Brandon Ave master plan to increase on-Grounds student housing

Off-Grounds apartments on Brandon may not be available next year

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“The location of Brandon Avenue is really quite strategic,” Leo Alvarez, the design principal of architecture firm Perkins and Will, said at the committee meeting. “It sort of serves as the link between the health system and the rest of Grounds.”

Xiaoqi Li | Cavalier Daily

To answer the demand for more on-Grounds housing, the University will carry out a master plan to develop Brandon Ave. into more mixed-use spaces for residential, academic and health system use. Developing the area will add more on-Grounds housing options as well as a pedestrian-friendly “green street” to extend the South Lawn presence.

During the September Board of Visitors’ meetings, the Buildings and Grounds Committee approved the master plan for the Brandon Ave. corridor due to its prime location between Central Grounds and the health system.

“The location of Brandon Ave. is really quite strategic,” Leo Alvarez, the design principal of architecture firm Perkins and Will, said at the committee meeting. “It sort of serves as the link between the health system and the rest of Grounds.”

New buildings for housing will come in the first and third phases of the Brandon Ave. development. The housing complexes will yield at least 500 more residential beds and 360 parking spaces.

“Towards JPA and closer to Grounds, it makes sense to put the academic and mixed-use zones,” Alvarez said. “Towards the southern end of Brandon where Bice House already exists with 277 on-grounds housing beds, we’re reinforcing that with additional housing.”

A new housing complex would replace the current Bice parking lot, but the convenient topography of the southern end of Brandon Ave. makes it easy for the University and its developers to build underground parking in a cost-effective way, Alvarez said.

“I think the intent was that these would be permit parking spaces, not necessarily associated with the housing proper but in replacement of the parking spaces that are there today and then some additional parking spaces to accommodate the additional growth,” Alvarez said.

Students are concerned about leasing options for the next academic year, considering a number of housing options on Brandon Ave. are now unavailable in anticipation of the upcoming developments.

Third-year College student Mary Donnelly said she was unsure of her next steps in the housing search because Management Services Corporation — a leasing company in the University community — still offered the 500 and 600 Brandon Ave. properties on its website despite the 500 and 600 properties not being available for the upcoming academic year. The apartments at 400 Brandon Ave., however, are still up for lease for next year.

“I would really like to live on Brandon Ave. in an off-Grounds place because I've lived there on-Grounds and I’ve really liked it,” Donnelly said. “If I had the chance to sign a lease on Brandon [Ave.] next week I would do it, but since they're not definitely being leased out for next school year, I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.”

Donnelly said the leasing situation for different apartments on Brandon Ave. appear to still be up in the air, as she learned during her recent tour of the 400 Brandon Ave. apartments.

“When I toured at the 400 Brandon apartments they said that they didn't know what the situations with 500 and 600 were,” Donnelly said. “They said, ‘Yeah just call the office, but we don’t know.’”

The U.Va. Foundation owns these properties, but they are managed by MSC.

The Cavalier Daily reached out to MSC Wednesday afternoon, but did not receive a response by press time.

While the timeline is uncertain, the projects should begin as soon as possible, University Architect Alice Raucher said at the committee meeting.

“The idea is that we would develop the southern end of the site,” Raucher said. “We would like to move forward with developing those two projects right away so it could be done concurrently.”

In an email to The Cavalier Daily on Thursday, Raucher said the University is working with the U.Va. Foundation and Facilities Management to create a development schedule and determine the future of leases at the end of Brandon Avenue.

“We will know more about the ability of those properties to be leased once we have that schedule in place,” Raucher said. “For efficiency of construction, it makes the most sense to begin development at the south end of Brandon, and so we are first looking at designing a new upperclass student residential building in place of what is now 600 Brandon Avenue. Once designed and funding is identified, the new student health center will be located east of that on the site where there are currently small condominium buildings.”

The new plans will further aim to make the area more pedestrian friendly and promote student activity.

“We will work on improving the crosswalks, the visibility of that, the bus stop as it sits and a tighter turning radius which will slow cars down coming on to Brandon,” Alvarez said.

The end objective of the development is to provide a new, revitalized space for students to live, learn and interact with the community.

“The ‘after’ would really create … a place that is pedestrian priority, student focused and has this unique character and amenity with the green street running through the center,” Alvarez said.

Alexander Ikefuna, director for Neighborhood Development Services for the City of Charlottesville, was unable to be reached for comment by press time. 

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