Good neighbors? Controversy brews over apartments at Meadowbrook
The phrase "mixed-use" may be all the rage when talking about city and county developments, but some neighbors of the Meadowbrook Shopping Centre aren't thrilled with proposed plans to make Charlottesville's oldest shopping center mixed- use by adding as many as 128 apartments.
"Any situation with increased density would be a mismatch for this location," says Roger Chevalier, who was alarmed by a letter from the city, dated March 28, notifying residents of a nearby neighborhood of the shopping center's submission of a preliminary site plan and request for a special use permit that would increase the allowed dwellings per acre from 21 to 54 on a nearly two-and-a-half acre site at the southeast corner of Barracks Road and Emmet Street.
"We would welcome more choices for our family to enjoy," says Chevalier, who lives within walking distance. "Shops and restaurants have made good 'neighbors,'" he writes in an email. "They have set hours. They are quiet at night. They have limited hours on weekends and holidays. Housing units," he notes, "do not have these pluses."
Chevalier isn't the only one concerned.
"It's just a lot of residential units they're proposing, so there would be a lot of cars coming in and out on regular basis," says Rugby Road resident Kaye Teasley, who describes driving down Barracks toward Emmet Street, particularly at rush hours, as "horrible," even without a new apartment building drawing more drivers.
This is not the first time development plans at the shopping center have bred controversy.
For seven years, ending in 2006, Meadowbrook tenant Anderson's Carriage Food House tangled with Meadowbrook's owner, Clara Belle Wheeler, over accusations that she'd harassed them in an effort to make way for a CVS pharmacy. Wheeler vehemently denied the allegation and a judge tossed out the Andersons' charges of fraud and trespass against Wheeler and her attorney. A jury eventually awarded the Andersons $100,000, an amount the Andersons claimed wouldn't cover their legal expenses.
This development, Wheeler says, won't affect any current Meadowbrook tenants in the near future since construction is planned only for the undeveloped grassy area at the back of the shopping center parcel.
"They're all good tenants," she says, noting that they've all recently signed new leases.
Management at both Anderson's Carriage Food House and Meadowbrook Pharmacy declined comment, citing a wish to learn more about the plans before expressing an opinion on the project.
"I just don't know anything about it yet," says Anderson's manager Ted Anderson.
According to Wheeler, the vacant Tavern building will likely be demolished to provide an area for construction staging and storage of construction material. And while the plans call for two phases, it's only the first one– a 75-unit apartment building– that could be imminent if the city grants approval. Phase two, which calls for the demolition of the existing commercial structures to make way for an additional 53 apartment units with 12,000 square feet of commercial space, is likely years in the future.
Wheeler says she believes the city and nearby residents will appreciate the plans, which will feature self-contained parking under the building and will have an entrance to Emmet Street.
"It will not impact anyone other than it'll be pretty," she says, describing "nice roof lines." And the one- and two-bedroom apartments will be particularly desirable to grad students at the JAG School, Darden and UVA Law, all of which are within easy walking or biking distance, says Wheeler.
As for other future developments at the shopping center, including the CVS that's long been rumored to be eying the parcel that's now home to ALC Copies– which is not owned by the shopping center– Wheeler will say only that it's an "ongoing discussion."
A site plan conference is scheduled for April 17, and the city will hold a joint public hearing on the project on May 14.Read more on: Meadowbrook Shopping Centre