New Hill Development Corp. on Monday got more time to work with Charlottesville officials to craft the future of the Starr Hill neighborhood.
The City Council extended the deadline for a Planning Commission public hearing to Aug. 31 at its meeting on Monday.
New Hill was created in 2018 as a community initiative to spur investment in the Starr Hill area and Vinegar Hill, a historically African American neighborhood that was razed by the city in the 1960s.
The Starr Hill neighborhood is 47.7 acres and home to about 235 people. Its population has increased by 37% since 2010, a quicker rate than other areas of the city.
The plan focuses on an area bounded by Preston Avenue to the north, Ridge/McIntire to the east, the CSX railroad to the south and the Norfolk Southern railroad to the west.
In November 2018, the council gave the corporation $500,000 to create a small area plan and community vision for the Starr Hill neighborhood.
New Hill presented its 80-page plan in November 2019 centering much of Starr Hill’s future on redeveloping City Yard, adding housing and enhancing the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.
The proposal was sent to the Planning Commission, which required a public hearing within 120 days. The commission was scheduled to hold a work session in January to discuss the plan, but it was canceled.
Afterward, according to a staff report, New Hill and city officials decided to pursue a vision plan instead of a small area plan.
The report says that a vision plan is not as intensely focused on land use as is a small area plan. A vision plan would provide a set of principles to guide decision-making, but would not provide “the detailed examination of zoning and land use planning contained in small area plans.”
A large portion of the proposal focuses on City Yard, a roughly 10-acre public works lot off Preston Avenue near downtown. It calls for the city to vacate the property and redevelop it to hold 685,000 square feet of commercial and residential space, plus 132,000 square feet of parking.
It proposes 82 to 255 townhouses and apartments affordable to those who make 50% to 80% of the city’s median income, which the plan states is about $50,000.
The property would include rooftop venues for restaurants and entertainment.
According to the plan, construction on the massive redevelopment could support 790 jobs and bring $38.4 million of investment. The finalized property could support 615 jobs and $32.5 million of investment.
Another tenet of the proposal is improvements to the Jefferson School to “amplify” its presence as an African American cultural hub, increasing its number of tenants and events.
It proposes a redesign of the school’s public park, surrounding art installations and an outdoor amphitheater. Under the redesign, the school’s parking deck would be expanded by two levels and 105 spaces.
Sprinkled throughout the plan are pedestrian improvements to emphasize connectivity between neighborhoods; the improvement of Starr Hill Park with new landscaping, benches and playgrounds; and installation of pocket parks throughout the neighborhood.
In other business, the council narrowly approved a special-use permit for a planned development on Harris Street.
The council voted 3-2 for the permit allowing Woodard Properties to construct a six-story building on 2.4 acres across three parcels at a sharp turn near Allied Street and McIntire Road. Councilor Sena Magill and Mayor Nikuyah Walker cast the dissenting votes.
The permit increases the allowed density from 51 units to 105 and the height from two to four stories.
In addition to the residential units, the building will have retail space and underground parking. Access to the parking area would come from both Harris and Allied streets. The access off Allied Street would be at the end of the dead-end cul-de-sac.
The developer has said that five units will be set aside as affordable housing at 80% of area median income. Five additional units will be reserved for housing vouchers.
Walker didn’t support the proposal because it didn’t provide housing for people at lower income levels.
“While I understand that we need housing in the city,” she said, “I think that approving a SUP without them making any commitment to assist in some of the major areas of concern that we have with housing is a challenge for me.”