Downtown Project Goes to Planning Commission for Phase One Approval

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The red area shows Milestone Partners’ proposal for Phase 1 of its development in downtown.
The red area shows Milestone Partners’ proposal for Phase 1 of its development in downtown.

The project to redevelop the former Barnes Lumber property in downtown Crozet will go before the Albemarle County Planning Commission as a two-part process, Milestone Partners president Frank Stoner told the Crozet Community Advisory Committee at its August 18 meeting.

Phase One will be commercial buildings and concentrate on the blocks immediately east of The Square and Crozet Library, extending the existing streets to intersect with an extension of High Street and thus creating, ultimately, two new blocks. The plaza, or public space, for downtown is now under design by the Baltimore landscape architecture firm Mahan Rykiel, which was hired in July. Stoner said the location of the plaza is not fixed, but awaits Mahan Rykiel’s recommendation. It will be in Phase One and likely on the west side of High Street. Stoner said he would proffer a space of 28,000 square feet for the plaza with at least 12,000 square feet of it contiguous.

Stoner told the CCAC the mission of the project is to “create an authentic and vibrant town center that honors the history and character of Crozet, stimulates economic development and is an attractive and affordable place for people to live.”

ZMA 2010-00018 Crozet Square—Illustration to show Applicant’s Proposed Grid
ZMA 2010-00018 Crozet Square—Illustration to show Applicant’s Proposed Grid

Stoner said the project’s “principles” are: “to be authentic; to be environmentally responsible; to provide compelling reasons to be downtown; to honor pedestrians and bicyclists, to seek connectivity [in transportation]; to be inclusive and affordable; to be mindful of the market; to work together, be flexible and respectful; and to be resourceful and proactive.

“I’ve demonstrated the ability to be flexible and to reach out and make you a partner in the project,” he said. “We can’t achieve our objectives if I have to pay for everything.”

Former CCAC member Bill Schrader commented that the principles should include adherence to the Crozet Master Plan, which Stoner accepted.

Stoner said he did not expect the rezoning of Phase One to include it in the Downtown Crozet District to occur before the end of the year. Next, he said, the project needs a “capital plan” for how to finance it.

One option for complete build out
One option for complete build out

“We have really exciting [commercial] prospects who want to be in downtown. They want to know what it’s going to look like. They don’t want to be holding the bag in an unfinished project.” He declined to describe what sorts of businesses those are.

“We’re moving straight on to the plaza design rather than going through a branding process first,” he said.

The streets shown as black lines on the drawing are public streets and those shown as gray lines are private streets, he explained. The private streets are essentially parking lots, he said, and they are private because the Virginia Department of Transportation standards will not allow pull-in parking on public streets. Stoner noted that a traffic round-about previously suggested at the east end of The Square has been dropped. It was formerly proposed so that VDOT trucks would have a turn around opportunity, he said.

In Phase Two, a “primary street” would bisect the parcel and become the main commercial avenue. A “secondary street” would extend Library Avenue and potentially connect it to Hilltop Street. Parking lots would be behind the buildings and along the railroad tracks. Stoner said parking availability will continue to be an issue for the downtown and he suggested that a parking garage is necessary, perhaps on the site of the existing library parking lot.

VDOT is considering making the turn into The Square a “right-only,” he said, meaning that traffic could not exit from The Square, where the street would become one-way eastbound, but would have to leave downtown via Library Avenue, where a traffic light will need to be installed.

One option for the complete buildout
One option for the complete buildout

“The main reason we are not showing Phase Two [as part of this stage] is that the county says there are unknowns that have to be resolved, so let’s focus on Phase One now.” Those unknowns include the connection of Library Avenue to Hilltop Street and Stoner’s proposal of a new road connection under the railroad tracks to Three Notch’d Road, roughly near the firehouse, which may or may not be possible and which Stoner said he would not pay for in any case.

The rezoning request goes to the Planning Commission for a vote on Sept. 27.

In a letter to CCAC Chair David Stoner (no relation to Frank), county planner Elaine Echols reacted to the submission by noting staff believe that Stoner’s proffer to cover $75,000 worth of the improvements to the Crozet Avenue intersections represents about 15 percent of the anticipated costs of those changes and “that tighter parameters are needed around the civic space to ensure that it meets community and master plan expectations.”

David Stoner, who also sits on the Downtown Crozet Initiative committee formed by Frank Stoner, which is now an official subcommittee of the Crozet Community Association, reported to the CCAC that the DCI is looking for grant-writing help to raise money for the development of the plaza.

Frank Stoner also announced that he has signed a short-term lease of the former lumber company office, a small house, as a bicycle shop and that a “high tech business” is in the market for a former milling building on the lumberyard. “They are the poster children for what we want in Crozet,” he said.

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