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July 28, 2008

Mixed-use development near UVA medical center moves forward

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The Master Plan for all four phases of the Grove Square project

The building boom around the UVA Medical Center will soon extend southward over the railroad tracks into the Fifeville neighborhood. The Charlottesville City Planning Commission granted two special use permits to two phases of the Grove Square project at their meeting on July 22, 2008, clearing the way for two four-story buildings that will provide space for offices, retail and residential units along Roosevelt Brown Boulevard.  The area is zoned under the Cherry Avenue Mixed Use District, which was created during the City’s 2003 rezoning in order to spur redevelopment along the corridor. This is the first project to take advantage of the district.

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When complete, the first building (Grove Square II) would consist of 4 residential units, 26,150 square feet of office space, and 8,275 square feet of commercial space.  The applicant requested the SUP in order to allow for up to 5,000 square feet of retail space, as well as setback adjustments. By-right, the applicant could have 4,000 square feet and sought the SUP to have flexibility in selecting tenants. An existing two-story building that has previously been used by Piedmont Virginia Community College and Computers4Kids will be demolished.  Outdoor seating for a restaurant café will be placed on the corner of the site.

The second building (Grove Square III) would consist of 20 residential units (3 to 4 bedrooms each) above 6,330 square feet of commercial space on the first floor.  The land is currently being used as a parking lot, and the new building will include structured parking with 50 spaces for the building’s residential tenants. A plaza on the corner of Grove Street and the Roosevelt Brown Connector will be built with a fountain.

Parking for the site will be provided by a 928-space parking garage which was approved as part of the project’s first phase. Grove Square IV will come before the Planning Commission at a later date, and is immediately to the west of Grove Square III.

An illustrative drawing of Grove Square II

A traffic light at the intersection of Grove Street and Roosevelt Brown has been discussed as part of the project. While the traffic study conducted for the first three phases of Grove Square recommends a signal, City staff do not support its installation because the recently installed light at Crispell Avenue is only 350 feet away.

Neighborhood Planner Ebony Walden said the applicant could incorporate some mechanism to encourage people not to drive, but the applicant had not provided that information before the hearing.

“Bicycle storage facilities would be one suggestion, but they’re not limited to that,” Walden said.
Attorney Valerie Long, representing the applicant, said the entire Grove Square project will create a “livable, walkable pedestrian-oriented” community. Long said an effort has been made to work with the Fifeville neighborhood. No public comment had been received by Neighborhood Development Staff, and no one spoke during either public hearing. One item that resulted from the negotiations was a planting strip along Roosevelt Brown to allow pedestrians to pause while crossing the road. She said the area will not be overwhelmed by parking because of the structured parking garage.

This existing building will be torn down to make way for Grove Square 2. The UVA Medical Center is in the background.

City Councilor Satyendra Huja asked if the applicant was making any proffers to address affordable housing. Chairman Jason Pearson pointed out that proffers would not be considered in the granting of a special use permit.  Long said that because the City’s guidelines on requiring affordable housing are not clear, they did not propose any affordable units.  “We’re certainly willing to entertain discussions about affordable housing, but we didn’t know what the rules were,” Long said. 

The Commission spent a lot of their time discussing how the applicant would address bike storage.
Commissioner Dan Rosensweig said he would like to see the extra parking spaces being requested by the applicant be used for bike lockers instead. After discussing how many bike rooms should be required, Long agreed to a condition where a bike room will be built underneath the retail space where up to 40 bikes might be stored. 

The Special Use Permits for Grove Square will now go before City Council at a later date. Because Council has already held its public hearing, it is likely they will be granted on the Council's consent agenda.


1:00 - Chairman Jason Pearson introduces Grove Square 2
2:12 - Presentation on Grove Square 2 from Neighborhood Planner Ebony Walden
8:42 - Presentation on Grove Square 2 from Valerie Long, attorney for the applicant
18:40 - Questions from Commissioners on Grove Square 2
29:40 - Commission votes to approve special use permit for Grove Square 2
30:30 - Commission takes up Grove Square 3
48:00 - Comments from architect John Matthews


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