John Dewberry, the developer who bought the half-finished Landmark Hotel in 2012, has a history of not completing projects in other towns, NBC-29 reports. Hotel Dewberry in Charleston, SC, was supposed to open in 2013 but remains unfinished. Similarly, Dewberry-owned projects in Atlanta and Richmond have not come to fruition.
The Landmark Hotel was originally projected to be a $30M, nine-story luxury hotel on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. At the 2008 groundbreaking, the boutique location was scheduled to be open in the summer of 2009. However, local developer Halsey Minor ran into a series of financial and legal troubles, and the eyesore of a building has remaining unfinished since January of 2009. The building changed hands several times, but construction never resumed. In early 2014, the City Council deferred a vote to declare the site blighted and forced Dewberry to secure the building with higher fences and to perform a structural analysis of the skeletal structure.
By a vote of 3-1 on Tuesday, the Charlottesville Planning Commission recommended not downzoning portions of Fry’s Spring and adjoining neighborhoods from R-2 to R-1, Sean Tubbs reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. A change in zoning would mean that no new duplexes or attached homes could be built in the affected areas.
The Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association brought the request to the Commission and representatives spoke forcefully about not wanting their neighborhood to become high-density, citing comparisons to all the new multi-story housing on JPA. However, opponents appeared to outnumber proponents (full disclosure: I own property in the zone that could still be impacted) and many people spoke of the need to expand affordable housing, or related personal stories of being able to afford their homes only because they also had rental space on the property. As the meeting went on, there were also intimations of racism, gentrification, anti-capitalism, and, being Charlottesville, calls to the spirit of Thomas Jefferson.
In the end, Commission Chairman Dan Rosensweig said that he could not find justification in the City Comprehensive Plan for this sort of change and a majority recommended to City Council that they not implement the change. City Council is expected to take up the question in September.
The Downtown Regal is being seriously overhauled, Graelyn Brashear writes in C-Ville Weekly. It will no longer be a Regal, and its owner and her new business partner are going to add a restaurant and cocktails. The owner of Violet Crown Cinema in Austin (it gets 4 stars on Yelp) wants to make this the second location in what he hopes will become a nationwide chain of such places. Regal’s 15-year lease recently ran out, not long after they managed to drive Vinegar Hill out of business by moving to showing mostly independent films. The new facility is slated to open by November.
The Charlottesville Albemarle Airport is planning a major expansion, Nate Delesline III reports for The Daily Progress. They’re spending $600k to design a new security area, bigger bathrooms, move the gift shop, replace the escalator, expand the seating areas, and a few other changes. No money has been allocated by state or federal officials for the construction, which CHO figures will run between $4 million and $6 million. Construction is due to start in the summer.
A pretty nervy redevelopment plan for the south side of downtown has been proposed, Brian Wheeler reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. An architecture firm was hired by the city to envision how to overhaul the area encompassing the Ix Building, Crescent Hall, and Friendship Court, a pretty broad swath of the greater downtown area. The plan calls for the construction of 1,300 new housing units, 1.4 million square feet of commercial space, and bringing Pollocks Branch (a stream long ago buried in pipes) back to the surface as a linear park running through the whole area. It’s all meant, of course, to be pedestrian-friendly. The rendering shows Friendship Court completely gone, replaced with the housing units—surely an alarming image to residents of the low-income neighborhood, although the involvement of the Piedmont Housing Alliance (which manages Friendship Court) in the project is probably a good sign.
At this point it’s all just a vision—there is no developer proposing to do this, and no public funding available to kick-start such work. It’s what the city is calling a “Strategic Investment Area,” and presumably if City Council wants to make this happen, they’ll start shaping planning and development guidance to facilitate that.