Shovel ready: County colossus Stonefield set to rise

Last week, local officials and developers lined up behind a row of golden shovels to break ground on a tract of land at the corner of Route 29 and Hydraulic Road, from which will spring a 65-acre village-style development three times the size of the Downtown Mall.

It's been a long time coming.

First rezoned in 2001 and finally approved in 2003, The Shops at Stonefield– previously known as Albemarle Place– will have 1.2 million square feet of building space, including a 135-room luxury hotel, a 14-screen IMAX theater complex, and 245 residences in the first phase of construction. In addition to a greatly anticipated Trader Joe's, the developers revealed that restaurants Osaka Sushi and Travinia Italian Kitchen have also signed on for a predicted November 1, 2012 grand opening of the "town center" portion of the project– with various apartments and townhouses slated for completion in 2013.

So why the name change? Why The Shops at Stonefield?

"It's a name that has an organic connotation," says Robbie Robertson, the developer's communications director, "a name that's reflective of the natural elements of the area, such as the local stone and wood that will be used."

Robertson also says they wanted to re-brand the development as they "take it in a new direction." Robertson concedes it could be a challenge to get people to embrace the Stonefield name (almost a decade as Albemarle Place has burned the older name into many brains), a problem he hopes to fix with a social media campaign.

Of course, this wasn't the first groundbreaking. Back in 2006, a reporter snapped photos of the location after previous developers demolished the old Blockbuster videos building and began clearing land. However, a sour economy– along with the discovery that the aging sewage infrastructure known as the MeadowCreek Interceptor didn't have the needed capacity– halted the project, which was supposed to eventually see residences atop the retail as well as structured parking.

However, a new developer has taken over, South Carolina-based Edens & Avant, whose executives were on hand last week to celebrate the project's new beginning. Again earth movers and construction crews are clearing land, and just last week a reporter saw a crew lifting a massive fuel tank out of the ground in front of the shuttered and doomed 7-Eleven building.

But this will not be Albemarle Place. Indeed, "the shops" part of the new name is telling. Whereas Albemarle Place was characterized as a "test case" for the County's Neighborhood Model, incorporating hundreds of offices and residences atop retail addresses in a walkable village with structured parking (like the Downtown Mall), Stonefield will be more of a shopping center with a neighborhood feel, incorporating residences on the periphery of the "town center " and laying down traditional shopping center-like parking lots.

Not exactly the shining example of the Neighborhood Model it was first promised to be.

Still, accommodating the development is costing a bundle. The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has been busy with a $25.5-million upgrade of the Interceptor, which is expected to be completed this summer. Some major road projects are also being planned: an extra lane along U.S. 29 from Westfield Road to Hydraulic (paid for by the developer), a $4.7 million City project (Edens & Avant is putting up $1 million for design work, and the state will fund the bulk of it) continuing the lane between Hydraulic to the 250 Bypass, a second lane on the 250 westbound on-ramp, and another lane from there to Barracks Road.

Traffic at the interchange already gets snarled with 51,000 vehicles every day, according to VDOT, and although Stonefield has an interior road network that could help some drivers bypass the intersection, it is expected to make things worse. However, while the Westfield to Hydraulic project will be completed on the development's timeline, the Route 29/250 interchange project is still waiting for funding approval and isn't expected to be finished until 2014.

"Great things come to those who wait," said Tom Gallagher, VP of Development at Edens & Avant, at the May 10 groundbreaking, before he introduced County Supe Dennis Rooker, who represents the surrounding Rio Magisterial District.

"It's a happy day," Rooker told the crowd. "We couldn't have hoped for a better partner."

Development officials said that Stonefield is expected to create 1,700 construction jobs (local company Faulconer Construction got the contract), 722 retail and hotel jobs, and generate $3.5 million in annual revenue for the County. They estimate that Trader Joe's and the Regal Theater alone will draw over 1.3 million annual customers. 

Considering the increased burden on sewage infrastructure, the Hook asked Rooker if the developers might incorporate a Worrell Water Technologies Living Machine system to process its sewage on-site. In 2009, Rooker told the Hook that there was "no reason we couldn't do this locally."

As previously reported, the locally based company (owned by former Daily Progress owner Tom Worrell) has installed its unique wastewater treatment system at locations around the world. The system turns sewage into clean water using natural filters and micro-organisms at a lower cost than conventional systems. However, asked if Eden & Avant might take advantage of such an eco-friendly local technology, Rooker was not optimistic.

"I doubt they will consider it," said Rooker. "It’s something that needs to be planned into a project from the start."

Gallagher, however, says he plans to visit the company's headquarters, which is just down the road from the development he's spearheading. While Gallagher concedes he doesn't know anything about the Living Machine, what he has heard has him intrigued.

"It sounds interesting," he says.


Short Pump arrives in Cville. And if the traffic wasnt bad enough.

Fantastic! This area needs even more minimum wage service industry jobs!

I see lots of empty businesses up and down the 29 corridor and this is sure to accelerate that trend. I wonder if the national chains that will be coming to Stonefield will cause even greater unemployment for our locally owned businesses ?

Nancy. It is up to the local people to frequent the locally owned biz rather than blame big biz for making fiscally astute choices until proved otherwise.

Just another reason to avoid 29.

And the '14-screen IMAX theater complex' can be summed up in one word: Netflix. Those 65-acres would make a great park.

No reason to be in a tizy about all this. Devolopment can be a good thing. There is no reason that I have to drive to Waynesboro to get a decent movie watching experience. And to the naysayers, honestly tell me you are not going catch alick there/shop at trader joe's.

This project probably made sense when it was conceived 10 or 15 years ago, when Charlottesville /Albemarle was a shopping destination for surrounding counties. But with Zions Crossroads trying to skim off the Louisa/Fluvanna population and Ruckersville/Airport Rd. marketing to the Green and Hollymead, Forest Lakes consumers, plus Waynesboro coming into its own a bit as a retail destination, I just don't see it. Especially hard hit will be the shopping centers in no-mans land, the ones in between the shiny new centers at Hydraulic and Airport Rd., Seminole should be ok due to proximity to Stonefield, but Albemarle Square and Rio Hill are going to have to convince folks to skip the new centers and drive a little further. I'm not sure how they'll do that unless Stonefield is extremely upscale. Who wants to put money down on how long Fashion Square survives?

In an ironic twist, the developers will actually contribute the money needed for road improvements in that area that the city and county have been unable to fund themselves. Will that be enough to accommodate the additional traffic? That remains to be seen, but at least it will help resolve the Best Buy/Route 250 ramp nightmare.

IMAX rules!

NancyDrew : What are you talking about .A low paying job is a low paying job whether its local or national
Restore the Republic : That's all this burg needs is another park for the fleas and tick to breed and spread lime disease rocky mountain spotted fever etc!
The only problem with the traffic pattern is the engineers who designed them. Plan ahead plan with the future in mind and most of all get it right the first time .

My point is - this will not create more jobs - just low paying jobs in a different location. Older shopping centers will close resulting in those jobs being lost. And as the economy sputters, and gas and food prices climb, dollars spent on entertainment and commodities will diminish.

As usual, the "nattering nabobs of negativity" weigh in. NancyDrew, quite the opposite is true, during recessions entertainment spending tends to go up.

Read this excerpt from a HOOK article on why Padow's closed its doors:
"Dawson says that rent for the space had just become too expensive for the kinds of things-- mostly lunch foods-- they sold. She says the shop was paying $90,000 a year to Federal Realty in rent for the 2,900 square-foot space, not including other expenses. Indeed, another Baracks Road shopkeeper who wished to remain anonymous tells the Hook that base square-footage rates are $30-$40-- up about 40 percent from last year. Businesses there sign what is called a triple-net lease, in which the tenants pay property taxes, insurance, and maintenance fees. And Federal Realty also takes a percentage of sales if that amounts to more than the base rent.

For example, if a business with 1,500 square feet at $35 per square-foot generates $1.8 million in sales, and 3 percent is the target percentage, the business would pay Federal $54,000, just slightly over the base amount. If the same business generated $3 million in sales, however, the business would owe Federal $90,000. And if the business generated only $500,000 in sales the owners would still have to pay the base rate of $52,500 (1,500 x $35), which would amount to over 10 percent of its sales.

The shopkeeper calls percentage rent a win-win situation when there are high sales volumes, which tends to work out best for the big box stores, as the percentage of rent from profit is less, and Federal has an incentive to make sure that businesses succeeds.

But if sales aren't so high, then the base rate alone, plus real estate taxes, utilities, marketing, and maintenance, all of which the shopkeeper pays, can be a killer for small local businesses like Padow's. Indeed, Dawson says she never came close to paying percentage-based rent, but she estimates that her base rate went up 3 percent every year.

So-called CAM charges (Common Area Maintence) can really add up too. Last year, one of the big snow storms cost the shopkeepers $100,000 for snow removal. In addition to the money Dawson says she lost during the storm shutdowns, she's still paying $59 a month for having the snow removed. In addition, real estate tax on the shopping center, based on an assessment of $87.5 million (which works out to over $800,000 a year), is paid by business owners. "Federal makes money coming and going," she says."

That puts things in a different perspective. Maybe it's not the retailer's or the shopper's fault that businesses go under when you have greedy pigs like Federal as landlords. It makes me wonder what the situation is for the small strip centers in C-ville and can city council do anything to prevent this kind of business killing situation.

I doubt if you'll see the new lawn prices at the Ntelos Pavilion attracting many takers. And I'll will bet you that high priced entertainment in Charlottesville will suffer in this economy.

NancyDrew What isnt HIGH PRICED in Shangri La

If these developements weren't going on you people would have nothing to complain about.

The people investing money behind these shopping centers are not idiots. They know (or have a good idea) of what they local market is like before they invest millions of dollars. The fact that this project has changed hands SINCE the downturn and they are still moving forward tells you that they are most definitely not working with 15 year old numbers. Rio Hill and others are packed every time I go near them so clearly there is demand for shopping in Charbemarle. In this sense, competition is good since shopping centers that don't survive can be replaced with something more useful, etc. IMO, the region is underserved by some of these businesses. Clearly there are enough families here to support ONE decent sized movie theater.... most towns across the U.S. are peppered with at least two. Ditto to Trader Joe's... they will do extraordinarily well here.

I love Charlottesville's focus on local business (particularly with food sourcing and restaurants), but some conveniences are nice in my life. If there wasn't a Lowe's, for example, I couldn't find a hardware store in town that has convenient hours to be open when I actually have time to fix things (e.g. weeknights and Sundays).

I totally burst out laughing when I read this quote:

""It's a name that has an organic connotation," says Robbie Robertson, the developer's communications director, "a name that's reflective of the natural elements of the area, such as the local stone and wood that will be used."

bwwaaahahahaha! What a tool.

Anyway, I'm with ****, in that this project probably made sense 10-15 years ago. But everything's changed now. The brunt of the change happened within only 3 years in fact. And I'm with the person who said "Netflix" (even though I myself don't do Netflix, I realize that most people do...who wants to pay $10 per person, plus over priced concession food when you can get your movies on Netflix (or the internet like I do) ???) And I'm with the person who pointed out that in these economic times, luxury shopping and frivolous dining and entertainment are the first things to go when people cut back to save money.

Trader Joe's? We have Foods of All Nations, Rebecca's, Integral Yoga, and Whole Foods (which just expanded to a new, supersized WF that will be only a couple of blocks away from this place) Not even counting all the other specialty foods places all around the area. We don't need a Trader Joe's. This will be a gluttony of things that Cville no longer needs. Everything's changed economically in the span of only 3 years. And guess what? That world is never coming back. The media tries to reassure everybody 10 times a day that any second now the recession will be are on the increase.....things are on the upswing, really they are. But uh, guess what? They're not, and this country will never return to the way things used to be. It's ovah. Done. Stick a fork in it. Goodbye. It's called The Titanic, and you're on it. But everybody keeps living in denial. It will be interesting to see what it's going to take to wake people up out of their dream.

So yes, this made sense 10-15 years ago probably........but not anymore.

Fashion Square will be and SHOULD be history. That place is a thug mecca. I suspect this new place will be too. It's surrounded. Lock your car doors.

@ boooo! You ever go to Short Pump on a weekend? No recession there. The recession is only for the middle and poorer income. The moderate middle and rich are doing fine. Stonefield will do fine. Though probably at the expense of others but that's the way we like to do things. In with the new and out with the almost old. No, things wont be the same, just a little more split between the classes is all.

Good, maybe Trader Joes will put the other crappy hippie/middle-aged-hag-who-still-thinks-she's-24 filled special food places out of business. I can't wait for the stink of patchouli and unwashed armpits to dissipate from Emmet Street when that happens.

Agree with ontheroad33. Stonefield with be a success and Trader Joe's a major hit with Charlottesville.

ya know with traders joes coming in maybe the other food retailers will get with the program and sell their food at the prices that they should be at . Not the 15% -20% more just because this is a collage town.They've been ripping everyone off for to long . This will be the wake up call they need .And i don't want all you local rich Towny types saying that's not true cause it is true

!5-20% more! Thats not true! Well, I really dont know but i just wanted to see whay it felt like to be one of those rich, Towny types. So far...nothing....I dont feel anything at all....

ontheroad33 Like why don't we meet on the mall and have a $5.00 cupcake and a $6.00 latte and talk things over .See you at noonish???

@ Anonymouse - A major hit? Try a major ho-hum, who cares. The novelty will wear off after the first month. :D Seriously, once people realize that there's not really anything there that they can't get the same, or equivelant of, someplace else.

@ontheroad33 - I think you're one of the many that are still in denial. If what you're saying was true then why are so many businesses - and I'm talking big name, nationwide corporate chains - closing and/or filing for bankruptcy? It's because they're just not getting the business they used to. In both 2009 and 2010 I saw news stories advertising dozens of corporate chains slated for closure nationwide for the upcoming year. Everywhere I go I see stores big and small (including online businesses) with desperate sale tactics, trying to lure people back in because customers are dropping off like flies. That's the one good thing about the recession - all the sales. All the promos. All the discount coupons. Also, keep in mind that just because you see people everywhere at Short Pump doesn't necessarily mean everybody's buying.

Also, give it all about another year or two. You'll be singing a very different tune. Even if you are still personally not affected, there will be no way for you to deny what will be happening all around you by that point to many more people. It's going to be a different world. It's already a different world now in 2011 then it was from just 2007. Just imagine the fun times given another couple of years. ;)

Also, as an aside to ontheroad33 - what you say about the increased split between the classes is true on the one hand, but on the other hand what you're not factoring in is the impact that the increased poverty of the lower classes will have on the upper classes. You can't have a clean, neat split where one does not affect the other, and where the one half can just obliviously go about their days earning their $200K a year, living the good life, shopping and whooping it up all over the place when meanwhile, the poor class has just expanded to 10x it's previous size. The upper class cannot singlehandedly sustain all the shops, hotels, businesses, restaurants/cafes and everything else all by their lonesome. And when 10x the amount of people are now homeless and/or on welfare, and entire sections of cities are abandoned (as they already are in some of the major urban centers) and when gasoline is well over $4 a gallon, maybe topping $5 as it has in multiple states already causing the poor to be unable to afford to get around and to work their jobs at the businesses you rely on, and when food costs are through the roof because local and worldwide natural disaster after natural disaster after natural disaster, coupled with the tanking economy, has cut off supplies and crippled shipping and destroyed mass amounts of farmland, crops and livestock, then it's going to be a lot harder to just whoop it up and pretend it doesn't touch you. You can't destroy one side of the divide and not have it affect the other. Everything's connected. And people are going to learn the hard way in the coming years, unfortunately.

idontknowanythi..., "That's all this burg needs is another park for the fleas and tick to breed and spread lime disease rocky mountain spotted fever etc!"

I love the response quoted above. LOL

Virginia is comprised of 42,774.2 square miles, which equals 27,375,448 acres, but somehow designating just 65 acres a "park" instantly sends out the message for fleas and ticks to breed and spread diseases. Hmmm....


I think what I missed from your verbiage is how the fleas and ticks get the "it's parkland" message? Do you send them an email, or text message. :)

Restore the Republic I don't think you get it (its a friggin joke) But we don't need any more land restrictions in this county. lot prices so hi if your not earning 150K you have a town home (maybe) live in another county (probably) or are living way above your means.By the way what republic are you referring to?

booooo! have you been getting drugs from NancyDrew you're starting to sound like a manic depressive version of her unique brand of cretinism.

@booooooooo! you're wrong about Trader Joe's. It will crush from day one, literally. Much of the stuff they have simply can't be had elsewhere at anything approaching their prices. That's actually the entire business model.

They're perfect for Charlottesville and people have been waiting for them to open in town.

Other stores in the new idea. Trader Joe's will be a resounding success.

If the elite of C'ville have their way, the people working here will have to live elsewhere, and that should take care of much of the traffic problem. This is a town of wealthy folks and those of us who serve them. Trader Joes (in general) is just one more slap in the face to all us middle class cretins hoping for the life we see all around us but can't afford. I love the downtown mall but it is the equivalent of overpriced popcorn at an already overpriced movie. Culture is a bitter pill when it's only available to the Ivy road crowd. Hell, the people driving up our cost of living don't even live in town. Crozet...look east to see your fate.

omgitspaul: Trader Joe's prices seem to be slightly lower on many things than Kroger would be and the difference is even more noticible when you compare Whole Foods. After all, they were the store who came up with the "2 buck chuck" wine a while ago. The chain is a high quality value price grocery; oddly enough, they pop up in more affluent areas.

This in in-fill development. Much better to have than some one building a mall on the edges (like Hollymeade and the monstrosity they put into Greene).