Extreme makeover: McIntire Park is about to look a whole lot different

McIntire Park. File image. McIntire Park. File image.

If 2012 was the last year of the battle over McIntire Park, 2013 is the year of the build. Several long-awaited, much-debated projects—some of which survived legal challenges last year—are now entering the home stretch. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re on the way. Here’s what to look out for in the months to come.

1. Big builds

YMCA site plan

The Piedmont Family YMCA came out on top of a court battle over the public support of its long-planned facility on the park’s west side earlier this month, and CEO Denny Blank said the organization hopes to break ground on a new facility by spring.

The Y had already settled on a contractor when local for-profit fitness centers challenged its lease and funding agreements with the city and county in June 2011, Blank said, and the cost estimate has since crept up—the project is now expected to cost $17 million. The organization is about to close on financing with Union First Market Bank, he said, and will work with the city on a construction plan to minimize impacts on park use in the coming year.

Also in the works is a new two-acre skate park that will take the place of the existing playground and wading pool on the east side. A temporary park has been set up on the site, and staff will be working with the public and local skateboarders in 2013 on the permanent design.

2. East meets west 

McIntire pedestrian bridge

A major missing link in Charlottesville’s alternative transportation network—a bike and pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks that divide McIntire Park’s east and west sides—may be closed within a year. City officials have been trying to find a way to build the bridge since the ’70s, and it’s a key part of the park overhaul the city adopted last year. Not only will it close a gap in the growing urban trail system, staff said it will also reduce the need for new parking on McIntire’s east side.

The design phase is done, said Charlottesville Parks and Recreation’s Chris Gensic, and the Parks Department is now seeking a VDOT grant to cover nearly half a million dollars of construction costs (The City will put up the remaining $120,000 needed). He’s confident they’ll get the go-ahead, as the state funds are intended for projects already well into the planning process. The public will have more opportunities to weigh in on the design before construction begins.

3. Road to somewhere

Meadow Creek Parkway interchange

A judge handed a victory to the city in a legal battle over land use last spring, and staff is poised to accept a low bid of $20.4 million for the construction of a grade-separated interchange at the 250 Bypass and the Meadow Creek Parkway.

Besides linking McIntire to the city’s portion of the Parkway—a requirement before the completed roadway skirting the park’s east side can be opened to traffic—the new interchange will serve as a gateway into the park for bikers and walkers.

“It’s this massive intersection of new trails,” said Chris Gensic of the Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Department. Two-wheel (and no-wheel) travelers coming from Downtown via Schenk’s Greenway will be able to cross under the 250 Bypass and head north on new paved paths toward Rio Road or west through the park toward Hydraulic Road.

Neighborhood Development Director Jim Tolbert said bid selection for the project is in the final stages, and staff will likely award the contract in the next two weeks.


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