Corridor Reconquista

With major input from the public, Albemarle County planners have submitted three alternatives for taking back control of its horrendous U.S. 29 corridor north of Charlottesville. The best-received options sketched out ideas to focus growth and redevelopment around one of two higher-density nodes — one, a “midtown” around the Rio Road intersection, the other an “uptown” near the airport.

Major public investments in the corridor would include enhancement of a parallel road network, Bus Rapid Transit connecting employment centers along the corridor, and possibly a streetcar running circuits within the uptown and midtown centers. (A word of unsolicited advice: While you’re still in the conceptual stages, take a look at Personal Rapid Transit, too.) Read more details about the Places29 master plan in this article by Charlottesville Daily Progress.

Albemarle, a jurisdiction known for its strict growth controls, has bowed to the inevitable. Neighboring Charlottesville and the University of Virginia are reinventing the regional economy, spitting out a growing cluster of knowledge-intensive businesses. The region is going to grow, and growth is going to spill into Albemarle. The county can smear the growth over the landscape in the scattered, disconnected, low-density development pattern that has ruined countless other counties, or it can shape growth — through public investment, alternative zoning codes and an updated comprehensive plan — so that it creates real places that function where people enjoy living, working and playing.

Whatever Albemarle was doing before, it wasn’t working. U.S. 29 is an abomination, identical to countless other horror corridors across Virginia, and it detracts from Albemarle’s identity as a uniquely desirable place to be. It has been a slow process, but county officials are reconceptualizing an alternative vision for development and they’re gaining the buy-in of local citizens.

The U.S. 29 Corridor redevelopment is more ambitious than anything conceived for the Richmond region and anywhere that I know of in Virginia — outside of Columbia Pike in Arlington County. This project bears watching.

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2 responses to “Corridor Reconquista”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Albemarle County ranks lowest in housing affordability in the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) according to a new report issued today by The Free Enterprise Forum. The “Locked Out” report finds that just 16% of Albemarle homes are available to families earning median income. The report also finds Albemarle County has the largest planning department staff, the largest comprehensive plan and the longest approval time for subdivisions.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous, I’m not sure what you’re point is, but here’s what I take from the information your presented (coupled with my own observations) — Albemarle County is not an advertisement for the virtues of growth management.

    However, there are indications that the county is willing to depart from past strategies that created imbalances that exist now.

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