City Council approves West2nd mixed-use development on Water Street

Mayor Nikuyah Walker voted against the SUP, citing a disportionate number of high-rent units

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West2nd is a mixed-use development on Water Street, including luxury condos and a space for the City Market.

Courtesy R2L Architechts | Courtesy R2L Architects

Charlottesville City Council approved a special use permit for West2nd’s mixed-use development plan on Water Street at its meeting Monday. As part of the terms for the permit, the developer for West2nd will contribute 16 off-site units to be available at below-market rates for 15 years.

The permit was passed in a 4-1 vote, with only Mayor Nikuyah Walker dissenting. Walker said she opposed the measure as the number of higher-cost units would far outweigh the quantity of affordable housing units. 

The permit allows West2nd to add an additional floor to the previous nine-story construction plan, despite City regulations barring buildings above a certain height. With the additional floor, the mixed-use complex would increase its number of available units from 86 to 97. The construction will also contribute to the renovation of the City Market, adding office and retail space, as well as underground parking.

When West2nd first obtained approval from the City in July 2017, the proposal met the City’s height regulations. In an attempt to make the project more financially viable, West2nd developer Keith Woodard returned to Council in the fall to request permission to add the additional floor and residential units. The additions exceeded limits set by the City, forcing Woodard to seek a special use permit from Council. 

Some Charlottesville residents at the Council session Monday worried the additional development would renovate City Market for the upper-class while providing insufficient affordable housing for lower-income residents. City Councilor Wes Bellamy expressed similar concern during a February Council meeting.

“Whenever we begin to create housing that is supposed to be top-notch, high level … very rarely do individuals from low income communities have the opportunity to take advantage of such,” Bellamy said.

In that meeting, Council rejected the special use permit by a 3-2 vote because of these concerns over affordable housing — Woodard agreed to build 16 affordable units, held at below-cost for just under five years, or eight units, held under cost for 10 years. Walker, Bellamy and Councilor Heather Hill rejected the proposal. Councilors Kathy Galvin and Mike Signer voted in favor.

However, permit proponents believed additional affordable housing would put too much of a financial strain on West2nd.

“This building is so expensive to build, it’s not economically feasible to put affordable housing in the building,” West2nd representative David Pettit said in the February Council session.

West2nd complied to the request for more affordable housing by proposing two different plans to the Council on Monday. The first option proposed West2nd contribute $316,000 to the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. The second option proposed Woodard construct 16 affordable housing units, available for 15 years for below-market rates offsite. 

Councilors opted for the second option. 

“This is the step on the right direction,” Bellamy said of the second proposal during Monday’s council meeting. He said the additional 16 units will help 16 families in need while spearheading future affordable housing projects. 

In order to fund further affordable housing, Bellamy said the City needs a funding mechanism, and he believes the tax revenue from the renovated West2nd development project could serve this purpose. 

However, Walker said the project will lead to “major divides” in Charlottesville. 

“While this deal is better than it was before … you will never get to a place of equity when you have almost a 100 units coming in at the price that they’re coming in, and then on the other side of town you’re going to create 16 affordable units,” Walker said. “That is why people have been pushed out of the area.”

Some residents told Council the renovation will make Charlottesville more economically prosperous, with more available housing and the new attraction to the City Market. On Monday, local resident Roy Vandoran argued the new development would bring greater tax revenue to the city.

“Think about the tax base”, Vandoran said. “We can get $1 million tax revenues … [and] “encourage downtown employment and vitality.”

Charlottesville resident Michael Caplin said the development would be economically beneficial to the local community. 

“I believe West2nd can make [Charlottesville] better”, Caplin said. “A lot of people are going to be enriched.”

Construction is expected to begin this summer and is scheduled for completion by summer 2020.

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