Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
April 6, 2023: Home Depot to build new store at former Sears location; UVA planning to build housing for second-year students

April 6, 2023: Home Depot to build new store at former Sears location; UVA planning to build housing for second-year students

Plus: Albemarle County opens up one-week window for housing voucher waiting list

Infanta Maria. Arvid Horn. Athenagoras I of Constantinople. These are but a few of the people who were born on April 6 in decades and centuries gone by who perhaps none of us have heard about before. Yet, anyone could do a deep dive into any subject matter with just a little research. That’s more or less what every installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement seeks to achieve, just on a more concentrated set of topics closer to the here and now. I’m Sean Tubbs, curious to know what we’ll all learn about today. 

On today’s program:

  • Home Depot has filed plans to build a new store at the site of the former Sears and the Fashion Square Mall property they own 

  • A new drive-through franchise is coming to Pantops Shopping Center

  • The window is open for applicants to apply for housing choice vouchers offered by Albemarle County

  • The University of Virginia will move forward with a study of potential locations for second-year student housing as part of a $2.5 billion capital plan 

  • Charlottesville City Council approves a new lease for Unity Field

  • But Council wants more staff analysis before approving a regional plan to prepare and respond to natural disasters

There’s a lot to write about what’s happening in this community, and I try to do so as often as I can. Sign up for free or become a paid subscriber to help keep this going!

First shout-out goes to the Rivanna Conservation Alliance

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, the Rivanna Conservation Alliance wants wildlife and nature photographers to enter their second annual photography contest! They want high-resolution photos related to the Rivanna watershed and the winning entries will be displayed at the 2023 Rivanna Riverfest on May 20. The two categories are 16 and under, and those over the age of 17. You can send in two entries, and the work may be used to supplement Rivanna Conservation Alliance publications. For more information, visit

2022 Photo Contest First Place Winner (Youth Category) - Emma Kaufman-Horner

Home Depot submits plans for new retail center

Home Depot has filed plans with Albemarle County to demolish the building that formerly held a Sears store and replace it with a new retail store and garden center. The company purchased that property and much of the rest of Fashion Square Mall last year for $1.762 million. 

The use is by-right under the existing commercial zoning, but the Architectural Review Board must issue a Certificate of Appropriateness for it is within one of the county’s entrance corridors. 

Architects and engineers with the firm Kimley Horn have put together a site plan for a 134,262 square foot building that also shows the reconfiguration of parking spaces on the site. 

The site plan for the future Home Depot (Credit: Kimley Horn)

The rest of Fashion Square Mall owned by Home Depot will remain intact as new leases have continued to be signed for retail spaces. The property is managed by JLL. 

The other portion of the mall is owned by Seminole Trail Management, a firm that purchased the J.C. Penney building for $4.5 million in September 2020. Albemarle County is renovating a section of that site for a fleet maintenance facility and operations center for public safety vehicles. (Albemarle Supervisors approve rental of former J.C. Penney as public safety operations center, August 2, 2022)

In the meantime, the parking lot will be used for the Dogwood Festival Carnival later this month. 

Here’s some other information about new businesses in Albemarle County:

  • The Parkinson’s Activity and Resource Center will open in the location at 1885 Seminole Trail formerly occupied by Rock Steady Boxing. According to the approved zoning clearance, this will be an indoor athletic facility that will “serve and support Parkinson’s community through engagement in exercise, support, education, and socialization.” 

  • A combined Dunkin Donuts / Baskin Robbins franchise will take over the Burger King in Pantops Shopping Center.

  • Charles Schwab will open a branch in Twentyninth Place. Their website states this is “coming soon.” 

  • A Hallmark franchise will replace Cato Fashion in the Rio Hill Shopping Center 

The logo for the combination Dunkin Donuts / Baskin Robbins franchise 

Albemarle County opens up waiting list for housing vouchers

Community members who would like to apply for a chance to receive a housing voucher offered by Albemarle County’s Department of Social Services have until next Thursday to do so. Waiting lists are open for housing choices vouchers, Treesdale Park, Crozet Meadows, and Scottsville School Apartments. 

“Once the application period closes, a fixed number of completed applications will be randomly selected and those applicants will be placed into available spots,” reads a press release that was sent out this afternoon. 

Under the voucher program, households pay 30 percent of their income toward their rent and the government pays the rest, due to funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Once on the list, those who meet certain criteria may be moved closer to the top. 

They include: 

  • Those experiencing homelessness and/or previously experienced homelessness

  • Families who live, work, or have been hired to work in Albemarle County 

  • Current members of the U.S. Armed Forces, veterans who were discharged or released from service under conditions other than dishonorable, or surviving spouses of veterans

  • Families that include victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking

  • Disabled persons or families with a disabled member.

Applications must be filled out online on the Albemarle County Office of Housing’s portal. (access the portal)

Proposed UVA capital plan includes $7 million for second-year housing initiative

Editor’s note: The past month has been a fast-moving whirlwind in which I didn’t get to everything I wanted to report. For the next while, I’ll be reaching back to see if I can grab some of those items out of my bag of recorded meetings. 

The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors meets four times a year with the most recent event having taken place the first week of March. The Buildings and Grounds Committee were presented with changes to the major capital plan for 2023. 

“We revise the capital plan every year,” said Colette Sheehy, Senior Vice President for Operations and State Government Relations. “We start out with this meeting as a conversation, a discussion, questions, anything.” 

Additions to the plan come from each of the University of Virginia’s schools and units with guidance from a capital advisory committee that reviews each potential project. 

The full Board of Visitors will approve the amended capital plan at its meeting in June. 

“Last June, we started out with an approved plan that was $2.9 billion,” Sheehy said. “Since that time we’ve completed about $380 million worth of work.” 

That includes renovations to Gilmer Hall. Four other projects are being removed from consideration, but five new ones are proposed.

“So we’ll end up with $2.5 billion as the capital program that we would ask ultimately for approval in June,” Sheehy said. 

Of that $2.5 billion, 39 percent are projects currently under construction and another 39 percent are in the planning stages. The remaining $557.4 million are for projects not yet initiated. 

A slide from Sheehy’s presentation to the UVA Buildings and Grounds Committee (view the presentation)

Projects that will be completed this year include the first phase of infrastructure work to support the full Ivy Corridor complex and the renovations of Alderman Library.  Sheehy had news from the UVA librarian.

“John Unsworth recently shared with me that the plan is to allow students to study in Alderman after Thanksgiving break while they are moving books in and whatnot and then be completely open in the spring semester,” Sheehy said.

The Contemplative Commons will be complete in early 2024 along with the School of Data Science. Many other projects will be completed in the summer of 2024, including a second residence hall on Brandon Avenue. 

Planning and design work will be initiated for three projects including $7 million for planning and design for more residence halls to house second-year students as called for in UVA’s strategic plan

“We hope to finish our work with a consultant by the end of this academic year and have a view forward for how we would implement the second-year housing initiative that’s in the 2030 plan,” Sheehy said. 

The two other projects are a University-wide data center to be located at Fontaine Research Park as well as a public safety building. 

A section of the UVA 2030 Plan calls for new residence halls to house second-year students (Credit: University of Virginia)

Sponsored message: Buy Local 

Charlottesville Community Engagement’s continued existence means that many of you support local information. Want to support some local businesses as well? The Buy Local campaign is in full swing, and both the Albemarle and Charlottesville Offices of Economic Development want people to consider spending locally as they shop throughout the year.

The Buy Local campaign highlights small businesses within Charlottesville and Albemarle County through a multi-channel, multimedia promotional and educational campaign designed to reinforce how important supporting area small businesses is to the local economy. 

Locally-owned, independent businesses with a brick-and-mortar presence in the City or County interested in being featured in the campaign should visit or contact 

For more information on the Buy Local campaign, visit or follow us on Facebook and Instagram @BuyLocalCvilleAlbemarle or on Twitter @BuyLocalCville.

Council approves new lease for SOCA to rent Unity Field

The city of Charlottesville continues to upgrade the way it rents out city properties and this week Council approved a new lease for a nonprofit to use an athletic field on the north side of town. 

“It is a lease for the use of approximately 1.8 acres of city parkland for the purpose of conducting youth recreational sports activities,” said Brenda Kelley with Charlottesville’s Office of Community Solutions. 

The Soccer Organization of Charlottesville, or SOCA, has leased the field since at least 2013. The new five-year lease is for $12,000 a year, up from $10,000. 

“SOCA is currently responsible for and will continue to be response for ongoing maintenance, trash removal, and maintenance of turf and forested areas, and the property is accepted as is,” Kelly said 

The lease still allows the Parks and Recreation Department to access the field for any special events it may want to put on.  SOCA is glad to continue to be able to use the space.

“We’ve had a great relationship with the city and the Parks and Rec department,” said Matt Wilson, SOCA’s executive director. “We’ve been utilizing the field in conjunction with the city for the past ten years and then proper to that it when it was private property, we used it in those days as well.” 

The field dates back to being used as a football field by the private Rock Hill Academy in the 1960’s and then was owned by a man named George Coles. The city purchased the property in December 2011 for $750,500. 

Other recent stories on city leases:

Location of Unity Field, which formerly had a different name (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

Council seeks more information on Regional Hazard Mitigation plan before approval

Staff at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District have spent the past year and a half updating a document that is intended to inform the local government’s preparation and response to natural disasters. 

“All of the localities in the TJPDC as well as the incorporated towns currently have an adopted hazard mitigation plan from 2018 so this plan gets updated every five years,” said Ian Baxter, a planner with the TJPDC. (review the plan)

The plan also looks at recent trends to identify potential calamities. The latest update includes more information on communicable diseases given recent history with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“But it also allows localities that adopt the plan formally to be eligible for certain federal grants,” Baxter said.

These grants are distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency either through the regular hazard mitigation assistance program or the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program

Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook took issue with the way the report was presented to Council. 

“We were given this report four days ago,” Snook said. “It is 225 pages long. I have not read 225 pages. I’ve read about six pages that say something about Charlottesville.” 

Snook noted that there was no information from city staff highlighting the relevance of the report to the city, but noted that the information about flooding was highly important.  (agenda memo)

“The discussion of what a 100-year flood event looks like on the Rivanna River is something we’ve agonized over quite a bit in the last few years,” Snook said. 

Councilor Brian Pinkston suggested taking two more weeks to review the plan before approving, and Baxter said that would not cause a significant delay. 

City Councilor Michael Payne wanted staff analysis that compared the plan to processes underway to address the city’s protections for floodplain areas. There had been a joint work session between Council and the Planning Commission on this topic earlier this year.

“We have the highest risk of anybody in the region,” Payne said. “Flooding and storms are our biggest risk so maybe we should give some attention to that.” 

A list of mitigation activities recommended for Charlottesville (Credit: TJPDC)

Other articles to read that may be of interest:

Words and phrases that close out #518

Three days in a row, and three editions of Charlottesville Community Engagement. That’s exactly how I want to produce this program, which is intended to inform both the audience and myself as I continue my quest to understand what’s going on and how people can have their say. 

This is all paid for by readers and listeners either through Substack or Patreon, with Substack the best way to ensure that this newsletter and podcast continues to be spun from whatever fabric comes to hand. Internet provider Ting will match your initial Substack payment, either at $5 a month, $50 a year, or $200 a year. The latter also gets two shout-outs a year!

If you sign up for Ting at this link and enter the promo code COMMUNITY, you’ll get:

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Thanks to Wraki for incidental music in the podcast, which you can’t hear unless you listen to it. Check out the work on BandCamp!

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Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
Regular updates of what's happening in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville, Virginia from an award-winning journalist with nearly thirty years of experience.