Residents Pack Auditorium to Learn Future of West Main St.

By: Val Thompson Email
By: Val Thompson Email

August 5, 2014

One of Charlottesville's most historic roads could look much different in a few years. West Main Street is already seeing dramatic changes, with the addition of the Battle Building at UVA Children's Hospital a few months ago and the ongoing construction of The Flats apartment complex.

But that could be just the beginning.

City residents got a chance Tuesday night to see plans for the future of West Main, as proposed by landscape architects.

The plan would add nearly 300 more trees along the road.

"We're environmentalists," said Elliot Rhodeside, one of the landscape architects in charge of the plan. "We love trees and we heard from everybody that trees are really important."

But the plan is not just about trees. It would also make better, safer bike lanes, and expand the sidewalks.

"More benches, more tables, more places for outdoor cafes," Rhodeside said.

It sounds a little like the Downtown Mall, although West Main would continue to have traffic. However, the cars would be moving much slower, thanks to the addition of several stop signs.

The plan would also tighten the intersection around the Lewis and Clark statue, removing the cut-through lane that allows east-bound cars to turn right onto Ridge/McIntire.

"It's going to create a bottleneck that's going to make the situation much worse than it is now," said Jerry Shea, who lives across from the intersection.

"They say the corner's dangerous, but I haven't seen a lot of accidents out there."

Adding wider sidewalks would also eliminate about 30 parking spots along the road.

"We have funerals at our church. Also weddings. Where are we supposed to park?" said Gloria Beard.

Beard attends First Baptist Church on West Main. Already members of the congregation are forced to use parking spots at the train station because there are too few spots along the street.

Beard feels that the plan is leaving her behind.

"Are they trying to accommodate the students, or the outsiders, or out-of-towners who are coming in? What about us?" she said.

Beard also has an issue with proposals for several new apartment complexes on West Main, geared mainly at students.

"They're going to be covering up our neighborhood," she said.

Rhodeside says they are conducting a study to solve the traffic problem. Possible solutions include adding a parking garage or having valet parking options at businesses.

The city council will have final say on how this plan is implemented.

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