We get a lot of people from this area coming to Richmond inquiring as to when we will be coming to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area and finally, we are here.”

The Jason’s Deli on U.S. 29 is scheduled to open sometime in August.

In other news, the Shops at Stonefield project is also getting closer to opening, with construction on numerous commercial buildings, including a Trader Joe’s and a Regal movie theater, well under way. County staff reviewed lighting proposals and is in the process of approving overall signage guidelines that Stonefield will enforce with its tenants.

December 11, 2011

Meadows residents seek protection from Stonefield traffic

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, December 11, 2011

Residents of Charlottesville’s Meadows neighborhood have expressed concern that their streets may be overwhelmed by traffic generated by the Stonefield commercial center currently under construction in Albemarle County.

“We’ve got a lot of concerns about people being tempted to avoid all of the traffic congestion,” said James Chang, president of the Meadows Neighborhood Association. “We all know that Hydraulic Road and U.S. 29 is not the best intersection to try to get through.”

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Signage and a "pork-chop" barrier are two of the tools city staff will use to try to keep traffic down in the Meadows neighborhood once Stonefield is built (Photo: Sabrina Schaeffer/The Daily Progress)

Chang made his comments at City Council’s final neighborhood meeting of 2011 on Thursday. The events are designed to give residents a chance to ask questions of councilors and city staff in an informal setting.

The Meadows neighborhood is located in northwestern Charlottesville.

“We have always kind of felt like an orphan neighborhood,” Chang said. “We’re in between Georgetown Road, Hydraulic Road, U.S. 29 and Barracks Road.”Edens & Avant, the developer of Stonefield, expects to hold a grand opening for the first phase of the project in November 2012. That will include a movie theater, several restaurants and a Trader Joe’s grocery store.

One of the main entrances for Stonefield will be located directly across from Cedar Hill Road, a major thoroughfare in the Meadows neighborhood.

Continue reading "Meadows residents seek protection from Stonefield traffic " »

December 06, 2011

Architectural Review Board finally approves Trader Joe’s brick color

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board moved a planned Trader Joe’s grocery store at Stonefield one step closer to construction on Monday with a 3-2 vote approving the building’s brick color.

The brick facing the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road had emerged as a sticking point after the board asked Stonefield’s developers to reconsider their choice of white painted brick. The developer returned in November with an off-white and unpainted brick selection.

That meeting, however, ended in a 2-2 stalemate, with two members objecting to the brick remaining any shade of white and the other two finding the avoidance of paint to be adequate. Bruce Daggett, the absent fifth board member in November, cast the tie-breaking vote Monday to approve the brick selection, named “white stone.”

Continue reading "Architectural Review Board finally approves Trader Joe’s brick color" »

November 22, 2011

Tie vote on building design delays Trader Joe’s

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Developers of Stonefield, a mixed-use development along U.S. 29, ran into a minor roadblock in the form of a rare tie vote from the Albemarle County Architectural Review Board on Monday.

The four board members in attendance reached an impasse over the use of white-colored brick on the Trader Joe’s building slated to be built at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road.

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Albemarle Architectural Review Board member Chuck Lebo compares material samples for Trader Joe's

Board members Charles Lebo and Paul Wright voted in opposition, having long expressed disapproval with the use of white brick on the Trader Joe’s building, which they described as giving the building a monolithic appearance and clashing with the community’s character.

“I’ve stated in the past and I’m stating it now: I’m looking for a more earth-toned brick color,” Lebo said.

However, the board found difficulty in suggesting an alternative color choice. Bruce Wardell and ARB chairman Fred Missel expressed concern that choosing a different brick color could cause the building to stick out from the rest of the development.

“I think putting red brick on that corner or tan brick on that corner would be like a cartoon,” Wardell said.

Developers said that the white brick color was important because white is perceived as a good color choice for retail businesses and because it is in keeping with the contemporary appearance they are seeking in the design.

Continue reading "Tie vote on building design delays Trader Joe’s" »

October 18, 2011

Stonefield hits approval milestone

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Stonefield development hit a major milestone Monday when it received a certificate of appropriateness from Albemarle County’s Architectural Review Board.

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Albemarle ARB Chairman Fred Missel

While board members said the Stonefield designs were still not perfect, they, and developers alike, expressed a sense of relief at moving forward with what has been an intensive review process.

“I think we’ve done everything we can to help take a ‘blank wall’-covered development and mitigate that in many ways and creative ways,” said board Chairman Fred Missel. “I don’t think we could do any more to really help that, frankly.”

Developers of the Stonefield project had returned to address design concerns raised at an Oct. 3 work session with the ARB, as well as questions raised in a staff report prepared by county planners.

Echoing a familiar note from throughout the process, the board focused on the design of Trader Joe’s, and especially its south facing wall along Hydraulic Drive. Only three of the review board’s five members were in attendance, but the building’s two principal critics, Paul Wright and Charles Lebo, were there and enumerated their concerns.

Continue reading "Stonefield hits approval milestone" »

October 05, 2011

Amid challenges, Stonefield garners some positive feedback

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The developers of the massive Stonefield project returned before the Albemarle County Architectural Review Board on Monday after receiving significant pushback from the board in recent meetings.

Representatives from Edens & Avant, the South Carolina-based development company overseeing Stonefield, attempted to resolve architectural concerns for the Trader Joe’s grocery store and other buildings facing U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road.

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Proposed Trader Joe's as seen by ARB in June 2011
(click to enlarge)

 

201108-TraderJoes Proposed Trader Joe's as seen by ARB in August 2011
(click to enlarge)

 

201110-TraderJoes Proposed Trader Joe's as seen by ARB in October 2011
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 Three recent renderings provided to the Albemarle Architectural Review Board depicting the view of the proposed Trader Joe's grocery store from the intersection of U.S. Route 29 and Hydraulic Rd
(corner location of old 7-Eleven)

The ARB had frowned upon the building’s large blank walls, “big box” designs and inadequate color contrast and detailing.

All parties involved agreed that the project faced tremendous design challenges due to the conflict between the county’s Neighborhood Model emphasis on walkable, pedestrian–friendly developments and the ARB’s mission to ensure that buildings visible from the county’s entrance corridors reflect community character.

“The challenge is to create an inwardly focused development while still respecting the importance of the aesthetics on the exterior,” said Albemarle Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker, who was in attendance. “I think it’s the first time our architectural review board has had to deal with that challenge.”

The work session centered on the design of Trader Joe’s, which will be at the corner of Hydraulic and 29 and which will function as a “front door” to the development. The developers have added more color contrast, detailing around the top of the building and plant screens, and they have attempted to give a more layered appearance than the sheer blank rear wall typical of most grocery stores.

However, not all ARB members thought they attained this goal.

“Essentially, nothing has been addressed in a significant way I think to alleviate those issues,” said board member Paul Wright, who has been consistently critical of the Stonefield plans. “If this were an individual building and we were voting on it … I think I couldn’t vote to approve it.”

Other members disagreed and thought that the developers had handled an extremely challenging design task to the best of their abilities.

“Have you done what you can do to be appropriate in the entrance corridor given what you’ve got?” asked board member Fred Missel. “I guess I believe that you have.”

While the majority of ARB members voiced a desire for windows along Trader Joe’s south-facing wall, others said that adding more visual features could make the building’s exterior overly “busy.”

“You gotta know when to stop on a building,” said board member Bruce Wardell.

“The iterative process of the ARB approval has likely, if not certainly, added costs to the project and such costs will be passed on to tenants and eventually to consumers,” said Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum. “The question becomes, ‘does the Architectural Review Board have too much say with regard to buildings within view of the entrance corridor?’”

Developers also asked for a quick turnaround from the ARB, citing a desire to maintain construction activity while waiting for final approval.

“The longer we push out this [approval] date, we start getting to the point where we can’t do any more work onsite, and we just want to keep moving,” said Brad Dumont of Edens & Avant. “Because we need to have our site plan approved prior to the building plans being approved, we would like to … seek approval at the next meeting.”

Wright, though, said that an approval of the seven buildings in the current plans by Nov. 1 would virtually preclude a full staff review of the plans, setting a significant precedent.

“In reality, we’ll almost be going into final [review] without any additional comments from staff and that’s never been done,” Wright said.

Project developer Bill Caldwell said Edens & Avant will work to quickly provide county staff with all the necessary information to begin a staff report.

“I’m going to commit my team to getting her all the comments addressed by the end of the week so she’ll have those and we’ll move forward from there,” he said.

Rooker said he is excited for the project to be under way and that this sort of mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development could lead to a better sense of place and less need for automobile use.

“The idea is create an area where some people can live, work and play and not have to get in their car every time they’re going to do something,” Rooker said.

August 16, 2011

Stonefield design lands between a rock and a hard place

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The developers of Stonefield didn’t get much time to relish last month’s approval of the design for a new Regal Cinema. The proposed Trader Joe’s grocery store, and every other building under review by the Albemarle County Architectural Review Board, hit a buzz saw of criticism Monday.

Board members warned that the big box cinema, which they justified as a use requiring a big box without windows, should not be seen as a precedent for other commercial buildings. 

Stonefield, formerly known as Albemarle Place, is a mixed-use development that encompasses an area twice as large as the blocks surrounding Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. Stonefield will include apartments, a hotel, restaurants and a variety of retail businesses.

20110815-ARB Albemarle Architectural Review Board members Paul Wright, Fred Missel, and Chuck Lebo

“This is kind of like the process of eating an elephant,” said board chair Fred Missel as he opened the design review of the project’s next eight commercial buildings.

At the heart of the challenge is designing buildings that face two “main streets” — Stonefield’s internal roads where new businesses will have their main entrances and the county’s Hydraulic Road and U.S. 29, which are designated “entrance corridors.”

20110815-StonefieldPresentation_Page_26 “I’ve said this from the very beginning, and I don’t think I have been heard up until now, that there is no context for the current drawings that I have seen,” said board member Paul Wright. “If you use the cinema as your template for the rest of the design, you will not be successful. For the Trader Joe’s building, I can see almost nothing except the use of stone that is appropriate for this corner.”

Trader Joe’s is proposed for the corner of Hydraulic and U.S. 29 at the site of a former 7-Eleven. Wright and other board members all agreed that blank walls and loading docks facing U.S. 29 were unacceptable.

“It’s not to say that we don’t like modern buildings, look at the [new] Martha Jefferson Hospital,” added Wright. “We have approved modern buildings that are quite architecturally significant and fit into the entrance corridor.”

Tom Gallagher, a principal with South Carolina-based Edens & Avant, acknowledged the sides and backs of numerous Stonefield buildings would face the entrance corridor while the shops and activity will be anchored on new streets inside the development.

“Where we are trying to spend most of our money is on Main Street,” said Gallagher in an interview. “That’s really where the people are going to spend the time, they are going to touch, they are going to feel, they are going to enjoy.”

“We are going to have to work through it,” said Gallagher. “There are a lot of tools we can use — landscaping, architectural design (even when it’s on the back of the buildings), things you can do to create changes, verticality, and hierarchy, but it is an inherent conflict.”

Board member Wright did some research of his own and shared a picture of another Edens & Avant project called the Shoppes at Ryan Park in Ashburn which he indicated he preferred. 

“I looked at this and said ‘Why not us?’” stated Wright.

That commercial complex, however, has the typical frontage of a large parking lot, not the relegated parking and pedestrian-oriented spaces like the Downtown Mall that have long been a goal of Albemarle’s neighborhood model in general, and Stonefield specifically.

20110815-StonefieldPresentation_Page_28 “Next time I come down I can bring a picture of the back of the building,” said Gallagher about the Ashburn example. “It’s more of a sheer wall.”

Wright also highlighted the Harris Teeter in Crozet as an example of where the ARB pushed back and the design was adjusted.

“We were told we were going to have a blank wall, and we said no,” said Wright.  “There are now windows all along the Harris Teeter in Crozet…I have been to about five Trader Joe’s and there aren’t any two of them that are exactly the same.”

“We are here to listen and understand,” Gallagher told the ARB.

Edens & Avant will return to the ARB on September 6 to finalize the Regal Cinema’s landscaping and lighting plans, as well as to hold a work session on Trader Joe’s and other nearby commercial buildings proposed along U.S. 29.

July 06, 2011

Design of new Regal Cinema at Stonefield moves closer to approval

DailyProgressBy Tracie Cabler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 6, 2011

After multiple work sessions to review the preliminary plans for the Stonefield development’s new Regal Cinema, the Architectural Review Board said Tuesday it was largely satisfied with recent changes to the design.

“I think this is a much more successful approach,” said board member Bill Daggett. “I’m in favor of what I see here and I think we should continue to support it.”

Board member Charles Lebo echoed Daggett’s sentiments.

20110705-regal-perspectives “I think they’re moving along in the right direction,” Lebo said. “It’s a great improvement…. It wouldn’t hurt me to see some brick on some of these walls… I think there’s been some good progress made and I’m for the new metal shingle application.”

The Regal Cinema, a state-of-the-art 14-screen theater with IMAX, is the first building of many in the Stonefield development to go before the ARB for approval. However, with its projected height of 40 feet and a length of 320 feet along Hydraulic Road, the “big box” has also presented unique challenges.

Last month, the board voiced concerns on the structure’s lack of thematic connection, material choice and color palette.  Previous plans showed a dominating use of stucco on the theater’s Hydraulic Road elevation.

During Tuesday’s meeting with the ARB, architect Stan Haas discussed several changes made to the theater’s design.

“Well less than one half of this building is now covered in synthetic stucco,” said Haas.

Haas incorporated metal shingle cladding and clapboard siding, as well as painted steel. In addition to new materials, a darker color palette modified the theater’s façade.

  While the board expressed an overall appreciation of the theater’s new direction, some members still held reservations on the aesthetic impact of the design.

20110705-ARB1“We have received a site plan and our job is to review the public side, the street side of this site plan and make sure the designers respond to the context of our community and the guidelines,” said board member Bruce Wardell. “This is an extraordinarily anti-urban site plan. It takes all of the wonderful stuff that makes a city, makes a community, and puts it internal in the site plan. And your job is to dress up its backside.”

“Here we’ve received a 40-foot high, 320-foot long wall along a major intersection of our community and you guys are supposed to make it look like downtown Charlottesville,” Wardell added, reflecting on the ARB’s design guidelines. “The site plan itself presents some enormous challenges to make this a good, public building.” 

Daggett however, disagreed.

“If you stand on the steps of St. Peter’s in Rome, is there a human scale element there? Not one,” Daggett said. “It is coherently scaled in itself and I think that this building is also coherently scaled.”

Daggett compared the theater’s relegated parking, not visible from Hydraulic or U.S. 29, to other major commercial centers like the Hollymead Town Center.

“This building is pretty successful,” Daggett said. “We would see a sea of parking if this building [was not oriented this way].”

Others on the board voiced concern over the scale of the theater’s exterior lighting. With the ARB’s guideline standard for light poles at 20 feet and the ones for Stonefield designed at 35 feet, county staff reported, “that level of lumination really far exceeds any lighting the ARB has approved in the past.”

Stonefield officials are expected to meet with the ARB again in two weeks with revised plans and elevations for the Regal Cinema. With construction slated to start in the September-October, developers are hoping for approval at the next meeting.

“We hope that at our next meeting we will address all of the ARB’s concerns that they’ve raised with the staff report,” said developer Bill Caldwell. “We’re hoping for an affirmative vote, and of course a certificate of appropriateness at that point.”

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