City Signs Mall Expansion Deal

Philadelphia architectural firm Wallace Roberts & Todd has been signed to design the east end of the Downtown Mall and the 2nd and 4th Street improvements. The biggest portion of the project will be designing the transit station, which has to fit in with City Hall, the Fridays After 5 amphitheater and the yet-to-be-built Community Chalkboard. The $360,000 plan should be completed in a year, permitting construction to start in 2003. The international firm is known for their urban space work, having won awards for their designs for Miami’s pedestrian mall, Baltimore’s inner habor and San Jose’s light rail system. WINA has the story.

12 Responses to “City Signs Mall Expansion Deal”


  • I’m awfully concerned about how this might affect this area, particularly as applies to Fridays After 5 and the free expression monument. That whole area is packed on Friday afternoons, of course, and any loss or change of space there could make things real crowded there. (Think Fridays when it was on the west end of the Mall. Uncomfortable-type packed.) The design for the board is quite specific — it runs pretty much the whole length of the curb across from City Hall.

    I guess this architectural firm knows what they’re doing, and I probably shouldn’t worry. But I do have a strong feeling that CDF and the TJ Center aren’t going to be a part of this planning process.

  • The design for the board is quite specific — it runs pretty much the whole length of the curb across from City Hall.

    Right. Putting it behind the pizza and beer vendors’ trucks, out of the way. I don’t see how that can have any impact on crowding in that area.

    I do have a strong feeling that CDF and the TJ Center aren’t going to be a part of this planning process.

    Well, the TJ Center has already finalized and submitted their design, so this firm knows what the board will be like and can work around it. And while I suspect the CDF isn’t going to have much to complain about, I’m sure they’ll have the opportunity to do so before city council after the firm presents its design.

  • What what? Transit station? What’s this? Is this just a glorified bus stop, or something more?

  • You can actually read about the conceptual plan on the city’s web site at http://www.charlottesville.org/displays/viewer8.asp?listid=12549, and there are some nice sketches if you drill down from there. It seems like the mall extension may actually increase the available space for amphitheater events, and create a more pleasant environment (it gets oppressively hot on that asphalt in August).

    Being somewhat familiar with this firm’s work in Miami and Baltimore, I’m very encouraged by the possibilities. Granted, the east end of the Downtown Mall presents a far more confining palette than did Miami or the Baltimore waterfront, but it could turn out to be a really nice improvement.

    As the chairman of the Dogwood Blues Festival, I can confirm that CDF is being involved, at least so far. I think if they have an opportunity to discuss things in detail with the design firm, the results will be positive. Since CDF probably produces more events in the amphitheater than everybody else combined (and let’s not forget CDF also contributed a chunk of cash toward the amphitheater’s construction), I think it’s safe to say they can provide valuable insight here. There are numerous problems with the present layout, most of which have the potential to be addressed with this expansion.

    I’d say my biggest concern personally is the potential for mischief with whatever tenants inhabit the upper stories of the new transfer station (may be commercial, retail, and/or residential). If they want to make waves about volume, what impact might that have on live music at the Amphitheater? Are we going to see the City trying to limit the decibel output at the amphitheater? One would hope the City crafts any applicable leases to specifically preempt such complaints.

    My secondary concern is how they plan on flowing traffic during events. Currently, traffic from between City Hall and the Post OFfice/Parking Garage is funneled toward Water Street by following a path that takes it directly in front of the Merrill Lynch building. The preliminary plan seem to route that traffic to turn left at the Post Office and continue in front of City Hall, and then down toward Water Street. If that’s the plan, it would remove a huge chunk of event area from Fridays after 5 and other events, and that would pack everything tightly together again.

    I imagine the designers will be willing (possibly even encouraged) to consider all options, and not just those currently on the table. Some outside-the-box thinking would be good here.

  • >Are we going to see the City trying to limit the decibel output at the amphitheater?

    The Ampitheater is poorly designed. Sound bouncing off the bridge sounds horrible, and sound coming directly off the stage hits the grass, deflects upwards and can’t be heard very well at street level. I wouldn’t worry about it.

  • Pardon me, because I’m new and have only lived here for 2 weeks. But what exactly is the need for this Transit station?

  • We currently have no place for the buses to gather. The default place now is the corner of Market and Second St. NE, but that’s horrible — there’s no space. It takes a lot of room to fit a half dozen buses, and a hub is really necessary. This would provide us with one-stop shopping to get most anywhere in the city, and the location downtown is certainly helpful. Oh, and this is also good because it provides a central place for people to go after coming into town to further their travels. So a taxi could take them to the transit center from the Greyhound station, the train station, or the airport, and they could go anywhere from there for $0.75.

    Any of you city transit people available to expand or correct my meager description?

  • Ugh, another reminder of that blackboard. I got a mailing from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial for Free Speech Blah Blah and the sketch shows what it will look like — ugh. My first (and crude) thought is that someone is going to find that a great place to pee up against. Sorry, but I did think of the Who album cover. Not that city hall is anything great to look at but if you are in city hall, I imagine it would be great fun to look at a 8 foot blackboard with so-called deep thoughts on it.

  • Not that city hall is anything great to look at but if you are in city hall, I imagine it would be great fun to look at a 8 foot blackboard with so-called deep thoughts on it.

    There are two [1, 2] designs being considered. (The view on each of those images is from the steps of City Hall.) It sounds as if you’d prefer #2, which is perpendicular to City Hall, and therefore less visually intrusive to its occupants.

  • Hmmm…I’m surprised there isn’t a central depot already. I’ve been living in Roanoke for the past 5 years (migrated from NY/CT) and while the mass transit in SW Virginia was seriously lacking, at least there was Campbell Square, located 2 blocks from the city market square. Also next door to Greyhound. Thanks for the background.

  • Hmmm…I’m surprised there isn’t a central depot already.

    So are we. :) There was a plan to have a train & bus depot on West Main Street, and that was to be completed sometime next year, but that fell through in June.. Prior to that, the plan was to have it in the metered lot on Water Street, but there was vigorous opposition to that because it would displace the farmer’s market. (Which should be in Court Square, anyhow, but that’s a different discussion entirely. :) During all of this, we had something approaching a bus transfer station at the Market Street parking garage. But after Market Street was two-wayed last year, there was no longer a lane for the buses to pull over in, so that was when the transfer station (such as it was) was moved down the street a bit to Water and 2nd. And that’s the history. :)

    Welcome to Charlottesville, miss_tori!

  • However, part of the design actually lowers Main Street beginning at the Post Office, allegedly to make it possible to see the stage from the current end of the mall. This will help sight lines as well as sound quality (which has improved significantly over the past year, thanks to the wizard of sound, Pete Katz).

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