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City review panel gives OK to courts project

Architects have received approval from the city to move forward with a renovation to Albemarle County and Charlottesville court spaces.The Board of Architectural Review granted a certificate of appropriateness for the partial demolition of the Levy Building, which is located at the corner of Park and East High streets, during a virtual meeting Tuesday.

The original portion of the building was constructed around 1852, with an annex added around 1980.

The county plans to demolish the three-story office addition to the building and replace it with a new addition, which is jointly owned by the city and county. The county Commonwealth’s Attorney Office also will relocate to the Levy Building.

A multi-story addition with an underground level for parking will be constructed and connected to the Levy Building. This building will accommodate four sets of courts: one for the city, two county general district courts and a shell space for future courts operations. This addition will also house the offices for both the county and city clerks of court.

The project will be divided into two phases, with an estimated 58,850 square feet to be included in this first phase of construction and renovation.

The second phase will include renovations to the county circuit court and circuit court clerk’s operations at the current courthouse. The two phases will be bid separately as individual construction projects.

The project is part of an agreement with Albemarle County to keep county courts downtown and to construct a new co-located General District Court.

Per the agreement, the city is constructing a parking garage on Market Street.

The garage will be constructed at Seventh and Market streets on property currently home to the Lucky 7 convenience store and a Guadalajara Mexican restaurant.

As part of the agreement, the city purchased the county’s ownership in the parcel for half of the appraised price, which was $2.56 million.

Initial proposals for the structure have included 300 parking spaces and 12,000 square feet of retail on the ground level. The preliminary cost estimate for construction is $8.5 million.

Per the agreement, 90 parking spaces would be dedicated for county use. The city is required to start construction no later than May 1, 2022, and have the spots available by Nov. 30, 2023.

If the city doesn’t meet deadlines, it must provide 100 dedicated spaces in the existing Market Street Parking Garage. The county will then pay the city to regain ownership of its half, minus half of back rent for the time the city owned it, and have sole use of the property.

The city has been moving forward with the proposal despite concern from activists and the Planning Commission.

The board held a preliminary discussion on the garage during Tuesday’s meeting, but the item came up after press time.


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