Too Much Development on West Main Street?

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

March 18, 2014

As Charlottesville's Board of Architectural Review takes a look at the site plan for an apartment complex on West Main Street, one city councilor is questioning whether there's too much development along the corridor.

Construction is already underway at the Flats, an eight-story building next to the Amtrak station that will bring more than 600 rooms to West Main Street, all catered toward UVa students.

The site at the corner of 10th and West Main streets could soon house another apartment complex just a half-block away from the Flats. A third apartment complex, the Standard, is slated for across the street from the Flats.

"I'm always very leary of a lot quickly," city councilor Bob Fenwick said. "That never turns out well."

Fenwick is in the minority of city councilors who believe there's too much uncertainty for the developers -- and ultimately the city -- with whether these buildings can be profitable.

"People who have been around town know any number of developers or builders who have extended themselves too far, and when they go down, a number of other people go down," Fenwick said.

Some members of the BAR, who were looking at the 10th and West Main site Tuesday night, say development has picked up since the recession, and they don't want to slow the process any more than it's already been.

Fenwick, though, questions the demand for all the rooms. Among the three buildings, there will be more than 1,500 rooms to accommodate thousands of students. Other markets in Charlottesville could face a hit.

"Neighborhoods like this over here in Fry's Spring will be losing their renters to these new shiny dormitories, basically, and that's the risk that the city faces," Fenwick said.

Fenwick added that the city is considering adding an urban planner to its staff in direct response to all the development on West Main Street, so the projects are something he says cost taxpayers money.

All actions by the BAR go to the planning commission for consideration before ultimately ending up in the hands of city council.

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