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Forum on mall makeover tonight

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Posted: Monday, June 30, 2008 5:48 am | Updated: 2:47 pm, Thu Jan 24, 2013.

City resident Sandy Natterer knows where she’s going to be tonight.

After her Downtown Mall shop closes at 6 p.m., the Glo storeowner will venture to the Charlottesville Community Design Center’s City Space to see what’s in the making for outside her store’s door.

Tonight the city will hold a public meeting concerning the Downtown Mall renovation, providing the community with near-final design plans for the $7.5 million project.

Though a sister city plaza and two new large fountains have been nixed from the plans, other possible new amenities include mall-wide WiFi, designated areas for public art, more dedicated space for vendors and new benches.

“I like to know what’s going to be going on,” said Natterer, whose candle and bath and body shop has been on the mall for six years. “It’s going to affect our business.”

Much will be going on in the upcoming months. Joe Schinstock, the project manager for MMM Design Group, which is overseeing the project, said construction documents are being developed and final plans must be submitted by October for construction to begin in January.

Mayor Dave Norris said tonight’s meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at the City Space, in the Market Street Parking Garage, will be one of the final chances to garner community feelings about the mall’s design.

“This is the last major opportunity for public input,” Norris said.

City councilors earlier this month pushed to expedite construction into a four-month period to minimize the potential negative impact on mall merchants. To ensure this, councilors are putting aside $6 million for the renovations instead of $1.5 million. That money will be included in the city’s 2009 bond package.

Original mall renovation plans spread out construction over five years, with one to two blocks being completed per year.

“We quickly got the message from folks that that was not acceptable,” Schinstock said.

One of Natterer’s biggest concerns is the bricks. She said Glo, located next to Third Street, was already at risk last year after that street’s renovation and re-bricking went months over schedule. But construction will go on, and Natterer said her store will have to adapt to the new circumstances.

“We all have to figure out how to survive during that time,” she said.

Albemarle County resident Diane McNeal was disappointed when she found out she would be out of town during the community meeting. She said the brick size debate — which occurred when several area architects and residents opposed using 5-inch-by-10-inch bricks for the mall re-bricking instead of ones closer to the original 4-inch-by-12-inch size — and other construction logistics carry some weight. But for her, maintaining the social fabric of the mall is most important.

Referring to the atmosphere and overall improvements, McNeal said, “Keep it as it is, but bump it up a bit.”

Councilors are expected to vote on the project’s final construction timeline next month. As such, Schinstock said, the city is expecting a pretty large turnout at tonight’s meeting.

“The word has gotten out,” Schinstock said. “We’re buying extra cookies.”

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