BoS Talks Development

The post-election debate over the future of the county continued at yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Brandon Shulleeta writes in the Progress today. In a far-ranging, intelligent-sounding conversation, the two factions on the BoS squared off about whether Albemarle needs to keep growing. While conservative members of the board are looking to turn Wendell Wood’s bought-cheap rural land along Route 29 into valuable growth area land, the liberal members of the board argue that with so many empty storefronts throughout the area, adding more retail space would just make the problem worse. (Albemarle Square is close to having tumbleweeds blowing through it; Fashion Square appears to be letting just about anybody rent a space these days.) Ann Mallek pointed out that there’s something like 2,500,000 square feet of new retail already approved for construction; Ken Boyd countered that the reason that they’re not getting built is because of too much regulation. (Never mind the recession.) No decisions were reached, leaving county staff unsure of how to proceed, and the board intends to pick up the discussion again at an upcoming meeting.

These discussions might strike some folks as a bit tired, but it’s not often that the BoS talks in such a direct, broad way about issues of growth and transportation. With the board at a transition point, politically speaking, the result of these talks may shape the area in the years to come.

7 Responses to “BoS Talks Development”


  • If you have got spaces like Albemarle Square that aren’t performing then it only seems like comment sense that you look at redevelopment of those areas before you look at destroying natural woodlands for new commercial space.

    It seems to me that the Re-development of established areas doesn’t happen – a: because the wrong person owns the property and/or b: because the developers fail to think “outside the box.” or c: Developers don’t want to consider the idea that maybe they should tear it down to the ground and start the rebuild from scratch.

  • TrvlnMn,

    Actually I don’t think it’s necessary to “tear it down to the ground and start the rebuild from scratch.”

    The beautiful thing is that you could retrofit any of these existing shopping centers to be mixed-use, walkable, more attractive and profitable.

    Here’s how: Install a parking garage or underground parking. That means the sea of parking is no longer needed. With the space leftover, you can put in housing and apartments. There should even be space left over for community space and “pocket parks”. In many of these shopping centers you already have things like restaurants, movie theaters, and grocery stores. Basically many things people buy would potentially be in walking distance — especially if combined with making 29 pedestrian friendly.

  • I often wonder why there isn’t more underground parking around C’ville. Especially around UVA where parking is a premimum. I also agree that the owners’ of the shopping center have a great deal to do with the success/failure of the center. Does anyone remember years ago when the Carriage Seafood house was in Albemarle Sq? The owner of the shopping center booted them out (they had been there for ages)to make room for a “new tenant”. I don’t think that building has been occupied since.

  • I vaguely recall – from back during the “giant parking garage war” near UVa (Ivy Rd. Garage – behind the Cavalier Inn), the per-space cost of an above ground garage is something like 10:1 compared to “surface parking”. Underground is even more. Although I agree that parking garages are far nicer for a lot of reasons, you have to work that cost into it.

    To rephrase what the “conservatives” (no irony there!) are really saying: you can’t profitably develop the existing approved space unless you shove off a lot of externalities (costs) onto the public.

    HES – a slight nitpick: the Carriage Food House has always been where it is now. Anderson’s Seafood – now located in the Carriage Food House – moved from what was – originally – Barney’s (not Barnaby’s ) Pizza in Albemarle Square. Anderson’s is the only business to ever be successful in that spot. Carriage Food House was the King family’s first foray into the boutique grocery business, prior to Foods of All Nations, and was quite successful for many, many years.

    Albemarle Square has been slipping ever since they lost their two original anchors: BEST Products (ACAC) and Safeway (Circuit City). The most recent occupants of those spaces have granted only a temporary reprieve. I think Plan 9 will be gone as soon as their lease is up…just a guess though. I believe Hair Affair pulled out when confronted by a big rent increase.

  • Yep, I stand corrected. I could never get straight exactly the relationship between those two entities, but you are correct.

  • Scott, while I think for an already built underperforming shopping center like Albemarle Square a parking garage would pay for itself; I personally have no problem whatsoever with the public subsidizing some of the costs of that kind of improvement (provided that it is done in a way that provides real public benefit). I think the price of not redeveloping these shopping centers is far higher in terms of infrastructure to support commuters driving in from way up 29 everyday. After all, we can redevelop, or we can build ever more roads and bypasses and leave ghost towns of failed commercial development. Roads are expensive enough that subsidy of a parking garage would pay for itself if it promotes a walkable 29.

  • Albemarle Square has always struggled, been a bit of a “poor relation” compared to Fashion Square both being built around the same time I recall.
    Circuit City is gone. Remember Drug Fair which later became Dart Drug and then moved to Shoopers World, became Fantle’s and then closed? Think it was where the library is now.
    Everywhere you go, there is retail space for lease and closed businesses in shopping centers. Understand Waldenbooks in Fashion Square is closing after the end of this month. The local Blockbusters are all shut down. Why in light of the fact that we are in a recession and may have been saturated with retail already, would anyone say we need more?

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