With plans for eight new building, new access to the schools and community green space, changes are afoot in a long-term plan for Albemarle County school division’s Lambs Lane campus.
The vision is the result of months of planning and outreach with input from school and county staff as well as community groups. The division hired the DLR Group, an architecture firm with offices in Washington, D.C., to draft a master plan for the campus, which serves about a quarter of the county’s students.
The current campus, most of which is behind Albemarle High School on Hydraulic Road, is an inaccessible and confusing collection of buildings. The design team hopes the changes outlined in the plan, the area will feel like a connected campus.
The master plan is essentially a recommendation of how to use the 216-acre site. If the school board approves it, the plan will serve as a blueprint for other potential projects to be completed as funding allows.
“We want to help you enhance the use of the site while also conserving those resources and basically using them more,” said John Chadwick with DLR at a community meeting earlier this month. “It’s your plan. It’s not our plan.”
The plan, which will be heard by the school board soon, calls for a range of changes to the campus that includes Albemarle High, Jack Jouett Middle, Greer Elementary and Ivy Creek schools as well as the building services and transportation departments. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Virginia also is building a new facility on the campus.
The architects envision a campus connected by a new loop road with new entrances on Hydraulic Road and Lambs Road; dedicated green space with athletic fields, trails and community gathering areas; and sites for eight new buildings. The plan, however, does not include cost estimates.
New buildings could be used for a new central office. They could include a welcome center for new families or a satellite campus for Piedmont Virginia Community College. They could be an applied learning facility. They could be used to address the most compelling needs the team heard about.
The master plan calls for moving the transportation and fuel center off the campus and moving fields as well as the building services department. The aim of the master plan was to improve the campus’ accessibility and safety as well as to make the area feel more connected.
The plan has 26 elements with varying costs and work involved. For example, the division could move to improve the signs around the campus relatively quickly but building the entire loop road will much longer. New signs are needed because the team heard in conversations that getting around the campus is confusing and the current signage don’t help.
“It feels like every sign has been added to solve a problem, and every sign looks different from the previous sign,” Chadwick said. “Many of those signs probably could be removed because the problem has gone away or things have changed. So wayfinding is really very important on the site.”
The signs also could show people how to access the trails on the campus,
“You have a pretty cool network of trails, which we don’t think a lot of people know about,” he said.
The team proposed ways to break up the master plan and to phase in different elements, so that the eventual price tag doesn’t stop the project. Funding the different elements will likely be part of the county’s capital improvement program in which the Board of Supervisors has the final say.
New roads and other recommendationsCurrently, the campus has one entrance and exit off Lambs Lane across from Loaves and Fishes food bank. That’s a safety issue and a second entrance is urgently needed, the architects said.
The team recommended that the division build a road to connect Lambs Road to Hydraulic Road with a second access point to the campus near Georgetown Green as soon as possible. The road would run between the football and baseball fields. The existing fieldhouse would have to be partially demolished to make way for the road. The plan calls for a traffic light at the new entrance, but the Virginia Department of Transportation would have to approve that change.
“Given the amount of use of this campus, I think it’s going to be really important that you start working on that now because it will take awhile, if it’s even possible,” Chadwick said.
The new entrance and road would eventually connect to another new road. The team recommended moving the Lambs Lane entrance further on up the road and constructing a loop road past Greer and Jouett, recently renamed Journey. The abandoned part of the current Lambs Lane would be removed. Building that new section of road would require relocating the transportation and fuel center.
The loop road would house three new buildings in the master plan and, if the division builds a secondary loop road, there’s space for a fourth. During the outreach, Chadwick said the team heard about the need for a central green space where students and the community can gather.
The green space will help to better connect the schools on the campus. Currently, if students at Albemarle High want to go to Greer to work elementary students, they have to take a bus.
Parents and teachers have raised concerns about the lack of sidewalks for years, and the county now is planning to construct sidewalks for the area in several phases.
The green space, as outlined in the master plan, would fill the area inside the new loop road. The AHS baseball field would be relocated that hat the central green space, which would make it more accessible from the high school.
The DLR Group recommended limiting new construction.
To see the presentation, go to https://bit.ly/3M04u4x.