By: Justin West, Charlottesville Field Officer Intern
Not only has Charlottesville’s $7.5 million Downtown Mall Rebricking project improved the Mall, but it has come in so far under budget that the excess funds are going to other projects around the City. Director of Neighborhood Development Services Jim Tolbert estimated that the Mall project may have come in as much as $1.5 million under budget as he pitched a few uses for the excess funds to City Council at its June 20th meeting.
As it came to vote Council unanimously chose to spend $800,000 of the surplus Mall money on projects at the Corner and 2nd Street, East. The part of 2nd Street that will receive attention is area affected by the now halted Landmark Hotel construction. The total work on the street including some underground pipe and electrical unrelated to the hotel is estimated to cost $800,000, $600,000 of which will be transferred from the Mall project and over $200,000 was already budgeted. The developer of the hotel has committed to fund $200,000 of the project, but that money will not come until the completion of the Hotel or June 2014, which is simply too late for both safety and aesthetics as far as council is concerned.
On the Corner, 14th Street, and Elliewood Avenue City Staff believes there is $500,000 worth of street, brick, and curb repairs that need to be done. The project has already begun and had $300,000 budgeted for it, but in order to be completed Council approved moving $200,000 of the Malls excess funds its way. Tolbert stressed the importance of trying to get the project done before the majority of the University’s students come back for the fall semester. He believes that the work will serve to not only make the Corner safer for pedestrians but may promote a sense of identity among the Corner businesses.
Nixed from staff’s recommended plan for the extra funds was a $300,000 rehab of 6th Street, East between City Hall and the Market Street parking garage. This plan, most Councilors believed was not necessary and wasteful given the current economic climate. Councilor David Brown sarcastically ridiculed the proposed project, highlighting that the Corner and 2nd Street work could help area businesses, but the 6th street plan would not because the only business there is the United States Post Office and “they have kind of cornered the market on [their business]”.
Council plans to save the rest of the money saved on the Mall restoration project to guard against future budget shortfalls that may occur as the City rides out the current recession.