New site layout for William Taylor Plaza Credit: Credit: Southern Development

Developer seeks rezoning for William Taylor Plaza site

The Charlottesville Planning Commission will begin its new year Tuesday considering several major projects, including a hotel at the corner of Ridge Street and Cherry Avenue and expansion of downtown’s Glass Building to a nine-story complex.

The developer of a mixed-use project called William Taylor Plaza has asked the city to amend a prior rezoning to allow a new hotel there.

“This is the spark that Cherry Avenue has been waiting for,” said Charlie Armstrong, vice president of Southern Development.

The City Council approved a rezoning for William Taylor Plaza in November 2009 allowing for up to 100,000 square feet of residential and commercial uses. A year earlier, the council also agreed to sell two parcels of city-owned land to be added to the project.

However, no development has happened at the forested corner and the council denied a request in February 2011 to amend the rezoning to allow more residential development at the site.

Now, Armstrong is seeking permission to change the project to accommodate a would-be tenant.

“A Marriott brand hotel has contracted to build on the site and with approvals will begin construction this time next year,” Armstrong said. The hotel would have 128 rooms and would face Cherry Avenue.

Armstrong is asking to drop a requirement that the buildings be LEED certified and to allow surface parking behind the hotel. The previous plan required that 90 percent of the parking be built in a garage.

Southern Development still plans to build apartment housing on the section that faces Ridge Street.

The buildings on Ridge will be no taller than 37 feet. The tallest building on Cherry would be no more than 50 feet.

Southern Development will contribute $253,000 to either an affordable housing fund or for improvements to Tonsler Park. No less than 45 percent of the site must be open space.

The Planning Commission will hold a preliminary discussion Tuesday, followed by a public hearing in February. The City Council’s decision is scheduled to come in March, though the timeline could change.

The project also would need to be approved by the Board of Architectural Review.

One resident wants the city’s review to ensure the project maintains green space and reflects the current scale of the neighborhood.

“I am not particularly excited about losing green trees in our neighborhood and city,” said Joey Conover, a nearby resident, in an email, “But I hope that this can be an opportunity for this end of Cherry Avenue to get some positive commercial development and additional foot traffic that can drive smaller local businesses.”

Oak Street resident and historian Antoinette W. Roades opposed the rezoning and continues to be against the project.

“The block bounded by Ridge Street, Oak Street, Fifth Street Southwest and Cherry Avenue is rich in both human and natural history that any construction below the ridge level would destroy,” Roades wrote in a message to her neighbors.

Roades said the city should not have sold the land and that the entire property should be a park. She said the land was once owned by Allen Woodson Hawkins, a bricklayer who helped build the University of Virginia in the 19th century. She said he is buried on the land, but that a previous owner’s grading destroyed the gravestones.

Armstrong denies that claim and said investigations by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources have not located the cemetery and that he does not believe it is on his land.

Glass Building, City Market

The commission also will have a preliminary discussion of a proposal to build a mixed-use development on the site of the Glass Building at 201 Garrett St. The developer wants a special-use permit to build 229 apartments, 18,750 square feet of office space, 5,000 square feet of retail space and 271 parking spaces.

The proposed nine-story building would be constructed atop the existing structure.

“This project will serve the city of Charlottesville’s residential needs,” reads the application. By right, the project could have only 56 units.

The Planning Commission also will hold a public hearing on whether to allow the City Market to operate on the parking adjacent to its existing location. Developer Keith Woodard is leasing the site from the Charlottesville Parking Center as a temporary space while the nine-story Market Plaza building is constructed beginning later this year.