Strategic Investment Area

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The Strategic Investment Area is a City Council study and initiative launched in early 2012 to identify and shape potential redevelopment opportunities in a 330-acre section of Central Charlottesville.

The final report was appended to the city's Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan in February 2014 on a 4-1 vote. [1] [2]

The firm Cunningham Quill from D.C. was hired as the consultant. Work got underway in February 2013 and a report was presented to Council in December 2013. [3] In February, Lee Quill said the process would be a way "to create a new neighborhood that can re-weave the city back together." [4]

At the end of 2016, City Council agreed to hire a consultant to write new zoning for a section of the SIA area. The Charlottesville Planning Commission voted 6-0 to defer consideration of the plan at its November 12, 2019 meeting. [5]

In 2018, the Congress for New Urbanism awarded Cunningham & Quill a Charter Award for the plan. [6]

Plan and area history

The first action taken to create the Strategic Investment was in March 2012 when City Council approved up to $150,000 to study the area around the Belmont Bridge but not including the deteriorating structure. [7] At the time of the meeting, the phrase "strategic investment area" was not used. Specifically, NDS Director Jim Tolbert wanted the plan to help shape the redevelopment of property on Levy Avenue owned by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority as well as Crescent Halls. At the time, City Councilor Kristin Szakos expressed concern the money would be diverted from public housing towards a general plan. [8]

During the 2013 update and review of the city's Comprehensive Plan, City Councilor Kathy Galvin called for the city to create small area plans that would direct city investment in public infrastructure. [9]

The city had conducted similar studies such as as the 2010 redevelopment master plan for Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority properties and the Torti Gallas study of 2000.

Galvin specifically used the term "strategic investment areas" to describe locations covered by the plans.[when?] At a February 2013 work session of the Charlottesville Planning Commission, planning manager Missy Creasy cautioned against the use of that phrase because of the potential it might to scare people who lived there that a sudden transformation was going to be underway.



The boundaries for the study area are the CSX/Buckingham Branch Railroad line, Rialto Street, Ridge Street, and Palatine Avenue, as well as a small northern spur into the Martha Jefferson neighborhood. [10]

The area makes up less than 5 percent of the city's 10.4 square miles. The SIA includes sections of the Fifeville, Belmont-Carlton, Ridge Street and Martha Jefferson neighborhoods.

Residential areas include two Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority sites and the subsidized Friendship Court community. The greenway is shown as traveling on the eastern portion of their Friendship Court property, prompting concerns from the Piedmont Housing Alliance that their ability to redevelop the site would be compromised. [11]

Area History

In the late 19th century until the mid-20th century, the area was home to various industrial companies such as the Charlottesville Lumber Company, the Charlottesville Ice Company, and the Frank Ix and Sons Textile Mill. As these buildings began to close, jobs began to leave the SIA area. Following the destruction of Vinegar Hill in the name of urban renewal, large blocks were created to serve as a home for subsidized and public housing. [10]

Plan development

Overview of area from Dec 2013 report

The study team traveled to Charlottesville in the middle of March 2013 to hold meetings with stakeholders, including a walk-around the 330 acres with about 20 people. [12] Joy Johnson, a public housing activist, said the community needed jobs.

The concepts evolved over the spring and summer of 2013. Architects hired as part of the project said they were looking to create industrial space as well as providing spaces where people could live "car-lite." [13]

The main vision of the plan envisions building a new mixed-income and mixed-use neighborhood along a new linear park to be built along a daylighted Pollocks Branch. The waterway currently travels underneath the ground through the area. The new greenway would serve as an open space that would help create a sense of place and would include pedestrian connections to the rest of the community.

Additionally, a civic plaza would be created adjacent to the greenway to serve as the central area for the SIA. New retail would surround the plaza, and a pedestrian connection to the downtown mall would be strengthened along Second Street E. [13]

In December 2013, Quill said the plan is a template that could create up to 1.4 million square feet of new commercial space and as many as 1,300 homes. [3]

The plan was added to the Comprehensive Plan on a 4-1 vote on February 3, 2014 with Councilor Bob Fenwick as the lone vote against. At the time, [[[Brandon Collins]] asked that it be kept out until the impact on public housing properties would be more clear. Couuncilor Dede Smith was concerned that the directives in the SIA plan would take precedence over the zoning, but Councilor Kristin Szakos this would not stop landowners from developing. Fenwick was concerned that city staff should be working on the zoning and not the comprehensive plan. [14]

To facilitate the development, design standards were also established and the city was encouraged to create a new city overlaying district and to examine the possibility of form-based zoning. That has not occurred as of the fall of 2015.

Subcontracting firms

In additional to Cunningham Quill, other firms that worked on the plan include Bolan Smart Associates and Kittleson & Associates. [10]

Project Goals

  1. To rebuild and preserve public and assisted housing as part of an integrated plan for revitalizing neighborhoods hallmarked by concentrated poverty.
  2. To catalyze coordinated investments in neighborhood revitalization, including improvements in infrastructure, education and community assets that attracts businesses and industries.
  3. To build the foundations for economically viable neighborhoods of opportunity and choice within one of the city’s most distressed communities by promoting mixed income residential development without displacement and employment growth.
  4. To address interconnected challenges: housing decay, crime, disinvestment, health disparities, adult educational opportunities, transportation and economic opportunities for youth and adults.
  5. To create a healthy, viable neighborhood with urban amenities such as public parks, institutions like libraries and excellent food sources and safe, interconnected streets that promote walking, biking, and efficient public transit.
  6. To adhere to and comply with the Residents’ Bill of Rights for Redevelopment. (Note, the Residents’ Bill of Rights for Redevelopment can be found on following page.)

Steering Committee

Steering Committee Guiding Principles

  1. Improve and maintain a high quality of life for the people who live there and those who may in the future by addressing issues surrounding housing decay, crime, health, jobs, adult education, child care, and transportation.
  2. Create a healthy neighborhood and a “sense of place” with public parks, libraries, other amenities and healthy food sources with safe and interconnected streets that promote walking, bicycling and efficient public transit and use green infrastructure techniques to improve water quality.
  3. Promote mixed income residential development without displacing current residents.
  4. Focus and coordinate private and public investment in infrastructure, education and community assets to increase economic, recreation and housing opportunities.
  5. Honor the CRHA Residents Bill of Rights and rebuild and preserve existing public and assisted housing as part of an overall plan to revitalize the area. (The SIA will work in concert with the CRHA redevelopment plan and not supersede or replace it).
  6. Develop shared understandings of the issues, challenges, opportunities and desired outcome for the SIA.

Plan development and implementation timeline

Public meetings



The study was unveiled to the public in mid-July 2013. [15]

Public housing advocates were skeptical from the beginning and remained so. [4] [16] Joy Johnson said in February 2013 that she was concerned about Quill's use of the phrase "new neighborhood."

A resident of Sixth Street public housing said in December 2013 expressed her skepticism. [3].

Eugene Williams said he was concerned the result would be similar to the urban renewal that lead to the razing of Vinegar Hill. [17]


Three years after the plan got underway, there had been no person identified as a point person within city government to oversee implementation. [18]

In February 2016, Galvin asked for an action plan to be developed and noted that nothing seemed to have occurred in the two years since the SIA plan was adopted as part of the Comprehensive Plan. Alexander Ikefuna, Tolbert's replacement, said the city managed to secure Smart Scale funding to improve the streetscape along a portion of High Street, which is included within the boundary of the SIA.

Ikefuna also pointed out that the Burnett Commons projects were moving forward and that the Ix property had become an art park. Ikefuna was ordered to return with an action plan in March. [19] Council adopted the action plan in early April 2016. [20]

The Ridge Street Neighborhood Association used their April 2016 meeting to provide a briefing on the SIA. One item of note was the allocation of $80,000 to the Daughters of Zion Cemetery within the SIA boundaries. [21] [22]

A joint work session of City Council and the Planning Commission was held on August 15, 2019 to discuss the draft Form-Based Code for Phase 1A of the Strategic Investment Area.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Web. Council OKs adding SIA to Comprehensive Plan, Aaron Richardson, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, February 3, 2014, retrieved November 10, 2015.
  2. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, February 3, 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Web. Bold redevelopment plan features greenway in downtown Charlottesville, Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville Tomorrow, December 10, 2014, retrieved July 28, 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Web. Study on reinvesting in city neighborhood under way, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 23, 2013, retrieved November 10, 2015.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Web. City planners defer form-based code proposal, Nolan Stout, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, November 12, 2019, retrieved November 14, 2019.
  6. Web. Announcing the 2018 Charter Award Winners, Lisa Schames, Blog Post, Congress for New Urbanism, May 20, 2018, retrieved February 11, 2021.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Web. Council OKs task force to study Belmont Bridge corridor, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, March 6, 2012, retrieved December 27, 2016.
  8. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, March 5, 2012.
  9. Web. City leaders debate growth management strategies, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 12, 2013, retrieved November 5, 2015.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Web. City of Charlottesville Strategic Investment Area Plan, Cunningham Quill, Cunningham Quill, December 13, 2013, retrieved July 28, 2014.
  11. Web. City to spend $350K on Friendship Court planning study, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, November 2, 2015, retrieved November 10, 2015.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Web. Study team circumnavigates Ix property, Charlottesville Tomorrow, March 14, 2013, retrieved November 5, 2015.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Web. Consultant unveils three options for Charlottesville strategic investment area, Charlottesville Tomorrow, May 19, 2013, retrieved November 10, 2015.
  14. Web. Minutes for February 3, 2014 City Council meeting, Paige Rice, City of Charlottesville, retrieved November 10, 2015.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Web. Firm unveils plan to guide growth in central Charlottesville, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, July 19, 2013, retrieved August 6, 2013.
  16. Web. Strategic Investment Area could mean major changes south of Downtown Mall, Aaron Richardson, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, July 28, 2013, retrieved August 6, 2013.
  17. Web. Shadows of Vinegar Hill seen in Strategic Investment Area plan, Aaron Richardson, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, December 21, 2013, retrieved November 10, 2015.
  18. Web. Live tweet, Sean Tubbs, Twitter coverage of November 12, 2015 PLACE Design Task Force, NDS Conference Room, November 12, 2015, retrieved November 16, 2015.
  19. Web. Councilor Galvin seeks action plan for Strategic Investment Area, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 19, 2016, retrieved December 29, 2016.
  20. Web. Council set to adopt SIA action plan, Chris Suarez, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, April 3, 2016, retrieved January 2, 2017.
  21. Web. Council holds last budget work session, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, April 7, 2016, retrieved January 2, 2017.
  22. Web. SIA residents learn more about development plan, Sean Tubbs, News Release, Charlottesville Tomorrow, April 12, 2016, retrieved January 2, 2017.

External links