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Charlottesville Tomorrow Features Woolen Mills Development

The  and Charlottesville planning commissions had the opportunity Tuesday for a joint discussion on a redevelopment project that could help the two communities realize a goal of improving the area’s connections with the Rivanna River.

Developer Brian Roy is seeking a rezoning that will allow for an adaptive reuse of the historic Woolen Millsbuilding located within a landlocked section of Albemarle County.

“I was amazed the first time I walked through the building,” said Roy, who has been working on the project for two years. “The interiors and exteriors are amazing.”

The project immediately borders the city of Charlottesville, and a rare joint meeting was held so both planning commissions could hear directly about Roy’s plans to have the area rezoned from light industrial to commercial use.

Roy wants to build 100 residential units, or about 22 units per acre. An additional special-use permit would be needed for residential use.

An existing 15,000-square-foot building would be converted into a restaurant. There would be a new building to provide about 40,000 square feet of light industrial space. Another existing 7,232-square-foot building would be preserved for non-residential use.

A special use permit will be required so Roy can build a floodwall into the project to help protect the structure. A waiver also will be required to disturb steep slopes that Roy said are needed for parking and for some new construction.

“That application has not yet been filed,” said Bill Fritz, Albemarle’s chief of special projects. “This property was discussed in great detail during the [recent] adoption of our Comprehensive Plan. This use is consistent with the plan.”

All renovations would be consistent with federal and state historic preservation guidelines so that Roy can seek tax credits to offset the cost of the project.

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Credit: Barten + Ball

Rendering of future Woolen Mills development



The existing building dates back to after the Civil War. A previous factory had been used to manufacture uniforms for Confederate soldiers but was burned down by Union troops.

“I do want to preserve this historically,” Roy said.

Fritz said the county’s concerns include parking requirements, the ability of fire and rescue to get to the site and how the area’s character could change through new residential use.

“We have received an application, but we don’t have an answer yet on how we are going to solve these things,” Fritz said.

One issue is how much additional traffic will travel down East Market Street, which is within Charlottesville. Roy’s plans show a small parking lot at the road’s end but does not show a vehicular connection.

“Coming down Market Street is tough,” Fritz said. “It’s narrow. Mixing bicycles, pedestrian and cars is going to be a tough dynamic to address.”

Roy said he does not want to increase East Water Street traffic, and the plan shows Broadway Street as the main entrance.

Roy is planning for rental apartments that will be unique to this area.

“The fourth floor of the four-story building has tremendous window and ceiling heights that would allow for true loft apartments that really don’t exist in this community,” Roy said.

Albemarle Commissioner Karen Firehock said she was concerned that all of the apartments could be one-bedroom rentals.

“It makes the community a little more transient,” Firehock said. “If you want to have a family, you’ll have to leave this place. This will be part of the Woolen Mills community and the stability there.”

“The units are going to be narrow and longer than they are wide,” Roy said. “The economics begin to become a consideration, but I’d be happy to take a look at it.”

The underlying zoning would allow for a full range of commercial uses, including retail. However, a hotel use would require a special-use permit that Roy is not applying for.

Firehock also wanted to know how the site plan would limit impacts to Moores Creek, which is considered impaired by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

“Preserving a historic building, it would be counter-intuitive to throw up a lot of asphalt,” Roy said. “Certainly, I want to play up Moores Creek and take advantage of the Rivanna River.”

Several people spoke during a public comment period.

One city resident was concerned about the impacts it would have on Riverview Park, which she said is already at capacity.

“What’s not been mentioned is Franklin Street and the Hogwaller neighborhood,” said Allison Ewing. “I really question the new buildings, and I understand the owner is being pushed to build them for light industry. Is that really a use you want to encourage?”

Others were more willing to embrace the project.

“It’s great to see the two commissions working together on this issue,” said Woolen Mills resident Bill Emory. “It would be really great if cultural tourists would come here.”

“I see this as an opportunity for the neighborhood to reclaim its name,” said John Frazee, president of theWoolen Mills Neighborhood Association. “It’s a critical opportunity for the city and county to work together.”

Frazee said he supports the project but does hope parking and other concerns can be worked out.

City planning commissioners were receptive of the plan.

“I’m having a hard time thinking of a site that deserves a creative approach to its development, as well as creative review by the regulatory agencies,” said Commisioner Jody Lahendro.

“As a city commissioner, we are jealous this is yours to review,” said Commissioner Genevieve Keller.

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[The Daily Progress ] Montpelier looks for new center to shine light on Madison's ideals

Bartzen + Ball Project, James Madison's Montpelier Claude Moore Hall was featured in the Daily progress. Local historians are working to bring Montpelier, James Madison’s 18th-century estate, into the digital age. In November, Montpelier will open a $4 million building combining classroom and recording studio space. It will allow staff to record lectures, podcasts and radio programs that could reach a worldwide audience. When it’s finished, the 6,300-square-foot Claude Moore Hall will be a combined lecture hall and recording space, providing an opportunity for more exposure for the estate (and the Founding Father) that is sometimes overshadowed by peer institutions. “One thing we’re trying to do is spread knowledge about James Madison and his role in the founding of the United States,” said Sean T. O’Brien, chief operating officer of the Montpelier Foundation. “Not only the United States, but democracy worldwide.” Madison is best known as one of the co-authors of the Federalist Papers and the man who introduced the original draft of the Bill of Rights. Not surprisingly, Montpelier’s education and outreach programs focus on the Constitution. In 2002, the foundation established the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution, which provides multi-day, immersive classes on constitutional principles for teachers, law enforcement officers, elected officials and other “leverage points” in society, O’Brien said. These classes are conducted in person, but staff members began to realize the importance of reaching out via podcasting, radio broadcasts and internet videos. Current offices couldn’t support these activities, so the staff has been splitting time between Richmond, Boston and the Piedmont, said C. Douglas Smith, vice president of the Montpelier Foundation. “We’ll be able to do all of that in Claude Moore Hall,” Smith said. “That doesn’t just mean we’ll be more efficient — it means we’re going to be able to broadcast much more content.” The new building is part of a plan to establish a “broader campus of constitutional learning,” Smith said, including two studio spaces and additional residences. A law enforcement education program, which brings sworn officers to Montpelier’s grounds to learn about constitutional law, could benefit from the increased exposure. Retired Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy J. Longo was instrumental in founding the program, which covers topics ranging from searches and seizures to the rights of participants in a public demonstration. The curriculum is a combination of practical advice and theoretical framework, going into the history, intended purpose and interpretations of Americans’ rights enumerated in the Constitution. “Everything they do as law enforcement officers has its basis in the Constitution,” Longo said. “While they may not need to be constitutional scholars, they are some of the most important practitioners.” The new facilities could allow Montpelier to spread its message to a larger audience, Longo said. Many departments screen informational videos during roll call, for example — which provides an opportunity for the Center for the Constitution. “Once we have that capability, we’ll do more of it,” Longo said. “And I’m excited to be a part of it.” Claude Moore Hall is being funded by philanthropic gifts, including a recently approved donation of $200,000 from the Virginia chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution to underwrite a conference room at the new center. Montpelier is often lost in the crowded field of historical attractions in Virginia — Colonial Williamsburg, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and George Washington’s Mount Vernon all receive more attention. Part of that is the relative newness of the estate as an attraction. The duPont family purchased the property in the early 20th century. The National Trust for Historic Preservation acquired it in 1983, but not before the duPonts had made extensive alterations to the house and the property. A restoration project completed in 2008 brought the house back to its Madison-era authenticity. O’Brien said he sees Montpelier’s emerging status as an opportunity to try new things. “Montpelier has been a historic home in a form people would recognize for about 10 years,” O’Brien said. “We’re really the new kids on the block, and one of the things that allows us to do is think a little outside the box.”  

Bartzen + Ball Project, James Madison's Montpelier Claude Moore Hall was featured in the Daily progress.

Local historians are working to bring Montpelier, James Madison’s 18th-century estate, into the digital age.

In November, Montpelier will open a $4 million building combining classroom and recording studio space. It will allow staff to record lectures, podcasts and radio programs that could reach a worldwide audience.

When it’s finished, the 6,300-square-foot Claude Moore Hall will be a combined lecture hall and recording space, providing an opportunity for more exposure for the estate (and the Founding Father) that is sometimes overshadowed by peer institutions.

“One thing we’re trying to do is spread knowledge about James Madison and his role in the founding of the United States,” said Sean T. O’Brien, chief operating officer of the Montpelier Foundation. “Not only the United States, but democracy worldwide.”

Madison is best known as one of the co-authors of the Federalist Papers and the man who introduced the original draft of the Bill of Rights.

Not surprisingly, Montpelier’s education and outreach programs focus on the Constitution. In 2002, the foundation established the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution, which provides multi-day, immersive classes on constitutional principles for teachers, law enforcement officers, elected officials and other “leverage points” in society, O’Brien said.

These classes are conducted in person, but staff members began to realize the importance of reaching out via podcasting, radio broadcasts and internet videos. Current offices couldn’t support these activities, so the staff has been splitting time between Richmond, Boston and the Piedmont, said C. Douglas Smith, vice president of the Montpelier Foundation.

“We’ll be able to do all of that in Claude Moore Hall,” Smith said. “That doesn’t just mean we’ll be more efficient — it means we’re going to be able to broadcast much more content.”

The new building is part of a plan to establish a “broader campus of constitutional learning,” Smith said, including two studio spaces and additional residences.

A law enforcement education program, which brings sworn officers to Montpelier’s grounds to learn about constitutional law, could benefit from the increased exposure.

Retired Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy J. Longo was instrumental in founding the program, which covers topics ranging from searches and seizures to the rights of participants in a public demonstration. The curriculum is a combination of practical advice and theoretical framework, going into the history, intended purpose and interpretations of Americans’ rights enumerated in the Constitution.

“Everything they do as law enforcement officers has its basis in the Constitution,” Longo said. “While they may not need to be constitutional scholars, they are some of the most important practitioners.”

The new facilities could allow Montpelier to spread its message to a larger audience, Longo said. Many departments screen informational videos during roll call, for example — which provides an opportunity for the Center for the Constitution.

“Once we have that capability, we’ll do more of it,” Longo said. “And I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Claude Moore Hall is being funded by philanthropic gifts, including a recently approved donation of $200,000 from the Virginia chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution to underwrite a conference room at the new center.

Montpelier is often lost in the crowded field of historical attractions in Virginia — Colonial Williamsburg, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and George Washington’s Mount Vernon all receive more attention.

Part of that is the relative newness of the estate as an attraction. The duPont family purchased the property in the early 20th century. The National Trust for Historic Preservation acquired it in 1983, but not before the duPonts had made extensive alterations to the house and the property.

A restoration project completed in 2008 brought the house back to its Madison-era authenticity.

O’Brien said he sees Montpelier’s emerging status as an opportunity to try new things.

“Montpelier has been a historic home in a form people would recognize for about 10 years,” O’Brien said. “We’re really the new kids on the block, and one of the things that allows us to do is think a little outside the box.”

 

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A recent trip to NYC - The Highline

I recently took a trip by train into New York, a visual and sensory experience in itself, rolling through ripped back sides (thanks Iggy), discarded materials, trash, broken and forgotten things...the ride punctuated by a long tunnel / void, then arrival into the complex system composed of layers, grids, concrete, systems, people and buildings - the city.

Engagement and participation into the city / system is demanded.  The sensory experience is riddled with contrasts in society / culture, trash versus Art, buildings versus Architecture, noise versus nature, the random and the planned, all contributing to the energy inherent in the city. 

While in NYC, I had the opportunity to experience the Highline, a highly successful architectural and landscape project which repurposes an abandoned elevated rail line, transforming it into a linear park, 1.45 miles long.  The project was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Field Operations. 

The success of the Highline lies in the artful integration of landscape and hardscape elements on the elevated path and in the removal of conflict with other man-made systems.  Memory / remnants of past systems (rails) remain, giving the impression that nature has triumphed over the man made system over a period of time.  On the Highline, the visitor is elevated above the chaos / energy of the city below. 

New architecture is appearing along the new elevated spine; the activity and interest that the Highline promotes is a "generator". 

The Highline allows the visitor to relax, to suspend the effort required to participate in city systems, to float instead at a level where nature has reasserted itself in the form of plants, water and people...an area between...both in the city and above.  This represents a change in the way the city can be experienced.  The effect is surreal in that it is an artificial insertion of nature between the street level of the city and the sky. The calming effect of the Highline is emphasized because of its "floating" nature. 

The purpose of a park is to offer calm or an "oasis" within the energy of the city.  Central Park is a plan-centric notion of borders between the "man made" (Olmstead) natural with the man made (city).  The Highline linear park is a sectional notion offering calm within the city by responding to the inherent vertical layers of the system, and the nature of the conflicts which may be eliminated by separating these levels. 

I found the Highline to be a wonderful experience, promoting calm while celebrating the contrasts and conflicts inherent within the complexity of the city. The Highline is worth a visit next time you are in New York

 

 

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St. Catherine's Arts and Innovation Center Published in Richmond Times Dispatch

The new Arts and Innovation Center was written up in the Richmond Times Dispatch.  There are some great quotes from the St. Catherine's Head of School and a few board members and parents.  See the link and expert from the article below:

http://m.richmond.com/news/local/education/article_4ea176f5-df23-54f3-aaf3-5b71993523a2.html?mode=jqm

St. Catherine’s School, an all-girls private school founded in 1890, is eying another expansion on its Grove Avenue campus in Richmond’s West End.
     “In the midst of our 125th anniversary, we are given the opportunity to honor our past and to prepare for the future,” Terrie Hale Scheckelhoff, head of St. Catherine’s, said in an emailed statement. “We are in the beginning stages of addressing zoning that will enable the school to make enhancements on the existing campus footprint.”
     The project likely would include a new building to house an Arts and Innovation Center, a turf field and a parking deck for 200 cars, Scheckelhoff said.
     Christopher H. Williams, the chair of the St. Catherine’s board of governors, said the parking deck likely would be built underground and the field would sit on top of it, based on preliminary designs.
    The turf field would accommodate soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, Williams said. The school also would continue to use athletics facilities in Goochland County.
     As for the new arts facility, Scheckelhoff said the McVey Theatre, which was built in 1937, no longer fits the needs of the school.
    “The arts program is very important to our girls and their families,” said Williams, who has two graduates of St. Catherine’s and one daughter currently attending. “I think this facility will take it to the next level.”
     St. Catherine’s moved to the Grove Avenue campus in 1917.
     Last week, the school invited parents to attend a meeting to discuss plans to “fully develop the underutilized back third of our campus.”
     The Virginia-based architectural design firm Bartzen + Ball PLLC is designing the project. Details such as the cost, timeline and building square footage were not available, Scheckelhoff said. The school will need to raise money for the project.
     St. Catherine’s conducted a fundraising campaign from 2008 to 2013 that raised $40.4 million. It resulted in more than 100,000 square feet of new and renovated space, the conversion of dormitory spaces for use as classrooms and learning areas, and a renovated and expanded dining hall.
     Updates also were made to three historic buildings on campus, and science facilities were expanded.

 

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