Adding value to Crozet strip mall

Adding value to Crozet strip mall

Built in 1967, the Crozet Shopping Center is now the drab home of a less than pristine Great Valu grocery store. Located in the heart of downtown, it is also an ideal candidate for redevelopment. On October 16, architect Bill Atwood appeared before the Albemarle Planning Commission with just such a request, asking for a special-use permit to build 30 residential units above the existing shopping center as the first phase of a proposed overhaul of the entire center.

First, though, the proposed Crozet Station had to get through the Commission, who indicated they were having trouble condoning any growth in light of the Board of Supervisors’ recent nondecision on rural "protection" measures. "I don’t feel good about last week," Commissioner Jon Cannon said. Adding to the general unease was county staff’s recommendation to deny approval unless a number of stipulations could be met, among them providing an adequate stream buffer and provisions for affordable housing and stormwater management. "We need these questions answered before we act to approve it," Cannon added.

This is the changing face of Crozet: townhomes on stilts. The County Planning Commission recommended approval for the project, Crozet Station.

"We are a resource of the Board of Supervisors," Commissioner Duane Zobrist countered. "We shouldn’t penalize them just because the Board hasn’t decided what they want to do."

Responding to their concerns, Atwood agreed to most of the staff’s requests, revealing that not only would Crozet Station have the requisite 15 percent affordable housing, but that the rest of the planned condos would be made available for workforce housing. His willingness to comply seemed to weaken the Board’s torpor.

"Atwood, you’ve shown your creativity one more time," said Chair Marcia Joseph. "We shouldn’t burden you with our concerns about rural areas." With that, the Commission recommended approval 6-1 of the special-use permit, on the condition that staff’s concerns be met. It will go before the Board on November 14.

"It’s a victory for Crozet," says Atwood, clearly buoyed by the conditional approval. The county is currently looking at changing the zoning in downtown Crozet to encourage mixed-use redevelopment. "We’re taking the old bones of a town and recreating them. They’ve always been talking about redoing Crozet, and it’s time to do some work there. It’s a community that really wants their identity back."

"Crozet Station is a wonderful project, it’s the right project in the right place," says Zobrist, calling attention to the project’s relative lack of density. "It meets all the objectives we want for downtown Crozet."

Despite giving approval, the Commission didn’t recommend approval for another Crozet project, the potential rezoning of three-and-a-half acres known as the Patterson Subdivision. "The message we’re trying to get out is just because something’s in the development area doesn’t mean that someone can come in and get all of the density they want," Zobrist says. "We want to see some of the stuff that’s been approved get digested, and let’s see what effect it’s going to have so we can make sure we get it right."

C-VILLE welcomes news tips from readers. Send them to