Old Trail to Stress Green Space in New Plans
A 46-room boutique hotel will be built next to The Lodge at Old Trail and is slated to open in January of 2015. Lodge developer David Hilliard is also the hotel’s developer.
Hilliard was joined by Old Trail development manager David Brockman at a meeting with local realtors and community leaders Feb. 19 for an announcement about the hotel project and a presentation about Old Trail’s updated plans for its residential and commercial areas.
Nest Realty partner Jim Duncan, who also manages the RealCrozetVa blog, discovered preliminary plans for the project advancing in Albemarle County’s planning process and arranged the meeting.
“It’s fine it’s out,” said Hilliard, “We’re always transparent.”
The hotel’s rooms will be larger than usual hotel rooms, 14 feet by 30 feet—325 square feet, compared to 280 typically—and it will have a bridal suite. The hotel will have 12,000 square feet in total and be three stories high with a partial fourth floor, all under a standing-seam metal roof. The hotel will have a 40-seat restaurant, a fountain in a cobblestone plaza in front, and 40 parking places (none for trucks or RVs). Construction should start in January 2014.
“The Lodge is a $26 million dollar project,” said Hilliard, “and I’m not going to do anything that could hurt it.”
The hotel will be on the corner of Golf Drive and Claremont Drive and, in a design sense, essentially extend the L-shaped Lodge into a U. The hotel will not connect to The Lodge.
The architect for the hotel is Howell Craddock, who himself owns a boutique hotel in Lynchburg.
Hilliard said he did a market study on local hotel room demand and the feasibility of a hotel in Crozet and his planning budget was based on an average room rate of $170 per night. That will not necessarily be the actual rate. He said the study showed that Crozet probably has a capacity for a second boutique hotel. “I think another hotel would be great,” said Hilliard.
Hilliard said potential customers include wedding parties whose ceremonies are at local wineries, visiting relatives and friends of area residents, those attending graduation and football games at U.Va., and fall foliage tourists on Skyline Drive.
“I’m trying to think of how I can pull myself closer to downtown Crozet,” Hilliard told the group. He advocated for a walking trail with a bridge over Lickinghole Creek that would connect The Lodge to Haden Lane and create a fairly direct pedestrian route from the Old Trail village shops to downtown.
Jeff Hall of Manchester Capital, the firm hired by the Jessup family, the financial backers of Old Trail, to oversee future development in Old Trail, said his firm is “very supportive of the hotel project.”
Brockman, who was hired in June, said the new Old Trail management team has “replanned the first phase of the development,” and has “taken its licks learning about dealing with Albemarle County.” The 2007 rezoning of the property allows a maximum density of 2,200 residences south of Lickinghole Creek, Brockman noted, but he predicted the final build-out would be closer to the low range of the density allowed in the rezoning, around 1,600 units.
The county favors the New Urbanist planning concept—which is also expressed in the Crozet Master Plan—with a mixed-use commercial center, he said, and
“We’re working within the confines of that zoning.”
The first houses built in the new blocks of the project were small single-family units on small lots. They did not sell for two years, Brockman said.
The new plan is to introduce more pocket parks, alleys and green space corridors. “We plan to widen the lots,” he said. “They were too small, and they need more green space between them. The houses will face each other across the green spaces.” Another advantage of the change toward rear alley access to houses will be that fire and rescue vehicles will get a second way to approach most houses, he said.
Four blocks between the village shops and Rt. 250 are now underdevelopment. They total 65 units, a mix of single-family houses, townhouses and “villas.”
“We had a meeting with prospective builders that led to all the lots being sold by the end of the meeting,” Brockman related. “These are young, energetic builders pushing quality.” Prospective builders have to meet qualifying criteria and performance standards, he said. Two of the blocks are being built by Craig Builders.
“We’re not interested in national builders,” added Hall.
Plans are under way to bring other blocks to the east of these on to the market, Brockman said. These will fully embody the revised concept.
“We think it needs to be softer, looser and more green,” he said. “I couldn’t agree more that we should respect views and trees and open space. We really believe it.”
He praised the design of Craig Builders’ townhouses, but said he thought that it is time for more variety in appearance to be introduced in them. He said the developers also want more attention on landscaping from builders.
“The green space is the big change, considering where things were heading,” chipped in Hilliard. “This is the right direction.”
“We’re trying to do a more homogeneous plan,” said Brockman. “We’re trying to plan it how it lives, from the lifestyle out.”
Another block of commercial buildings flanking the existing village is a top priority too. “Our concept is to condense the core to promote traffic to the businesses,” he said. The new block will have alleys between the shops periodically, “European-style,” Brockman said. Old Trail and the village merchants will also organize twelve events a year that will take place in the village, such as this month’s Easter egg hunt.
It will take at least 18 months to build the new shops, said Brockman. “We don’t want to go so fast we lose control of quality.” He said they have two buyers for store buildings so far.
He described the possibility of commercial buildings on the other side of Old Trail Drive as “pretty far down the road.” He said he is strongly opposed to new commercial development along Rt. 250.
Brockman said Old Trail wants to be “friends and neighbors to Crozet.
“We need to complement downtown Crozet and not try to compete with it. The county wants to emphasize downtown. I believe we’ll all survive.”
Brockman said the Y-shaped drive into the village parking lot, which he called a “porkchop,” will be reconfigured to a normal entry. He said VDOT has also approved a new street design for the north side of next commercial block and the concept for it is “Boston townhouses.”
Brockman said future house sales will include a $50 fee that will go to a fund to build out the county’s western park design along Lickinghole Creek. He said a second pool may be in Old Trail’s future too.
As of now, 325 houses have been sold in Old Trail. Brockman said they expect to reach 400 sales by the end of the year.
Some Old Trail residents in the meeting said they wanted a better effort at communication from the developers. Brockman said he will be hosting town hall meetings regularly and one is being planned for mid-April. “We’re ready to start our outreach. We’re trying to deliver to the whole Crozet community.”
Brockman moved his family (two kids at Brownsville—“We intend to raise our family here,”) to Old Trail in June from Las Vegas, where he had been working in real estate development. “I was in the run-up and in the crash,” he said. He was formerly in Los Angeles with an urban planning firm and he has worked on projects across the U.S. and in Europe, Asia and South America. Raised in Chicago, he trained as an architect and “migrated to planning and landscape architecture. Primarily I work on mixed-use projects.
“I’m not that complicated,” he said. “I like to be cautious and make sure I’m informed and that I can back up what I say. I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep. Old Trail is multifaceted—houses, shops, parks, trails—parts that need to be stitched together. The thing is to not get fixed on details but to achieve the feeling of the whole that you are after. I’m passionate about getting this right the first time. As one of my mentors told me, ‘You’re only as good as your last job.’”