Albemarle County Looks to Fuel Economic Growth in Rio Rd. Area

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Many commercial centers in Albemarle were never redeveloped Many commercial centers in Albemarle were never redeveloped
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

Albemarle County is taking steps to improve its aging areas.

On Wednesday, February 14, the board of supervisors discussed a pilot program that's happening in the Rio-Route 29 area and why it’s important for the county’s future.

The board of supervisors is looking to stimulate new economic development where that development is declining by looking at new ways to attract developers and hopefully decrease tax dollars for people who live in the county.

When you drive out to Albemarle Square off Route 29 in some spots, you'll see vacant storefronts and businesses that never got redeveloped.

“Sears is an endangered species, [J.C.] Penney’s, Kmart, etc.,” says Rick Randolph, a county supervisor. “So we are looking at part of the county that has been actually originally probably the commercial center for the county is now becoming a commercial orphan.”

Albemarle County supervisors are working on changing its zoning requirements to make it easier for businesses to grow and developers to invest.

“Pretty much it’s clear that that area has a lot of potential,” says Andrew Gast-Bray, the county’s director of planning. “We just invested a lot in it with the ground separated interchange at Rio, where you have that little tunnel underneath.”

On Wednesday, supervisors discussed the small-area plan for Rio Road and Route 29.

The pilot program uses form-based code, which means that instead of the traditional land use regulations, the county is looking at new innovative ways to get more people to live, work, and play all in one place.

One change would look at where stores are built.

“A typical big box development is generally way back from the street with a huge parking lot in front,” says Gast-Bray. “Instead, we would bring the buildings up to the street and put the parking lot behind so that it’s more comfortable for pedestrians to access - so that’s one of the forms that we are looking at. We are also looking at the first floor having more flexible height.”

The ultimate goal is to bring more money in for Albemarle County but push down taxes for property owners.

“Fifth Street Station and Stonefield have been a real boon for the county in terms of the meal taxes, and beverage taxes,” says Randolph. “The more we can do that, the better.”

This pilot program is only looking at the Route 29 and Rio Road area.

The county will also be looking to implement this form-based code approach in other areas, like at Pantops and on Hydraulic Road if this plan proves successful.

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