Developer scraps West2nd project, citing ‘unexpected delay’ from city’s Board of Architectural Review

Mixed-use unit would have taken over the City Market space

Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 11.03.46 AM
A rendering of the West2nd development on how it would have looked from the intersection of Water Street and 1st Street. Courtesy R2L:Architects

Real estate company Woodard Properties has abandoned its $50 million plan to build a development in downtown Charlottesville.

Developer Keith Woodard said that he was immediately ending the project, known as West2nd, in a press release from the Blue Ridge Group Tuesday. The decision was in light of “yet another unexpected delay” from the City Board of Architectural Review — who voted 5-3 in mid-August not to recommend the project for approval to Charlottesville City Council —  which the developer deemed the “last straw.” West2nd was to be built on the parking lot that currently hosts the weekly City Market.

Only 37 of the development’s planned 97 units had been sold, however, Blue Ridge Group President Susan Payne said in an email this proved to be a good thing as reservations about the project were made before ground was broken. She added that stopping the project was “not merely a financial decision.”

Woodard Properties has been pursuing West2nd since early 2014, with the goal of creating a mixed-use development and permanent home for the market, according to the statement. The potential for gentrification and the proposal’s imposing size have made the project contentious as it goes through City-mandated review. 

They will cancel condominium contracts and reservations already received for the unbuilt property.

Woodard attributed the move to a fluctuating city council and changing circumstances. “I am disappointed that this project will not become a reality,” Woodard said in the release. 

In an email, Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville Chair Joan Fenton echoed Woodard’s disappointment.

“The decision not to proceed is unfortunate,” Fenton wrote. “There is a need for the city to have development and prosperous business in order to fund the social programs that are needed in the city.”

Planning Commissioner Lyle Solla-Yates told The Cavalier Daily in an email that the tax revenue from West2nd could have been helpful, but pointed to the city’s need for more affordable housing. 

“We need the tax revenue it would produce, and I would like to see a better home for the market, but I doubt it is the best use of public land during a housing crisis,” he wrote. 

The West2nd project previously faced City Council rejection for a special use permit in February of this year, only to be approved for the permit in early April. Following the rejection in February, Woodard agreed to build 16 affordable units on Harris Street at below-market rates for 15-years — an increase from the original proposal of 16 affordable units held under cost for just below 10 years or eight units held under cost for five years.

Mayor Nikuyah Walker was the only dissenting vote when the permit was approved in April, saying that the number of higher-cost units would far outweigh the quantity of affordable housing units. 

While some residents told Council in February the renovation would make Charlottesville more economically prosperous, with increased attraction to the City Market and greater tax revenue, others expressed apprehension that additional development would renovate City Market for the upper-class and provide insufficient affordable housing for lower-income residents.

In 2015, the City signed a 99-year lease on the property’s plaza for use in the weekly City Market, allowing it to use certain parts of the property and indoor structures. Council also financed more than one-third the cost associated with moving utility lines underneath the project — a first step in building the project. 

“Complicated deals like this are risky and they can fail, and the more time goes by the likelier failure becomes,” Solla-Yates said.

related stories