Five years and more than 50 public engagements after developer Frank Stoner first introduced a bold plan for downtown Crozet’s former Barnes Lumber property, his vision is now a giant step closer to reality. The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed on June 19 to support the redevelopment project with a series of financial commitments toward road networks and the construction of a public plaza as part of a public-private partnership with Stoner’s development company, Crozet New Town Associates.
Stoner presented the terms of the proposed “performance agreement” to the Crozet Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) at its June 12 meeting. He described his county liaisons as “incredibly supportive” in the arduous processes of hashing out infrastructure plans and negotiating contracts. Dubbed “Project Patriot” by county staff, the plan is “consistent with both the Comprehensive Plan and Crozet’s Master Plan, and represents an equitable sharing of risk for us to get there,” said Stoner.
Phase 1 of the project involves building the plaza, extending and connecting the roads from the Square and Library Avenue, and extending a road eastward from downtown to Parkside village. “That road connection is really important for the county, the community, and for the downtown to be successful,” said Stoner, “and we’re awaiting VDOT approval for that.” The final design features of the plaza will incorporate input from the community, as the space could be built to accommodate various sizes of crowds and events.
In terms of financial commitments, the downtown road grid and connector will be paid for by a $2 million contribution and a $500,000 right-of-way donation by the developer, matched by a $2.3 million VDOT grant. As for the $3.2 million plaza, the county will contribute $1.6 million, and the remaining $1.6 million will be arranged via “synthetic tax increment financing,” or Syn-TIF. The Syn-TIF is a form of tax rebate program whereby the developer borrows its $1.6 million contribution and is later repaid by the county out of future commercial real estate tax revenues.
Phase 1 will require a request for rezoning of the property from industrial to mixed-use commercial, likely to go before the Board of Supervisors late this summer. Under the agreement, the county will also perform a market study to project optimal commercial square footage for new development and a parking study as part of the Master Plan process and will provide long-term maintenance for the plaza.
Roger Johnson, the county’s economic development director, noted that net revenues from Project Patriot for the county over the period 2021-2048 are expected to be $39 million and projected development for Phase 1 is as follows: 58,000 square feet (sf) retail, 40,000 sf hotel, 28,900 sf office, and 52 units of residential space.
Stoner said the timing of the project depends on how quickly VDOT acts, but he’s hoping to get started next spring. “It’s been an interesting journey, but we’re super excited,” said Stoner. “Our next challenge is to render these plans for businesses looking to relocate to Crozet. I think once they see it, it’ll be very attractive to them.”