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Flats at West Village Expected to Help Connect City’s Two Hubs

August 28, 2013

Stretching over a 2-acre parcel on a vacant block where a car repair shop once stood, The Flats at West Village project is expected to change the face of West Main Street in Charlottesville.

Plans call for the addition of 219 apartments and nearly 12,000 square feet of commercial space, perching five- and eight-story structures in the West Main historic district and establishing a key link between the Downtown Mall and the University of Virginia, officials said.

Led by Georgia-based RISE, the project is expected to be finished in a year, according to the developer’s website.

“Everybody who has looked at [West Main Street] has seen there is a lot of potential there for a pedestrian area between the two hubs,” said Brian Haluska, a Charlottesville neighborhood planner. “We have some of the pieces there, but not an overall cohesive fabric that makes people want to take that mile-long walk between the two centers of the city.”

Rent is expected to range from $700 to $1,200 a month for the one- to four-bedroom apartments. City Councilor Kristin Szakos said she hopes developments like The Flats will help lower rents and increase home ownership in neighborhoods surrounding the university.

“What has happened over the years is students have rented from private people, and it has put a lot of pressure on the neighborhoods around the university,” Szakos said. “This project is right up against the university, it isn’t taking other housing and it is relieving pressure on those neighborhoods.”

Mayor Satyendra Huja lauded the project as a means to relieve reliance on automobiles.

“We do want to support higher density and mixed use on West Main, because it is within walking distance of the university and you don’t have to use a car,” he said. “I think it is a good thing to have, a good direction to move in.”

City councilors approved a special-use permit for the project late last year, but it largely went unnoticed until dirt began moving and crews erected a towering crane on the site.

Charlottesville Properties I, LLC purchased part of the lot, listed as 852 to 854 West Main St., for $2.5 million in May, according to city property records. The last tax assessment valued the property at slightly more than $3.7 million, records show. A second set of addresses, 858 to 860 West Main, is valued at $760,800 and owned by Fluvanna Holdings, LLC.
RISE officials could not be reached for comment. The firm’s website shows similar projects in 11 states, from North Carolina to California.

While this development, like others under RISE, aims at pulling in students, it has no affiliation with the University of Virginia, said school spokesman McGregor McCance.

The university is replacing all but two freshman dorms on Alderman Road. This summer, UVa completed three new buildings — Lile-Maupin, Tuttle-Dunnington and Shannon House. The school also is preparing the site for another building to replace the Dunnington building, demolished earlier this year. That project should be completed by 2015, officials said. Three more buildings — Courtenay, Dunglison and Fitzhugh — will remain until 2020 but eventually will be replaced.

Freshmen are required to live on campus, McCance said. Upperclassmen may reside in dorms or off campus.

The Flats will cover all of a 2-acre, triangular lot between the city’s Amtrak lines and Ninth Street Southwest, according to plans presented to the City Council last year. Plans show The Flats will feature underground parking, a large courtyard and space for a restaurant and two shops facing West Main.

City officials worked with RISE to develop a design in keeping with the historic buildings dotting the rest of West Main, said Mary-Joy Scala, a city preservation and design planner. That required a simple, brick façade to ensure the structure didn’t sharply contrast with others around it, Scala said.

“It’s a big building, and they wanted to make sure that it was something more like a background building, something that isn’t going to draw a lot of attention,” she said. “Everyone knew that it was going to be a large building, and zoning requires that it be right up on the street, and everyone knew it would cover the whole site.”

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