Sunday, October 21, 2012

West Main Street


West Main Street looks significantly different in 2012 than it did even a couple of years ago.

The mural project is making the area more colorful and fun.

The layout of the dining courtyard that One Meatball Place shares with Moto Pho Co is very cool. Meatball is my favorite new restaurant in Charlottesville, and my goal for the next couple of years: try every possible combination of meatball/cheese/sauce.

And I also like the architecture, painting and "feel" of the new boutiques on West Main (I can't speak to the merchandise!).

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Potential controversy awaits, though, about the scope of new development: C'Ville Tomorrow has an article (here) about the proposed student housing complex on the west side of the Amtrak station. It sounds like the project will be quite large:
As proposed, the Plaza on West Main would consist of a six-story building and an eight-story building with a total of 219 apartments intended for university students. The first floor of the building fronting West Main would contain retail space and a restaurant. Other design elements include a small covered public plaza on West Main next to the commercial uses, a parking garage, a private central courtyard one floor above street level and a swimming pool. ... “This is way too much mass and way too much stuff on this site,” said BAR member and architect William Adams. “There is nothing like this in this district. The closet thing we have approaching this mass is the UVa hospital complex. This would be Charlottesville’s first ‘super block’ project.”
According to Brian Wheeler's article, at a recent meeting the Board of Architectural Review voted 4-2 that the complex would have an adverse impact on the area without significant revisions.

I gather that the developers are frustrated with the lack of specific guidance from the BAR about what those revisions should actually be.

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I focused on the issue of building height when I read the C'Ville Tomorrow article.

The Plaza's developers applied for a special use permit to change the height limit from 70 feet to 101 feet.  I assume that this would mean a couple of extra floors (and I assume those extra floors make the project financially viable).

I tend to side with those who argue that density is a good thing, particularly when it comes to housing in a small area like downtown Charlottesville. Eight stories does not strike me as excessive for West Main, particularly given the height of UVA Hospital nearby. 

That said, the building does look quite massive in the "projected-look image", so I can understand why it's making some people nervous.

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All-in-all, I am more supportive of this kind of high-density project (with limits - I don't want any 15 story buildings!) than the sprawling developments like Stonefield on 29 North.

Stonefield looks sterile and has way too much concrete.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Walker. I agree.

    Apart from the usual nonsense from the BAR, my thoughts are twofold:

    1. The City and CRHA are missing their golden opportunity to redevelop Westhaven and the parking lot across the street from this site and take advantage of the market demand for housing. A mixed-income, mixed-use site on the other side would house a range of people, incomes, family sizes, etc and complete the streets to open up the 10th & Page neighbhorhood with another connection to Main St. A very similar building, with less mass, is proposed in Phase 4b of CRHA's Master Plan completed in 2010 (http://cvillehousing.org/?page_id=469).

    I'd have to see current market demand analysis to see if both would be feasible. Certainly ground floor commercial spaces on the other side would do well if both are built! And the City tax base would do great. It's long overdue!

    Jason Halbert

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