After two years, sidewalks have been cleared, a path has been created and a trail entry has been built in a series of projects paid for by a new approach to attacking communities’ wish lists.
The money for the Neighborhood Improvement Funding Initiative was approved around two years ago, but many of the nine projects are almost done and three are complete.
The process allowed community input on specific area projects, and members of the seven community advisory committee areas decided which projects to spend the money on.
The county Board of Supervisors allocated $1.4 million of the $8.6 million fiscal year 2016 surplus to the initiative.
County staff worked with the development areas to identify small-scale, quality of life projects in the communities, which the board approved at the end of 2017.
The first finished project, sidewalk clearing, was completed in April 2018 as part of the Places29-Hydraulic CAC’s request. The sidewalks at Commonwealth Drive, Greenbrier Drive and Four Seasons Drive were cleared and plants were removed within a buffer of the sidewalk to help prevent future overgrowth.
Cynthia Neff, chair of the Places29-Hydraulic CAC, said that the sidewalk clearing was asked for by people who live in the area and often walk.
“They said it’s irritating to have this brush that almost takes over the entire sidewalk, and it’s abandoned so let’s spoof it up,” she said.
Baker Butler Elementary School connectivity improvements, another Places29-North CAC request, have also been completed. The project added a walking path around the school campus and soccer fields.
The Old Mills Trail connectivity project in the area of Free Bridge is complete as well, which added an entry space to the trail from the southern side of Free Bridge. The project was requested by the Pantops CAC.
County spokeswoman Emily Kilroy said the Virginia Department of Transportation had to give approval for lights under the bridge, which was recently granted, and they should be added in the next few weeks.
Many of the other projects are in the contracting or construction phases.
The 5th & Avon CAC directed most of its funding to a crossing near Cale Elementary.
This Safe Routes to School project will add a pedestrian crossing at Avon Street Extended in front of Cale Elementary.
Rex Linville, a member of the 5th & Avon CAC, said the crossing has been a discussion topic since the committee’s inception.
“It’s such a key piece of that corridor,” he said. “There’s all these residential neighborhoods across the road from Cale and really, historically, there’s been no safe way for students who live in those neighborhoods in that community to get to school on foot. It’s kind of like Frogger getting across Avon Street there.”
The crossing is being designed this summer and fall, and will be built in June 2020 to avoid school conflicts
“They’ll be working in the entry, so it’ll minimize impact to ingress and egress,” Kilroy said.
The committee also asked for some funding to go to a corridor study of Avon Street Extended.
“The corridor study is part of really trying to make it feel like more of a neighborhood corridor that also effectively and efficiently moves traffic through it,” Linville said.
Consulting company Line + Grade has worked with the CAC to study the corridor from the Charlottesville city limits to Route 20. A community meeting was held in May, and Kilroy said the county is working to set up an online community meeting.
A draft plan in scheduled to be presented in July at a community meeting.
“Depending on how that goes, it would go to the Board of Supervisors hopefully this fall,” Kilroy said.
The Crozet CAC wanted funding for The Square in downtown Crozet, a project that will improve the parking area and drainage infrastructure.
“There’s not modern stormwater management in the existing parking lot, so there are issues during significant rain events with flooding into the businesses,” Kilroy said. “One of the really big benefits to this project is that it will correct that by putting in some stormwater management features.”
Crozet CAC Chair Allie Pesch said the area has needed attention for sometime.
“We just wanted to get the ball rolling because it’s a key part of downtown and it’s right where everyone will enter the Barnes development, and we want it to look nice and we also want to protect the existing businesses there and make sure that it’s still convenient for everyone to shop at those places,” she said.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in June approved an agreement that will give about $3.2 million to Crozet New Town Associates LLC to go toward the Crozet Plaza and the redevelopment of the former Barnes Lumber site.
“The development of a unique downtown is something that Crozet seems to be unified about,” Pesch said.
The project is being reviewed by VDOT. The street will become right in, right out when the project is complete, and the traffic signal will be removed.
A pedestrian crossing at the intersection of Rio Road at Greenbrier Drive was the Places29- Rio CAC request, which will add a pedestrian signal across Rio Road.
A construction easement is in the process of being obtained, Kilroy said.
“The work should be able to get going very soon,” she said.
The Places29 -Hydraulic CAC also was awarded a Safe Routes to School grant for a project it requested, which will add a shared-use path from the Hydraulic Road and Lambs Road intersection to the Greer Elementary/Jouett Middle School area.
Neff said the CAC thought the area could be more welcoming and more of a center for the Jack Jouett district and the area.
Recently, the Albemarle County School Board approved a 40-year lease with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia on property adjacent to Jack Jouett Middle School’s baseball field for a youth activities and education center.
“We’re just looking to try to take this important center of our community with these three schools and make it walkable and safer and to get people to look at other things we can do — like the Boys & Girls Club — to really make it a treasure for our community,” she said.
The project, Kilroy said, is going through the VDOT design and approval process and is scheduled to be constructed in 2020.
The Village of Rivanna CAC had requested a project to stabilize two areas of the Rivanna Greenway where erosion is compromising trail integrity.
Kilroy said the project was affected by the heavy rains last summer.
“We continue to look at what we can do to make the budget work,” she said.