Albemarle Place: Ahead of the cut-through curve

Cut-throughs. Neighborhoods hate 'em. But apparently retailers take a more benevolent view of drivers who use their shopping center streets as shortcuts. The new Albemarle Place has designed a cut-through road to lure customers in by offering them another way to stay off U.S. 29.

Albemarle Place Boulevard will link U.S. 29 at the Main Post Office to Hydraulic Road at Cedar Hill Road, according to planner/designer Frank Cox of the Cox Company. And because of the new road's high-capacity access, he isn't worried that it might become clogged with commuters.

"You want to make sure folks are not subjected to congestion in your project," he explains. "Sometimes people abandon a shopping center because traffic circulation is pathetic." Does any particular example of that in Charlottesville come to mind? "No comment," says Cox.

Like the Hillsdale Drive Extension on the east side of Seminole Trail, Albemarle Place's cut-through road on the west side of U.S. 29 is designed to draw traffic off 29.

However, Cox points out major differences in the two projects: "Albemarle Place Boulevard will be built at the expense of the developer. Hillsdale is now an extremely expensive project the public will have to pay for," thanks to Charlottesville's lack of "regional planning foresight 25 years ago."

Designing in a connector road "was our idea," claims Cox. "VDOT and the County have recognized that road is very important. It's a relief valve for traffic north and west of the city because it doesn't have to go through the Hydraulic intersection."

"[Cox's] project by itself will not make a parallel road," says Barnes. "It will take cooperation from Comdial to create a functional parallel road between Hydraulic and Greenbrier. And there's the possibility of extension north of Greenbrier. The Albemarle Place project is laying the foundation for a future parallel road to Route 29."

To critics who say Albemarle Place will only make the Hydraulic/29 intersection worse, Cox answers, "The traffic at Albemarle Place will be inconsequential."

Far worse, he predicts, will be the planned traffic light at Best Buy, the electronic superstore slated to open November 7. "That signal will create a stopper that holds back volume and will back up traffic even farther than it does now," he says.

Barnes doesn't quite agree that Albemarle Place's impact on the Hydraulic/29 intersection will be inconsequential. "That's debatable," he says. "They will have an impact on traffic in that intersection."

The county would like to see Albemarle Place Boulevard become a public road. Is paying to build what's destined to become a shortcut through private property worth it?

Albemarle Place's developers think so. Except for rush-hour commuters, drivers who are diverted into the shopping center "have a shopping trip in mind," says Cox. "We'd encourage more diverted traffic. We hope to attract and titillate consumers who might think to go someplace else."