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Review board discusses pedestrian access with parking garage

Charlottesville’s Board of Architectural Review is encouraging pedestrian accessibility in a planned parking garage.

The BAR held a preliminary discussion on the planned garage on Market Street during its virtual meeting on Tuesday.

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.

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.

The parcel is .41 acre with an area of 17,650 square feet, according to real estate records. The property has a downtown zoning, which allows buildings to be 45 to 70 feet tall by-right and up to 101 feet with a special-use permit.

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.

Planning Commissioners have been concerned with the proposed size of the garage. Commissioners Lyle Solla-Yates and Rory Stolzenberg encouraged the board to pursue pedestrian connectivity during Tuesday’s meeting.

The garage could also include retail and restaurant space. The BAR’s review only focuses on the material and aesthetic components of the building, not its size or any other policy aspects.

Board member Breck Gastinger said it will take “creativity” to break up the long façade of the structure.

Although the building is proposed to cover Eighth Street, board members encouraged the city to maintain pedestrian access to it. One proposed idea was a pedestrian tunnel through the center of the garage, another was to break it into two separate buildings.

Jody Lahendro, who represents the Planning Commission on the board, said the development needs to include street trees and a wide sidewalk.

“We need to have commercial activity on Ninth Street and on Market Street. We need it to be open,” he said. “That needs to be a pleasant, very nice pedestrian experience.”


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