Redevelopment Plan for West Main Aims to Blend History with Progress

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A new six-story tower will rise above Charlottesville’s changing West Main Street. It will bring young professionals from an Albemarle County biomedical business closer to the hustle and bustle of Charlottesville’s downtown mall.

The Atlantic Building will stretch between West Main Street and Commerce Street, but the development threatens to displace some history from the neighborhood.

Tuesday night, the Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review will weigh in on how well the building blends history with redevelopment.

“This building has a lot of history,” said Jermell Walker, owner of Mel’s Barber Shop on Commerce Street.

Bill Byers, a barber shop customer, remembers walking across the street from the Jefferson School to the building where Mel's Barber Shop stands now when it was Scott Dean's Snack Shop.

“Parents would give us money and we'd come in to get something after school,” said Byers.

That history stands in the way of a project to redevelop the other end of the block - West Main Street.

“Kinda sad to see everybody have to move out because of change. Some of the flavor of the area disappears,” said Byers.

The Atlantic Building will rise six stories and house the Atlantic Research Group. The biomedical company is moving from Albemarle County to be closer to downtown. The tower will also include residential units and a parking garage.

“The identity of the street is being redefined. There's a lot of care to what's going on there,” said Bill Atwood, architect for the Atlantic building.

The latest designs maintain two historic homes - one built the year Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia.

“It would be great if they became wonderful old houses again - maybe a work, live situation,” said Atwood.

That's what Ken Wooten, owner of Orzo restaurant, wants for West Main.

“That is very important to keep everything in context, but then also not stop the march of time or the march of progress,” said Wooten.

Orzo is in the shadow of the new development. Wooten welcomes more parking and more people.

“We like density. We like more people. More foot traffic. More people who live and work and shop in the same area,” said Wooten.

Mel's Barber Shop is moving to Dice Street in September. The developer says he hopes Mel's returns and reopens in the new building.

Construction could start as early as this fall.
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