Shopping center update: 2 of 3 approved

Three shopping centers in the works will change the way Charlottesville shops– not in time for this holiday season, but certainly by 2005.

When The Hook reported on Albemarle Place, Hollymead Town Center, and North Pointe in our July 10 cover story, none had gotten the critical rezoning approval from the Board of Supervisors that would allow them to break ground.

Four months later, here's what's happening:


Hollymead Town Center

 The bulldozers are hard at it up U.S. 29 just south of Airport Road. "We're going," says United Land's Wendell Wood. "It's going."

The BOS approved Wood's section of Hollymead Town Center– the part that will house the long-awaited Target– on July 16. Two other developers, the Kessler Group and Virginia Land Company, will be building residential units and smaller retail and offices as part of the same project.

And after nearly four years, Wood has the land rezoned and a site plan approved. The only thing he says he needs is a highway permit for the nearly $11 million in roadwork he had to proffer to get the county's okay to start building. That's for building extra lanes on U.S. 29– "about $6 million just on 29," he says– and a parallel road that will connect the center to Airport Road.

And the target date for Target? Spring of 2005, Wood says.


Albemarle Place

 The favorite of "neighborhood model" proponents, Albemarle Place had its rezoning approved by the BOS October 22.

Next hurdle for the center that encircles Sperry Marine at the intersection of Hydraulic and U.S. 29: site plan approval.

Mike Fenner, a planner with Frank Cox Associates, which is managing the project for owners Albeville Station LP, estimates that site plan and grading plan approval could take several months. "I don't anticipate any major problems, but the county will take a hard look at it."

County planner Michael Barnes says the process could take as much as six months– and that the county has not received a site plan for Albemarle Place.

Fenner estimates a best-case scenario of breaking ground in the spring. The developers have long wanted to open for the 2005 holiday shopping season, but Fenner acknowledges Albemarle Place could be looking at spring 2006 for its first phase.

As for which swanky retailers are signing up for a space in Albemarle Place, Fenner remains mum. "Once you get the formal rezoning, you have a lot of movement in the leasing," he says. "I know there have been a lot of phone calls and interest."

Announcements TBA.


North Pointe

 At the October 28 Planning Commission meeting, developer Chuck Rotgin was gaveled by chairman William Rieley for being out of order. "I was out of order," says a contrite Rotgin, who attributes his speaking when speaking wasn't allowed to a misunderstanding in scheduling.

Rotgin's Great Eastern Management is behind North Pointe, a 269-acre mixed-use project off U.S. 29 and Proffit Road. Developers went to the Board of Supervisors in May for rezoning approval, and were kicked back to the Planning Commission. In October, the Planning Commission twice deferred a vote on the project.

Part of the problem, says Rotgin, is "a feeling among staff and some members of the Planning Commission that we do not represent the pure 'neighborhood model' as they envision it."

Great Eastern believes consumers want big box stores, they don't want to park in back, à la relegated parking, when they go to the grocery store, and that the neighborhood model should be one– but not the only– form of commercial development in Albemarle County.

And unlike Albemarle Place and Hollymead Town Center, says Rotgin, North Pointe has a major residential component that includes single-family dwellings in an area where subdivisions like Forest Lakes are almost built out.

Critics say North Pointe will contribute to traffic and, coming on top of Hollymead Town Center and Albemarle Place, will create an excess of retail space.

One problem faced by the developers, says Great Eastern spokesperson Pam Fitzgerald, is the county's desire for connected roads and the "terrain factor" that isn't conducive for connectivity.

"They've increased the number of units per acre and the percentage of affordable housing units," says Fitzgerald. "The developer has done everything to meet the spirit and letter of what the Planning Commission asked."

North Pointe goes back to the Planning Commission November 18, and to the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing December 10.

"I think all parties are frustrated by the lengthy and onerous process," says Fitzgerald. "In the end, we'll come up with a model that works" for the county.

The earth moves at the future home of Target, ETA spring 2005.