Downtown Mall West? Crozet wants to be on the map

onarch-barnes-lumberDevelopers want to build a 20-acre 'Downtown Mall' on the J. Bruce Barnes Lumber Company site.

Crozet, the small village to the west, has ambitions.

Two decades ago it was known mostly for Mint Springs Valley Park and Crozet Pizza, the quirky, family-owned restaurant that was recently selected as one of the top 51 pizza parlors in the country by USA Today. Since then, however, the village with a population around 3,000 has grown in stature, welcoming the ambitious Crozet Master Plan in 2001, Starr Hill Brewery, Old Trail Village, the production of the Hollywood film Evan Almighty (which included the construction of an "ark" and visits from giraffes and elephants), various other popular eateries like Cocina del Sol, Jarman's Gap, and the Mudhouse; the Crozet Music Festival, the Blue Ridge Shopping Center anchored by a Harris Teeter, an ACAC, and the brand-spankin' new $10 million Crozet library soon to be built.

Charlottesville's reputation as an attractive location over the same period, no doubt, has led to an interest in Crozet, which still remains relatively undeveloped, a new frontier that might harken back to Charlottesville's earlier days, when UVA students weren't even sure where the Downtown Mall was, and before we started making those number-one-places-to-live lists.

Indeed, that was the idea behind Old Trail Village, the ambitious 260-acre mixed use 'village" with a town center, green space, a golf course, and beautiful houses nestled in a valley with spectacular views. However, while Old Trail has had some success, a drive through shows it to be a development still trying to become a village.

“The development can’t become something else,” real estate blogger Jim Duncan told the Hook, referring to the proffers and the master planning that governed its creation. “But it’s just going to take time.”

Meanwhile, other plans on the table include a 184-acre industrial park in Yancey Mills that would be three times the size of Charlottesville Fashion Square and the topic of this story: an attempt to replicate the success of Charlottesville's Downtown Mall with one of their own.

Indeed, such a pedestrian mall, which would be located on the site of the J. Bruce Barnes Lumber Company, a 20-acre property that developer Katurah Roell and his Piedmont Development Group would redevelop for lumber company owner Carroll Conley, would be about the same size as Charlottesville's popular Downtown Mall.

"The pedestrian mall concept is very well received in Crozet," says Crozet Gazette publisher and editor Mike Marshall. "The goal of the master plan is a walkable downtown. What we don't want is more sprawl-style highway shopping centers on Route 250."

The new downtown would hug the CSX railroad tracks stretching eastward from the parking lot serving "The Square," the town's current commercial hub.

Of course, the question arises of whether the dream will become reality.

"I think it's a good idea," says Crozet-based Duncan, "but the chance of it actually getting built is minimal."

However, as developer Roell points out, his company is already building Crozet's new Main Street, a design that could tie into the pedestrian mall and which features three auto lanes, bicycle and pedestrian lanes, as well as new sidewalks and street lights.

onarch-crozetmall1Site plans for the proposed downtown mall in Crozet.
Courtesy Piedmont Development Group

"Crozet needs a downtown to attract people," says Roell, describing his quest for 655,000 square feet of building space, a walkable area about the size of two football fields. His plan envisions restaurants, retail, apartments, high-tech office space, a five-story senior living facility, 713 new parking spaces, and a 70-80-room, five-story hotel, which Roell describes as a key component.

"All the vineyards in the area draw people here," says Roell, "but there's no central place to stay."

Indeed, such wineries as White Hall, Cardinal Point, King Family, Mountfair, Veritas, and Afton Mountain–- as well as the Blue Mountain and Starr Hill breweries–- all lie within a 20-minute drive of Crozet.

Roell notes the project's plans have been approved, having been backed by the the Crozet Community Advisory Council and having won the favor of both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, which included it as part of the Crozet Master Plan.

While Roell admits the zoning application will take about a year, he says some construction could begin in two years.


Mr. Crozatian This is the 21st century isnt it? If they were polluting as much as you say all the tree huggers in this "Burg" would be spitting bullets . Also ,look it up the steam is the biggest by-product of burning wood.Then CO2 then all the cancer causing stuff. Id bet you a beer that they have some sort of scrubber on that unit that catches most of the really bad stuff that comes out. Besides the 3-4 thousand homes that use "wood" to heat thier homes in the county , polute more than the plant.Along with the chain saw exhaust(on average put out more toxins per hour than a car does in a day) that they use to cut the wood they heat with. We could go on and on about this stuff .But the bottom line is we need the tax money that bussiness brings in to keep thing simi-affordable (did I say affordable in albemarle) please slap me to wake me up. .But the forever rual,buy local ,save the whales freaks who are running things will never let it happen unless they get thier piece of the pie first.As Forest Gump said once "Thats All I gotta Say About That".For Now!

"Not allowing compitition (national chains or franchises) downtown just keeps the well to do in control of everyones life."

Id like to know whee you got that bit of information. The mall has had plenty of national chains on it. They closed by choice, as have any of the smaller stores.

Speaking of competition though, you have an area where you do get to choose between small store and big box, because the City and County in the past, did something about it.

I think it's important to plan, but you can't "build it and they will come." The C'ville downtown mall works (more or less) because there is population to support it and it was an existing business district before it was mall-ified. Crozet doesn't have anything like that. Pedestrian-friendly, urban development works if it is done incrementally--the same way that cities grow and develop. You just can't force it, and that sounds like what Crozet is trying to do. It's a recipe for failure. Maybe the city can acquire the lumber yard property but only develop in small stages, so it grows as the population grows. At the same time, I'm glad they are not trying to completely pave the area, which is what the powers that be have allowed in the county around C'ville. I see the Kohl's construction and want to vomit.

dawg You must be independantly wealthy or just dont get it. The downtown mall works because the city forces it on people.Not allowing compitition (national chains or franchises) downtown just keeps the well to do in control of everyones life.You must like paying 20% more for everything in this berg or like I said your rich or dont get it. The Crozet thing is a master plan wish after years of debate(payoffs?) is under way. Yes If You Build It They WILL come.If you build affordable more will come . The more people the more tax dollars the less every one (that inclues the mega rich "Farmers" wink wink nudge nudge.)Has to pay .I dont know about you but I dont like paying $6 for a "LOCAL" draft beer $30 for a pizzas you get it. Well I gotta go and get a cup of $4.50 local coffee before work.

Let’s be real. Shopping malls need consumers, and one this size will need a lot of them. Judging from the ââ?¬Å?success” of the mini malls on 250 and the slow growth at Old Trails, we need to ask ourselves if a collection of empty commercial spaces is really what we want for Crozet. Build it and they will come, the developers say. Once they come to what we already have, I’ll happily reconsider. Until then, I’m totally unconvinced.
What we need is for the Barnes Lumber site to become a solid-paying job generator. That will take more time, but we need jobs in Crozet to achieve a sustainable local economy. They said converting the old Del Monte/Agra foods plant was a pipe dream. What has been done there should be the model for our community. Not the fancy filaments of a developer’s spin.

I know the difference between steam and smoke. Every morning there is a lot of steam, but it stops by 9:00, why? My guess is that they are quenching the fire so nobody sees the smoke during the day. Sometimes just before sunrise the smoke stops, and sometimes it doesn't stop until a little after dawn and it is very obvious that the pall of smoke is coming from the lumber yard as a point source. I have video and digital pictures that prove it. If you go to the lumber yard a night and shine a strong light above their smokestack it is spewing smoke. The tree huggers don't complain because they the source of the pollution is hidden from them.

I totally agree that we need the tax money, and the lumber yard is a low level use of that property. A mall would generate a lot more jobs and a lot more property tax.

An even lower level use of property are all of the fake farms with tax deferral around here. I used to do it myself, throw a few cattle out there and get a huge tax break. Even though it costs more to raise the cattle than you can sell them for. Horses are a luxury item, and should not be considered farming. A hay operation for horses and fake cattle ranchers is equally suspect. These are not poor farmers who need a tax break, but very wealthy people with polo grounds, grape vines, pleasure horses, etc.

Mr. Crozatian They may be doing that because the other enrgy they use is cheaper at night.The wood they cut during the dalight hrs has to dry sometime.If its that big of a concern call the press(oh yeah the news plex one company owns them all so we get only one side of a story) call the epa I did on that landfil behind the comunity garage and was told that its Grandfathered in what ever that means ,I thinks it mean they can keep dumping s@#t in the ground and water cause their hill billy grardfather did it ????????!!!!!!!Any way Id back you up on something like that .We could have our own reality show on tv .We could call it Us aganst the tree hugger faux farmer polo playing alpaca raising rich guys . Im going for it with or without you! Oh I forgot one Grape growing rick guys

My next door neighbor had the EPA clean up some old pesticides on his property. The EPA was over there once a year for 3 years in a row planting ferns with drip irrigation to mitigate. Bobcats, loud contractors, and trucks, buzzing around for weeks each time. That didn't work, so they brought in top soil and covered it up. What a waste of money. I could have had all the topsoil on this guys scrubby property replaced and landscaped for far less.

The EPA contractors smashed my mailbox and the EPA administrator rear-ended my neighbor's car.

The Community Garage is a disaster. The EPA doesn't want to do anything, but they are clearly breaking the law.

It's far better to plan something like that now than to try to retrofit it twenty years from. I don't know the layout of cureent Crozet, but I hope that the Mall should be defined in a way so that it can be expanded onto adjacent properties into the future. Can a convenient future access to Crozt be also platted?

This is probably a $100 million project as proposed. To finance it the developers are going to have to go to a bank with a fat wad of leases from bankable tenants (national chains). Sure there may be a locally owned store or restaurant thrown in, but this looks like its going to follow the path of Hollymead's "town center" (strip mall heaven). Watch, once they get it re-zoned they'll start pushing for a wal*mart.

The smoke from the ugly lumber company is NOT steam. They heat their kilns with sawdust and stoke them up every night. You can go there at night and see for yourself. I can see the whole valley from my window and I have video and pictures of the smoke cloud extending for tens of miles in all directions around Crozet and coming from the smokestack at the lumberyard. They usually stop polluting soon after sunrise, by then everyone wonders where all the smoke came from. It is especially bad on cold winter mornings with no wind. Air polluters are notorious for doing most of their polluting at night (for obvious reasons). I actually think it is a good idea that they use renewable energy, but that burner is killing y'all in the valley.

As for the Quonset-hut laundry, the tin shacks next to Crozet
Pizza, the chicken ranchers on 240, and the Superfund site behind the community garage, they are nasty too, but at least the whole town doesn't have to breathe it.

Most of these are the charming evidence of Appalachia, but not so charming is the corrupt Crozet advisory board loaded with local business people who want to shut out businesses they could not compete against and growth-stifling residents with huge tax-exempt "farms" who can fly out on their business jets to buy polo ponies and political influence (you know who you are).

@dawg, Why would the city want to acquire the lumberyard property?

Stuff white people like: crozet walking malls

Looks like rubbish from a profit-hungry company.

People would have to drive to it, find some place to park, and then pretend walking around at it was an act of small town quaintness.

Yep like this is every going to happen .The Crozet Community Advisory Council will find a way to be Not Bussiness Friendly just like the city and the rest of the county.These people think that every idea that they dont come up with is not a good idea.Theyll find some goofy rule or sub rule that with delay any project like this for years. If they care about Crozet you think they would clean the place up a bit. Like The Community Garage (the juckyard old tire storage place)the house that raises chicken as you come in to town on three notched rd.The water place next to the star hill just to name a few .If they want to be "World Class" then they should act 'World Class". Remember everything isnt grapes and alpacas. You need real bussiness as the tax base not wanta be farmers getting tax credits for the grapes they grow.

Mr. Crozetian, That smoke you see is mostly steam (water vapor) you say nothing of the "ugly dry cleaners or the "ugly" crozet pizza building or the ugliest thing of all the "Community Garage".Look at the back of the place "Sanford and Son" would'nt work there.Old tires 50 gallon cans with who knows what in them .Oil all over the parking lot . All leading to that little creek in the back.You know the one ,it has the Gulf of Mexico oil shean look to it. One more thing the hardware store is "good looking" !!!

I live in Crozet, and I have to wonder if the writer of this article has ever been here. I'm in favor of a pedestrian mall in Crozet. Especially if it had a small movie house! Obviously a mall wouldn't be on the scale of the Charlottesville Downtown Mall. Regarding concerns of how hard it is to have a business in "downtown": more businesses attract more people. These same criticisms have been made prior to the development of what turned out to be successful malls in other towns. Right now in Crozet there's not many places to hang out, enjoy the view etc. that don't cost money to do. Well we do have a bench at the intersection of 3 Notched & Crozet avenue. Mind the fumes. But its still dumpy around here- nice houses and buildings torn done years ago... potholes everywhere. The lumberyard is in an unfortunate place now what with all the traffic. Putting in something we could all enjoy in that space would be great. It's hard to imagine that we don't have the population- seems like its about doubled since I've been here, and there are surrounding areas including Nelson County that don't have much in the way of support services and entertainment. I do see those folks at Old Trail though...

I think it would be neat, but there isn't sufficient population to support it -- nor will there be for a long, long, long time. I also think that until the library is in place the downtown will not generate much activity. Ask retailers on Charlottesville's downtown mall how easy it is to be in business these days. Do we really think that Crozet is somehow going to magically do what most urban-area downtowns today are nearly incapable of doing??? Might as well build a Neverland instead, because this dream is not based in market reality.

Our own little Reston Town Center. How quaint.

If they build a mall then everyone will just complain about the bums hanging out there.

We should mandate sidewalks and bike paths in Crozet too. And we should build lots of free parking for me, since I live 15 miles away. And we should make the people of Crozet pay for it. Yeah, and we should raise the real estate taxes on just Crozet folks since they get all the nice stuff.

Yeah, yeah, that's he ticket!

First the Wal-mart and the new super-max prison, then Crozet can have a mall. Maybe....

I wish the county and the media would stop using the name "Main Street". We already have a Main Street - Crozet Avenue. Calling a new road "Main Street" rings of an attempt to "Disney-fy" Crozet. The Crozet Community Advisory Council has been collecting suggestions for a street name because we all recognize that our true main street has been with us for some time.

Why do people insist on developing quaint rural areas? Hint: they are not rural any more after you move in thousands of people.

This is just another reason to pack up and leave. Old Trail..though some what quaint no where near completion. The reason people liked living here was the lack of traffic, the quite way of life and the COUNTRY. Bring in all the people...and it's not so much the country it? Yep, moving is on the horizon.

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I do hope the Lumberyard is developed, and sensibly. Crozet is changing for the better in my opinion, with a fabulous coffee shop (my friends from Australia loved it there), new library, new street, restaurants,...where did this energy come from?

The plan must include more parking unless the expected businesses can survive on the people who live in walking distance (which for most people is what? a few blocks or 1/4 mile when the weather is nice?). And better traffic handling. Already it's hard to get through town or park there to shop or eat. Some people may underestimate the power of the community to change. Can no one remember when Apple Cold Storage and the TV dinner factory dominated the town? I do miss Donny Seals' and Roger Baber's Community Garage where you actually could get your car fixed and the older and clunkier it was, the better. And about being "world class", wouldn't that include a little bit of Third World?

Sounds to me like Crozet will be getting their very own slice of 29 north with all the traffic problems. The Three Notched & Crozet avenue intersection will become more of a parking lot than it is now at certain times of the day. And everything this project offers is already abundantly offered in the Albemarle/Charlottesville area, so rather than being an attractant to the new fake downtown, it just gives me a reason to avoid Crozet.

I think a developed downtown mall is a fantastic idea. I know it will be a big change, but it will be a positive one. I can see the Lumber company from my house, and I see it up close from the library and hardware store. The bottom line is that it is very ugly, not a big provider of jobs, and causes a pall of polluting smoke on most mornings.

On the other hand, a lot of good can come from a mall-like space downtown instead of turning 250 near Old Trail into 29 North-type strip mall-ville.

Towns with a central downtown can be really nice, lets keep downtown alive.