The 4.7-acre site is adjacent to the Millmont Shops, right, and Barracks Road Shopping Center, foreground.
Featuring a Tuscan tower atop red brick, the The Pavilion will reshape the look of Arlington Boulevard.
An Atlanta-based company has launched a quest to erect the biggest student apartment complex Charlottesville has ever seen, and it's happening near Barracks Road where Peak Campus has spent over $10 million before construction even began.
“They tore down a perfectly good office building," says real estate agent Roger Voisinet. "It shows you how dear well-located land is.”
Anyone driving up Arlington Boulevard near Millmont Street will eventually behold a dramatic change to the landscape: an 80 foot-tall complex consisting of two adjoining five-story residential structures with a 480+ spot garage.
It's called The Pavilion at North Grounds, and the first phase of construction began earlier this year after the company, which paid $9.7 million for 4.7 acres, spent another $200,000 to demolish most of what was sitting on the site. An adjacent complex at 1023 Millmont– now home to several UVA offices including its Institute on Aging– will get whacked after the lease expires.
Scheduled for completion in August 2013, the first phase of the Pavilion will consist of over 293,000 square feet of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, with the second phase adding another 95,000 square feet.
In June, the company cut another check, this one to the City of Charlottesville's housing fund for $278,095 as a way to comply with an ordinance forcing all high density structures to make provision for affordable housing.
For Peak Campus Management, which will soon have projects in 19 states, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. The UVA project is the company’s 42nd student housing complex.
This corner was long the site of a youth treatment center operating under such names as Brown Schools and Whisper Ridge. Last known as Jefferson Trail, the center became known for changing names after citations and convictions that included physical and sexual assaults against teenaged patients.
Plans for the complex state it will house “graduate students and young professionals” and with UVA's Darden and Law Schools and the Army's Judge Advocate General's School less than a mile away, the target market appears within walking distance. Fully equipped with a "resort-style" swimming pool, the complex also includes a 24-hour fitness center and a tanning bed.
On a street with a hodge-podge of buildings, some more than thirty years old, real estate expert Voisinet says the amenities and location will make the Pavilion highly attractive to graduate students and grab occupancy away from more distantly located housing. Even Kathy Hughes, the resident manager of the nearby Jeffersonian Apartments, enthuses over her future neighbor with the possible exception of the traffic that it has already begun bringing to busy Arlington Boulevard.
“I think that you definitely have to continuously expand," says Hughes, "and you know the housing is needed in Charlottesville."
Over at City Hall, Economic Development Director Chris Engel extols the project's ability to “enhance the tax base" and notes that it will “create demand for service sector business.”
However, Keith Rosenfeld, partner in HotCakes restaurant/bakery, doubts much measurable impact for the Barracks Road Shopping Center but figures that the Millmont Shops, next door to the planned complex, will reap some rewards.
The Pavilion will provide “great exposure” for the businesses in Millmont, says Julie Arbelaez, owner of Millmont-based Peace Frogs Travel. “We’re mostly destination shops at this point," says Arbelaez, "and it would be nice to have just general drive-by traffic.”
Speaking of growing traffic and demand, developer Jeff Githens, who would speak to a reporter only by email, says he is confident the project will have as much success as Peak Campus complexes in such major cities as Chicago and Los Angeles. Citing a “stable and growing university,” Githens calls Charlottesvlle "an ideal market.”
Nobody seems to keep a registry of the largest buildings in Charlottesville, but it appears that with nearly 295,000 square feet dedicated to residents by the end of phase 1 the Pavilion will be approximately tied in size with the GrandMarc, a similarly vertical complex on 15th Street near the Corner district. By the end of phase 2, when it will total nearly 400,000 square feet, the Pavilion appears on course to become the largest student-housing complex ever built in Charlottesville.
Voisinet said this project shows the “confidence and optimism” in the city and points out the importance of location. In urban development, he explains, there are three stages which begin with the easiest parcels. When those are exhausted, developers eye the “harder-to-build-upon” tracts. Charlottesville, however, has entered the final phase, in which developers buy existing structures to improve or demolish.
“We’re entering the third phase of development where land has reached a value that a developer can justify buying land with buildings on them," says Voisinet. "There’s not a lot of land left in the city."