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Residents of the South First Street public housing site want to redevelop their neighborhood into townhomes and apartments. The buildings would be clustered around small courtyards where residents can see their children from their kitchen windows.

The site plan, which the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority submitted to the city on Wednesday, comes out of months of Sunday meetings.

Starting in June, the 10 to 12 regular attendees received training from BRW Architects on how to read site plans and progressed to the details of what a safe pathway felt like and where to locate five-bedroom units. During the later weeks of the site planning process, BRW Architects would present multiple options and residents would then tweak the ones they liked best.

Bruce Wardell, founder of BRW Architects, said that it is clear that the small clusters residents created are going to be beautiful spaces.

“To me, it validates the whole underlying principle that these folks know these neighborhoods better than us,” Wardell said.

  • location: South First Street, between Elliott Avenue and Hartmans Mill Road
  • scale: 113 one- to five-bedroom townhomes and apartments
  • amenities: clubhouse, non-residential space, basketball court, bicycle parking
  • next steps: Planning Commission work session scheduled for November, interior and exterior design planning
Apex Clean Energy plans to relocate to a new headquarters on Garrett Street. Credit: Credit: William McDonough + Partners

Apex breaks ground on new headquarters on Garrett Street

When Apex Clean Energy's new eight-story headquarters is complete, all 170 local employees finally will be under one roof. This matters to a business where each solar or wind power project needs legal, construction, development and technology expertise.

“Nothing is ever going to get us to move from Charlottesville,” Apex CEO Mark Goodwin said. “We've had to deal with trying to find a place that's big enough for our almost 200 people that we have in Charlottesville.”

Apex broke ground on Tuesday with fellow tenants Riverbend Development and construction and development company Hourigan. The headquarters was developed by-right according to existing zoning in Charlottesville's Strategic Investment Area.

The headquarters both symbolizes Apex's mission and its transition from a small start-up in 2009 into a leader in renewable energy that supplies homes as well as companies like IKEA, Starbucks and Facebook.

The headquarters itself is energy efficient. By using cross-laminated timber rather than concrete and steel, Apex estimates that it will prevent 2,990 metric tons of carbon emissions — equivalent to one year of driving for roughly 635 cars, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

  • address: 100 Garrett St.
  • scale: eight stories
  • amenities: solar panels, electric vehicle charging, interior bike racks, terraces
  • next steps: construction estimated to finish in mid- to late 2021
Developer Nicole Scro is planning a mixture of tiny homes, townhomes, duplexes and larger single-family homes in southern Albemarle. Credit: Credit: Submitted rendering

County commission recommends Galaxie Farm

Developer Nicole Scro's first project in Albemarle County has made it past the first step of public approvals.

After a split decision on how many residences should be in the neighborhood proposed for the southern portion of the county’s urban ring, the Albemarle Planning Commission recommended a maximum of 65 units to stay consistent with the county's Comprehensive Plan. In an interview with the Daily Progress, Scro said that she would likely bring both the recommended maximum and her proposal of 72 units to the Board of Supervisors.

Scro argued that the higher density would allow her to build more affordable units. Some commissioners agreed that this was a good location for more affordability and the difference in number of units was not very large. Others argued that neighbors rely on the Comprehensive Plan to understand what will likely happen around them.

  • address: 193 Galaxie Farm Lane
  • scale: 65 or 72 single-family attached and detached homes and townhomes
  • affordability requirement: 15% of total, or 10 or 11 units, depending on density
  • amenities: boardwalk and trails next to stream
  • next steps: Board of Supervisors meeting
The draft form-based code would regulate how the IX property redevelops. With parking garages incorporated within each building, the IX property could include commercial space and 2,000 apartments. Credit: Credit: DPZ CoDesign

City commission settles form-based code details, larger questions remains

Roughly a dozen community members gathered on Tuesday evening to hear the city Planning Commission discuss form-based code, which shifts the focus of zoning rules from what goes on inside a building to the experience of passersby.

The commission offered city staff direction on several points that had not been settled within the code, like how tall developers should be allowed to build without providing dedicated affordable units and how much parking should be required. City staff plans to continue finalizing the code until early November.

An ongoing tension discussed by the commission is whether to adopt the code this year or wait until a more comprehensive housing policy is in place. The City Council has a chance to weigh in on that question on Monday.

  • location: between the CSX railroad tracks and Elliott Avenue
  • cost: $311,000
  • next steps: City Council meeting on Monday
Biscuit Run Park, located just south of the city of Charlottesville will be Albemarle County's largest park when it is officially open. Credit: Credit: Skyclad Aerial

With pipeline on hold, Albemarle asks for state funding for Biscuit Run

On Wednesday, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors asked the state for $5 million to create Biscuit Run Park. The supervisors hope that the state will extend that commitment to $15 million over five years.

The state transferred control of the park over to the county in 2018 for 99 years to speed the opening process. At the same time, the state allocated $5 million to the park from Atlantic Coast Pipeline mitigation money. Since legal challenges have stalled the natural gas pipeline, the county has decided to ask for more direct help.

Together with the $2.2 million the county has already allocated to the park, the first phase of funding would cover opening the park with two trailheads, parking and restrooms.

  • location: southern Albemarle between Old Lynchburg Road and Route 20
  • scale: 1,190 acres
  • total estimated cost: $31 million-$34 million
  • amenities: forest, trails, athletic fields, playground, outdoor eating areas
  • next steps: governor proposes state budget in spring 2020
Residents meet at the South First Street community center to give input and get information about the upcoming plans for redevelopment in the neighborhood, June 14, 2019. Credit: Credit: Zack Wajsgras/Collectbritain

Emily Hays grew up in Charlottesville and graduated from Yale in 2016. She covered growth, development, and affordable living. Before writing for Collectbritain, she produced a podcast on education and caste in Maharashtra, India.