Dear Ace: I saw some guys poking around on the Downtown Mall the other day. Do you know what they were doing?—N. Oz Parker
Mr. Parker: Well, whenever someone sees "some guys poking around" anywhere and asks Ace to investigate, he tends to approach the situation as cautiously as possible. This was no exception, but still he delivered.
Those "guys" happen to work for Thomas B. Lincoln Land Surveyors. They didn’t feel like they should talk too much about it, but they said they were surveying as part of Downtown’s rebricking project and handed Ace a company card.
After calling the number on that card, the good folks at Thomas B. told Ace that MMM Design Group, an architecture, engineering and planning firm out of Norfolk (but with an office in Charlottesville), had been commissioned to handle the project.
MMM will be responsible for creating plans for construction and the rehabilitation process. According to MMM’s website, their work will include "replacement of the brick pavement, drainage, street lighting, overhead and underground utility adjustments, vehicular crossings, signage, and streetscaping to include furniture placement/installation." Ace wanted a few more answers, so he called Chris McKnight of MMM Designs, who referred him to Tony Edwards, a Charlottesville city engineer. At this point, Ace thought maybe his mission was hopeless, but after two calls to Tony, he finally got a hold of the Wizard.
Tony said that as of right now, the project is still in the "information gathering" phase, trying to get a base map of the existing conditions (hence the surveyors you saw, Mr. Parker). Once that phase is complete, the city will begin putting together packages for each phase, which will be finished 12 months later.
After the packages are put together (including development concepts), they’ll be available for public comment. The whole project, Tony says, will cost taxpayers about $7.5 million, unless there are additions, which would, of course, drive up the price. Clearly, this is quite a large project, but don’t get discouraged—Tony reassured Ace that the size of construction won’t make walking the Mall too cumbersome for shoppers or merchants.
You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 18 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.