West Mainers Propose Charrette

West Main business owns are pushing for a charrette on the history of the corridor, Rachana Dixit writes in today’s Daily Progress. (For those who aren’t familiar with the process, Wikipedia provides a good definition. It’s basically when a bunch of stakeholders get together and try to collaboratively solve a design problem.) The West Main of today is vastly improved from the West Main of just fifteen years ago, but it’s got a long way to go if it’s to be as vibrant as the Corner to the west of it and the Downtown Mall to the east of it. Real estate owner Bill Atwood and Maya owner Peter Castiglione are pushing for a city-facilitated charrette, in the style of the 1989 charette that preceded the downtown renaissance, in hopes of moving things along.

I note that Dixit has used a term new to me in the second-to-last paragraph: “midtowner,” apparently referring to those who live or work on West Main Street.

29 thoughts on “West Mainers Propose Charrette”

  1. If I have to be a ‘stakeholder’ one more time going to umpty-ump meetings and ultimately being ignored, I do believe I will vomit: preferably all over someone’s “charette”.

  2. Is there anything to suggest that the charrette for downtown actually had a thing to do with what ended up happening. I’m not saying it didn’t, I don’t know and I’m wondering, although admittedly skeptical. The article Waldo linked to above is pretty much junk, no surprise considering it is the DP.

    From the DP article:

    “He (Atwood) credited the downtown charrette from roughly 20 years ago for spurring many ideas that got rid of empty storefronts and eventually led it to its more prosperous state — increasing signage, putting an emphasis on children’s activities and playing up the concept that the longer visitors stay on the Downtown Mall, the more money they are likely to spend.
    Not long afterward, attractions including the Ice Park and Regal Downtown Mall 6 theater set up shop on the brick path, he said.”

    I mean, who really needed to be told obvious stuff like having people hanging around for longer meant they might spend more money?

  3. I think Atwood is just using this as a publicity tool to promote himself and his services. West Main has been studied quite a few times, and a lot of the ideas were great, but West Main will only change when someone decides to build something, not just draw something.

    Also, I’ve worked with charrettes in my job, and Waldo, your sense is correct. They usually exist to make people feel like they’ve been consulted, in order to hopefully soften opposition. I’ve never seen a charrette done when there wasn’t already a plan drawn up by the paid consultants.

  4. I first encountered the term “midtown,” used to describe the West Main area, a few weeks ago. (Unfortunately, I can’t recall by whom.)

    During the most recent City Council meeting, in which Peter Castiglione described the charrette to Council, the term midtown came up again; seems there’s a deliberate effort to use it to describe West Main and thus try to put it on a more equal footing with the Corner and the Downtown Mall.

  5. Having participated in quite a few charrettes in my day, I can attest that they are a tool for the developers and NDS to say that they have consulted with “The People”… whom they inevitably ignore.

    Unless I’m mistaken, Atwood is the architect who wants to replace the humanly-scaled buildings along that corridor with tall buildings. Bah, I’ll take an honest building like the one housing Mel’s over his designs any day.

  6. I remember a charette for this neighborhood from about 5 years back. It was designed to drum up support for the City giving or selling the small park behind the old Albemarle Hotel to Frank Stoner, the Hotel’s owner so he could build a parking garage. I don’t remember anyone from the neighborhood actually being in favor of it, but thats what the City wanted to do so thats what it did. Five years later and no garage, which might spur growth/re-development. Seems Stoner just wants to land-bank it till the property is worth more and flip it?

  7. The city has called it Starr Hill Park on occasion, particularly when it was considering allowing a builder to develop a small parcel on the corner of 6th and Commerce. The requirement for open space in the proposed planned unit development was requested to be waived by giving a financial contribution instead to the city for improvements to Starr Hill Park instead. Fortunately, that never happened. Frank Stoner has been trying to get the city to help him get a parking garage in that area for years. Being one of the people in control of the Jefferson School project, I suspect he’s settling for one on that site. What ever happened to the old waste water project Stoner was to develop about 10 years ago?
    When I was young, downtown began at Ridge Street and went east to the Belmont bridge. Midtown went from Ridge to 10th Street NW and uptown went from 10th to 14th Street. It only changed after a lot of newcomers arrived in the past thirty years or so. We old locals always find it amusing when the area east of the Corner is referred to as downtown.
    If the city had encouraged the 10Center project on the corner of 10th and Main and the proposal for the corner of Ridge McIntire and Main, nobody would be asking for a charette. I agree with the posters on this thread.

  8. When I was younger I lived in Boston. I get a kick out of the locals dividing the township into a downtown, a midtown, AND an UPTOWN. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do it, just having fun looking at the comparison.

  9. As a property owner on west main and someone who has advocated for more City infrastructure investment on West Main, including parking garages and the Streetcar, I share the sentiments of most other posters on this thread. WRT was commissioned by the City and completed a comprehensive visioning process for West Main. My partners and I spent our own money creating a vision for the Albemarle Hotel and the surrounding areas that fit into the WRT master plan recommendations. What the corridor needs is not another charrette but more direct investment in structured parking from the City to stimulate private development.

  10. It’s really quite pitiful when a developer unashamedly asks for welfare. Again, Frank Stoner has been trying to convince the city to build a parking garage for his tenants so that he doesn’t have to pay for it, or rather his tenants. Did Albemarle County build a parking garage for his housing development at Belvidere? No, and he didn’t ask. If the city could attract the developers for the proposed development on the cornors of 10th & Main and Ridge-McIntire and Main that included their own on-site parking, why can’t Fstoner provide his own? Because that would make him even richer. Why spend your money when you can spend the tax payer’s? Gabe Silverman (sp?) tried it but thankfully we had David Toscano to put an end to that freebie.
    If the city wants development along W. Main, the it should start approving projects without holding them up forcash donations to “affordable” housing slush funds that nobody can account for. Fstoner, if you cannot afford to developmnet the old Albemarle Hotel into condos, then sell the property. I’m sure you’ll make a profit in the sale and have fewer headaches, but, please stop embarrassing other businessment by looking for welfare.

  11. I’m sure it’s empowering at some level to be able to attack others from behind the veil of anonymity without consequence or the slightest understanding of the facts. But it’s cowardly and it might be truly offensive if it wasn’t so pathetic. Get educated, be personally accountable and then, perhaps we can have a real dialog.

  12. @Fstoner, your statement makes absolute no sense. What exactly did I say that wasn’t true? What is there to be educated about? You’re asking for tax payers’ money to help you to make money. Not true? No,

  13. “I’m sure it’s empowering at some level to be able to attack others from behind the veil of anonymity without consequence” And, Fstoner, what difference does it make who I am? What consequences are you threatening me with? Why shgould there be consequences because of public discourse? We’re talking about principles here. And the principle I’m talking about is getting money from government without having to provide a public service is what I call welfare. What’s the difference in my giving a person a monthly check to contribute to his rent and giving you a check for you to satisfy the city’s parking requirement? Free money is free money and it’s also a form of welfare.

  14. There is a reason why the comment form encourages people to use their real names. A critical comment is significantly more powerful when it’s coming from a person who is willing to be identified personally. When it comes from somebody pseudonymous, it’s easy to dismiss their remarks. Cville Eye, you might find that illogical, but I’ve been running online communities for fifteen years now, and I can tell you that it’s also near universal. What could have been an opportunity for an interesting exchange with a Charlottesville developer instead ended with nothing more than two justifiably offended people.

  15. Who is getting welfare checks from the Market and Water Street Garages? Everyone who uses them pays or is paid for by a local business or property owner. No single developer could have or would have built the garages because they couldn’t have secured financing and the garages are built to serve many users and businesses. They are a critical resource in downtown that generally only make sense for governments who can finance them with tax exempt bonds and who stand to benefit from the increased tax revenue that is generated through new development and rising property values that come with infrastructure investment.

  16. I thought the garages are privately owned: by CPC, a group of business owners (originally) who got together to fight against the sea of parking available at the new kid in town: Barracks Road Shopping Center. Didn’t shares of CPC float around privately for decades: available for $1 each or some such nonsense? Richard Spurzem comparatively recently sought out a large number of the shares and, as I recall, is one of the prime motivators for trying to compel CPC to make a profit. Isn’t the CPC-owned open parking lot at 2nd St SE & Water Street for sale, with an asking price of $7million or some such? The city has relied on CPC to be benevolent — whether it will be benevolent or will cash out is another question. There is, to me, a profound irony that rising property values create a scenario where dirt is too precious for private development to spend dirt on parking… Los Angeles, where I last lived, simply requires property owners to build their own parking with each new structure. This doesn’t work so well for renovations to existing buildings, of course, but makes utter sense for new construction: like the Holsinger downtown, built on an old bit of parking lot… I am troubled by developers requesting that ‘the city’ provide dirt and parking structure so that their developments can make more money faster. The hope that increased property values & their taxes will off-set the investment is often dashed in the reality: infrastructure improvements in the form of roads, utilities, and parking do become a taxpayer subsidy to people making a very fine income. Whether called a subsidy or ‘welfare’ it is indeed an outsourcing of the cost of development with no guarantee that some future insourcing of income (taxes) will 100% offset it. Just because a government can use a tax exempt bond for financing doesn’t mean that that lower cost will ever be reimbursed in the form of improved taxes from improved properties. I don’t think we have a good answer to the increasing parking problem, but I do think that just having the city do it — particularly at this late date — is not the answer.

  17. Thanks Oniss for your comments.
    @Waldo and Fstoner,
    Is using the name “Fstoner” followed by “As a property owner on west main and someone who has advocated for more City infrastructure investment on West Main, including parking garages and the Streetcar, I share the sentiments of most other posters on this thread.” clearly identifying anybody?
    Parking garage and street cars? Wasn’t the street car estimated at $30M alone?
    BTW, those tax-exempt bonds (no taxes are paid in by the holder) have to be serviced solely by tax payers for twenty years, not at your expense, but at tax payers’ expense. The tax payers pay the interest. That structure will have to be maintained also for those twenty years, at whose expense?
    I shall repeat, the developer of the propsed project for the corner of 10th & W. Main was paying for his own parking. So was the developer of the proposed project for the corner of W. Main and Ridge McIntire. They weren’t asking for government funds, just permission. The government was asking THEM for funds and large sewer pipes and such.
    It’ funny here, that a person working for twenty years contrbtng o he local economy and living in public housing is said to be on welfare, but a development receiving tax fnds for the same period of twenty years is called ???
    A little history for you Fstoner. In the early Seventies, the owners of the Mousetrap Restaurant offered to buy the ctyeer on the corner of 14th and Wertland in order to build a parking garage to service the businesses on the Corner at the owners’ expense. They had run their numbers by the bank and received initial financial backing and was willing to pay fair market value. Their main concerns was in the City’s allowing them to build the garage. They were sure they could provide affodable parking for that area. The City SAid “No” and then promptly built one itself. Perhaps it is this attitude the City has towards it local business community is what you’re hoping to capitalize upon, but I felt it would be remiss of me to let newcomers know that it is not necessary for every development poject that occurs in the city has to be tax-payer subsidized.
    I also find it suspicious that, as a developer who deals with spreadsheets everyday, you were remiss in leting the other commenter know the price tag before joining the bandwagon.

  18. Is using the name “Fstoner” followed by “As a property owner on west main and someone who has advocated for more City infrastructure investment on West Main, including parking garages and the Streetcar, I share the sentiments of most other posters on this thread.” clearly identifying anybody?

    Are you seriously asking whether, in a discussion about Frank Stoner’s real estate holdings on West Main, somebody identifying himself as “F. Stoner” talking about his real estate holdings on West Main has, in fact, identified himself?

  19. Yes, seriously. What’s wrong with “Frank Stoner?” Many people use “close to” names on blogs. For example, I believe Dave McNair of The Hook have not always identified himself as “Dave McNair.”
    Glad you did bring up my introduction of Frank Stoner into this thread concerning W. Main Street. Also, his participation in the Jefferson School project for the recycling of public assets, with no apparent accountability to the anonymous public and his request for money from an anonymous public justifies naming him publicly by these anonymous tax payers. He appears to be deeper (knee deep)in the public’s trough than the average tax payer.
    If he needs money for a garage, raise it like the other developers have proposed.
    People comment anonymously about public figures everyday and I have yet to read that that person wishes the anonymous commenter “show his face.” He usually tries to clarify the situation if he does not ignore it altogether. Well, people in high places…

  20. Given this exchange, I understand why you want to remain anonymous but unless you got elected to represent the “anonymous public” perhaps you should just speak for yourself. Honestly, anything more ambitious is an insult to those you seek to serve.

  21. “…anything more ambitious is an insult to those you seek to serve”
    @Fstofner, you have contributed nothing to this thread with the exception of a self-serving plea for a publicly supported garage and streetcar, and that I comment anonymously. I have never said I seek to serve anybody and I don’t plan to. I’m expressing my opinion on the recurring request by some property owners, merchants and hope-to-bes along W. Main to take advantage of the public trough. Do you claim to be serving someone other than yourself? If so, did they ask you to or are you self-appointed? I never said I was speaking for the anonymous taxpayer; many agree with you and that feeds you your boldness. I have never seen you stand alone on anything.
    I said that you were asking the City for funds that it takes from mostly anonymous tax payers, of which I am one.
    Contrary to what you have promised, so far, you have educated no one about anything except that I post anonnymously and your desire for an economic boon (welfare).
    “A critical comment is significantly more powerful when it’s coming from a person who is willing to be identified personally” I can’t imagine any different response from Frank Stoner if he did know my name (he does, he just doesn’t know that he does).

  22. @Fstofner, you have contributed nothing to this thread with the exception of a self-serving plea for a publicly supported garage and streetcar, and that I comment anonymously.

    Self-serving? How could that be? You’ve said yourself that Frank Stoner is as anonymous as you, so long as he’s using his first initial. Why, there’s no telling which West Main Street business owner this could be (Franny Stoner? Flavius Stoner? Perhaps Frankenstein P. Stoner IV?), so I can’t see how you can call his remarks self-serving.

    You can’t have it both ways.

  23. Waldo, is it not self-serving a someone to ask for city money to provide parking for his tenants? Certainly his tenants will not be excluded from a public garage built along W. Main. Remember, even if he turns the old Albemarle Hotel into condos that complex will have to provide a certain number of parking spaces.

  24. We have had business on Main Street for nine years, and we were downtown for five years before that. Compared to downtown I don’t think there is a parking problem, though my fellow business owners think there is.

    I know one of the issues some of the “mid towners” have is lack of maintenance of the area that our businesses are in. Since we work through the night I can tell you that I now see the street sweeper on a regular basis, something I never saw before some of the issues were raised.

    I don’t think the parking garage at 14 and Wertland is city owned. I understand it to be the same land owner who owns the buildings that include Baja Bean.

    In the end if a parking structure is built, the consumer pays for it. If the city pays for it, we pay in taxes. If the land owner pays for it they will pass it on to their tenants in either CAM charges or higher rent, something the tenant will have to pass on in the cost of what they are selling.

  25. Hi Gerry. I think you’re right, there are several decks around the University that are privately owned and I think Wachovia was an investor in the Water Street Garage but all those have generally been financed with low interest IDA bonds to help make them economically feasible. The Water Street Garage required significant capital funding from the City. I also think you’re right that there is enough parking on West Main today to support the businesses that are there today. Problem is that West Main redevelopment will likely turn many existing parking lots and underutilized sites into high density commercial and residential buildings. There has been very little development on West Main because the rents would have to be so high to support the new development and structured parking that most businesses and residents would choose to locate elsewhere. In the current environment, no banks would consider financing it even if private capital was willing to take the risk.

  26. Let me clear up an apparent misconception. I’m not asking the City for anything. I’m simply suggesting that if the City wants to stimulate new development on West Main I think providing more public parking or a plan for public parking would help. That doesn’t mean that development will never happen without it but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon without City or UVA participation.

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