Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Making a "there" here

How do you blend all of the property along the “main drag” of the Centerville Village into a unified whole? The question has been asked many times; no clear answer has yet emerged.

Some people believe that Centerville—essentially the village “core” between Ashland and Manakin Roads—is just fine the way it is. Others think it should be razed and rebuilt.

The village corridor, however, stretches from the Henrico County line to just west of Satterwhite’s on both sides of Broad Street Road.
Recently, a group of landowners, developers, and interested citizens met with professionals from Land Planning and Design Associates, a firm retained by the county to create a “sense of place” for the whole Centerville Village. (Their design fee is part of $100,000 appropriated by the supervisors in the current fiscal year budget to install a streetscape in the Broad Street Road corridor.)

Harmonizing road frontage of private homes, new and existing businesses, forests, fields, bridges, and wetlands protected by guard rails, is a knotty problem.

The DPLA plan divides the corridor into sections: the eastern gateway from the Henrico line to the Rt. 288 interchange; a transition zone from there to Ashland Road; and the core.

Landscape architect Julie Basic and project designer Tristan Cleveland presented elevations that combine trees and shrubs of varying heights, species, and densities along both sides of the road to soften the view.

Existing businesses in the village core may not embrace the addition of landscaping that obscures their enterprise from passing cars and potential customers. Will they be forced absorb the expense of installing and maintaining elaborate plantings?

Additional streetscape elements including white rail fencing; stone markers at major intersections; and more plantings in the median were included in the elevations.

This raised questions about cost and maintenance, specifically, who pays to install the landscaping and who will water the plants and cut the grass?

Basic said that vegetation in the VDOT right of way would be the responsibility of the county, anything else, would be maintained by the landowner.

Trees, grass, and flowers were planted in the Broad Street Road median by VDOT when the “Centerville speedway” was built, but ongoing maintenance fell through the cracks. (It seems VDOT cuts the grass twice a year whether it needs it or not.) The unsightly condition of those areas last summer—high grass, dead trees, and ratty shrubs—sent the wrong message about Centerville.

Since then, the county has cut the grass, mulched the beds and removed dead plants and taken over maintenance.

Basic and Tenant will present a construction plan early next year with planting to follow as weather permits. Upkeep costs were sort of glossed over. More landscaping brings additional maintenance cost, which must be a budget consideration.

The transition from the sterile perfection of the elegantly landscaped Short Pump commercial corridor to the charming seasonal display of flying reindeer pulling a cement truck just over the county line sends a pretty clear signal that you’re in a different place. But, it is the right one? Translating chin music about preserving rural character into sensible development guidelines seems more complicated that requiring a set number of trees per linear foot of road frontage. Where will those reindeer fit in?

Much of the “new” Short Pump was created from scratch since the turn of the century. Centerville, on the other hand, evolved with homes, businesses, fields, pastures, and the Company 3 fire-rescue station, over time. They’re part of the rural atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the county’s design review committee is working with representatives from Audi to find a mutually acceptable design for a dealership on the north side of Broad Street Road, just east of the Rt. 288 interchange.

Audi corporate branding prefers large, flat-roofed buildings with lots of glass frontage. That look is not compatible with the pedestrian scaled peaked roof structure suggested in the Centerville overlay district criteria. A significant portion of the Audi proposed exterior would be covered with a lacelike aluminum honeycomb veil that adds texture to the building. This matter seems to be moving toward consensus.

Although geographically inside the Centerville Village, perceptually this isolated block of land is in Short Pump. Accommodating architecture that falls outside of the overlay district parameters that would fit nowhere else in the county is the highest and best use for this acreage.
The discussions in progress are creative and insightful; they will yield good results if they avoid a theme park notion of rural.

Where will the reindeer go?

No comments: