The 330 Acres Around The Downtown Mall Will Determine The Future Of Charlottesville, Virginia

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Editor’s Note: This is episode two in a three episode Brian Wimer series.

I analyzed the Strategic Investment Area with Brian Wimer, the executive director of the IX Art Park, on The I Love CVille Show powered by Greenberry’s Coffee and Camryn Limousine.

The Ix Art Park, the Ix land, the Ix shops and Friendship Court and Crescent Halls, two subsidized housing developments, comprise a large portion of the Strategic Investment Area (SIA), which is approximately 330 acres south and east of The Charlottesville Downtown Mall, including portions of the Ridge Street, Belmont Carlton, North Downtown, Martha Jefferson and Fifeville neighborhoods. The SIA was identified by the City of Charlottesville as a potential “growth” area due to its low density, open/available land areas and its location as a gateway to The Downtown Mall.

“Everyone knows something is going to happen to Friendship Court. Crescent Halls will also be remodeled,” explained Wimer, a passionate and forward-thinking Charlottesvillian, who has called Belmont home for more than 20 years. “As these things happen, it’s good that the City was looking at this and trying to get a master plan for some possibilities of where this could go. Otherwise, it’s going to be done piecemeal. If you have a unified vision, perhaps that’s a better way to go.”

The SIA is designed to guide redevelopment of the 330 acres and intended to provide guidance for targeted investment and improvement in the area. It also anticipates redevelopment of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (Crescent Halls) and the Friendship Court sites. The Plan was initiated in order to create a transformative process for redevelopment and to identify key strategies for both public and private development.

In a nutshell, the SIA is a plan that makes sure the land around The Downtown Mall is developed strategically to maximize land value and quality of life for Charlottesvillians without displacing current residents of subsidized housing developments located within the 330 acres.

“We need to address the needs of people living in affordable housing right now. Charlottesville depends on all sorts of people and all sorts of income brackets,” Wimer explained. “Friendship Court, from what I’ve seen, from what they’ve promised anyway, is they will keep the same amount of affordable homes that they have now. Ideally, not displacing the current residents.”

I recently said that the Kim’s Market building and land will help determine the future and success of the Fifeville Neighborhood. Please find that analysis here: https://ilovecville.com/lets-consider-kims-market-in-fifeville-for-the-new-city-market-location-in-charlottesville-va/

In very similar fashion, I think the redevelopment of Friendship Court, the Ix Art Park and Crescent Halls will eventually determine the success or failure of the Strategic Investment Area. If the Friendship Court, Crescent Halls and the Ix Art Park projects are redeveloped intelligently, then the 330 acres will further strengthen The Downtown Mall as the heartbeat of Charlottesville, Virginia.

If the Friendship Court, Crescent Halls and Ix Art Park projects are redeveloped poorly, then this execution will negatively impact the long-term success of The Downtown Mall, especially as shopping and dining destinations continue to spring-up across Charlottesville, Albemarle County and Zions Crossroads.

Riverbend Development, a real estate investment, development, and management company with a portfolio of investments located in and around Charlottesville and Albemarle County, is the big barracuda swimming around the SIA.

Riverbend Development, the company behind 5th Street Station, the Flats and City Walk, specializes in retail, multifamily and the development of master planned communities. Alan Taylor, a problem solver extraordinaire, is the president of Riverbend Development while the midas-touched Coran Capshaw is the grand poobah. Coran’s office building is literally located across the street from Crescent Halls.

Here’s a message for everyone in Charlottesville:

Watch the 330 acres around The Charlottesville Downtown Mall very, very closely. Your home values and the long-term future of Charlottesville, Virginia are tied closely to the development of the Strategic Investment Area.

Editor’s Note: This is episode one in a three episode Brian Wimer series.

When Charlottesville, Virginia talks about Belmont today, we often highlight restaurants like MAS Tapas, The Local Restaurant and Catering and tavola restaurant, the increasing real estate values in the neighborhood or the easy walk to The Charlottesville Downtown Mall.

Brian Wimer has witnessed the gentrification of Belmont firsthand. Brian and his wife purchased what is now the Southern Crescent Galley & Bar restaurant more than 20 years ago. The family renovated and converted the structure from a rental duplex to a single family home. In what is now the dining room of the Southern Crescent, Brian’s wife sat in an inflatable tub and home birthed one of their daughters. They were making happy memories, but at that time, the neighborhood wasn’t cooperating with family life.

“The home two doors up [from us] was doing a lot of the drug dealing in town. Right across from Fitzgerald’s Tires, every night there was a group of kids that would throw rocks at cars and also deal drugs,” said Brian, who moved to Belmont after a successful stint in New York City as a creative director at an advertising agency. “I saw stuff in Belmont that we didn’t see in New York City. One day, I walk in front of my house, and there was a large bleeding man. He looked and me and said, ‘Can you give me a ride?'”

Brian, the creative director at the IX Art Park, or as he calls himself, “The Wizard Of Ix,” moved his family from the Southern Crescent location to Belmont Avenue for an improved quality of life. Brian was one of the driving forces behind creating the beautiful street mandala on Belmont Avenue. He was influenced by artists in Portland, Oregon who were using art to positively impact traffic patterns.

“[Portland] really changed a lot of the intersections there by painting them,” said Brian, who explained that getting approval from the City of Charlottesville was an arduous process. “[The Portland artists] brought it back from the auto culture to a [community culture].”

The Belmont Avenue street mandala, a large, beautifully painted circle that’s located right in the middle of an intersection, is routinely re-painted and freshened up during the Belmont block parties.

“They did enough tests [on the street mandala], and it did slow traffic [in Belmont],” Brian said. “It was one of the first experiments on seeing how art [impacts neighborhoods in Charlottesville].”

Brian is also very passionate about the development and evolution of the Belmont Bridge. He calls the current version “an Eisenhower era mistake.”

“You go from a two lane road into a four lane weirdo thing with rails on the side of it,” Brian said of the bridge. “You’re like, ‘What is that?'”

Brian hopes the new Belmont Bridge or “Belmont Gateway” will be less auto focused. He believes (frankly, so do I.) that City Hall should focus on making Charlottesville, Virginia less “auto centric.”

“I’ve seen what it can be [in Amsterdam and Copenhagen],” Brian explained. “That’s why I so often advocate for [the walking and biking] elements of life. They really change not just how you’re getting to work, but a lot of your mindset, your quality of life. It even changes your health.”

Episode 1 of “The Brian Wimer Story” is powered by Greenberry’s Coffee at Barracks Road. Greenberry’s has served Charlottesville and Central Virginia for more than 25 years!

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy Journalist Hawes Spencer Discusses His New Book: “Summer Of Hate” And Other Charlottesville, Va Events On The I Love CVille Show and Is Charlottesville, Virginia A Better Place Today Than It Was 30 Years Ago?

At I Love CVille, we feature the best of Charlottesville, Virginia. You’re going to love the I Love CVille network.

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CEO Jerry Miller

Jerry Miller is the CEO of The Miller Organization, The I Love CVille Network, VMV Brands, The Blue Ridge Venture Fund and I Love CVille Real Estate, which are all headquartered in Downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. Jerry is passionate about the #ShopLocal movement and supporting locally-owned businesses. Get to know Jerry at JerryMillerNow.com.