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Draft Cherry Avenue Small Area Plan unveiled

Charlottesville planners are getting a closer look at a new vision for Cherry Avenue and the Fifeville neighborhood.

The Planning Commission discussed a draft version of the Cherry Avenue Small Area Plan during a work session on Wednesday.

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is crafting the plan, which includes recommendations for pedestrian improvements, economic development and facilitating affordable housing.

The plan focuses on bringing mixed-use development to the area and maintaining a neighborhood feel to Fifeville, with improvements such as bringing in a grocery store or farmers market.

The corridor from Ridge Street to Roosevelt Brown Boulevard was identified in the city’s 2013 Comprehensive Plan as a target for a plan, which will set out methods for addressing housing, transportation, infrastructure and environmental needs. The city Planning Commission designated the area for the next planning initiative in 2016 after an effort by the Fifeville Neighborhood Association.

The area was chosen because of increased commuter traffic, large approved developments and a stock of vacant lots.

About 3,800 people live in the study area and 56% of residents are African American, according to the plan. The plan says that the median income is $36,400. The U.S. Census Bureau shows the Orangedale-Prospect Avenue area, which is part of the study, has a median income of about $31,000, which is one of the lowest in the city.

The median income in the city limits is about $50,700 and the area median income, which includes the city and Albemarle, Greene, Nelson and Fluvanna counties, is $89,600.

Former Councilor Kathy Galvin told the commission that the plan also was spurred by residents who felt the city wasn’t listening to their concerns. She said the document can be used to inform officials’ decisions about the neighborhood based on residents’ desires.

“They felt there was nothing protecting them and what they wanted in terms of their vision,” she said. “The two tools to implement a vision plan are zoning and capital investment. You can’t change zoning and make capital investment without a vision plan. We’re perfectly poised with this plan. … It’s really important that we bring back faith in our local government.”

The study area is bounded by 5th Street, Elliot Avenue, along housing units south of Forest Hills Park and a railroad on the west.

“It’s a wonderfully thorough and well-organized document,” said Commissioner Jody Lahendro.

Officials held several community meetings and compiled a chart of the neighborhood’s desires.

Residents wanted to see preservation of existing housing, affordable housing, an affordable grocery store, a farmer’s market, restaurants and a lowered speed limit.

Those who provided feedback opposed large apartment buildings, a low-quality grocery store, hotels, parking garages and chain restaurants.

“They want smart growth,” said Nick Morrison, a TJPDC planner. “They’re not an anti-growth community.”

The draft plan includes several recommendations across different categories.

For “Place-Keeping and Community Building,” it calls for murals and public art, historic markers, a lighting plan and enhanced after-school programming.

Economic development recommendations focus on career development, a community market feasibility report, a business association, opportunity zones and incentives for small, women- and minority-owned businesses.

The commission asked how to leverage an opportunity zone for the area. Opportunity zones allow investors to receive tax breaks for pushing resources into certain designated areas throughout the country.

TJPDC Executive Director Chip Boyles said most of Cherry Avenue and Fifeville are in one of the city’s two opportunity zones.

“It’s not a grant. There’s no pot of money,” he said. “It’s just the investment is made and when that person does their taxes for the year, they identify it and they don’t pay that portion.”

On housing, the plan revolves around accessory dwelling units, protecting historic homes and identifying specific areas for affordable housing.

Other recommendations include improvements at Tonsler and Forest Hill parks, better bike and pedestrian connections, sidewalks, upgrades to the Charlottesville Area Transit bus stop and multi-use paths.

The Planning Commission and city staff comments will be reviewed by TJPDC this month and a public hearing is planned for the spring. City Council is expected to review a final draft in the summer.

The plan would be incorporated into the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which is a guiding document for land-use decisions.


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