FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE OLD BLACKSBURG MIDDLE SCHOOL REDEVELOPMENT PROJECT
+ WHAT IS MIDTOWN?
Midtown is the name of the project proposed to redevelop the site of the Old Blacksburg Middle School property—an approximately 20-acre site fronting Main Street between Clay and Eheart Streets in the heart of downtown Blacksburg. The property was purchased by Midtown Redevelopment Partners, LLC from Montgomery County.
The owners are proposing a mixed-use infill development that executes the vision for this site, which developed out of a multi-year master planning and site design process.
+ WHAT IS PLANNED FOR THE SITE?
Current plans call for two mixed-use office buildings fronting on Main Street with the potential for ground-level restaurants with outdoor dining.
A new public safety building to house the Blacksburg Police Department and a new public parking garage are proposed in a public-private partnership. The parcel will front Clay and New Church Streets and open onto a large publicly owned plaza, which offers an event space for the community.
Framing the corner of Eheart and Main Streets is a large public plaza that will welcome visitors into our downtown. It includes outdoor dining areas, a fountain or other central element, and wide stairs leading up to the larger central event space that also offers seating for parades and other activities. A small office building with ground-level retail or restaurant space is planned for the Eheart side of the Plaza. Behind this building is a location for a possible new larger town library, or a second mixed-use building with active retail or restaurant uses fronting the central plaza area with above office space.
New Church Street will connect Eheart to Clay Streets, and a mid-sized 100 room upscale hotel will frame the fourth side of the public plaza, with its parking located behind the hotel in a buffered side yard.
Beyond the commercial core, the site transitions to a vibrant mix of residential units, with for sale and for rent townhouses, loft apartments and condominiums. A total of approximately 300 units are planned in a series of phases over the next 5-6 years, with a large portion of the required parking contained in private garages, under buildings, and in parallel street parking within this site, minimizing large parking lots and incorporating a series of green spaces that connect the residential development to a large public park.
+ WHAT TYPES OF COMMERCIAL SPACES ARE PLANNED?
A number of restaurants with outdoor dining areas, small scale retail shops, offices, and civic spaces are planned for the property. No “big box” retail or retail uses requiring large surface parking lots are planned or allowed under the proposed zoning.
+ WHAT TYPE OF RESIDENCES ARE PLANNED?
Townhomes, in a variety of sizes and design styles, and ranging from approximately 1,500 -3,000 square feet, each with a required two-car garage. Townhome residences can be for sale or for lease.
For sale condominium units ranging from approximately 1,200 to over 1,600 square feet. Many of these units will have parking underneath of the building, and in small scale lots surrounding these buildings.
Apartment residences and stacked “flats,” ranging from studio lofts to larger 1, 2 and 3-bedroom units.
+ WILL THE RESIDENTIAL UNITS BE AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE?
Yes. The project will have a broad mix of price points, from rental lofts and residences planned to be in the range of $1,000 for a studio/1BR, $1,200-1,500 for a two bedroom flat, to $1,750 per month for a large 3-bedroom residence. For sale product will likely range from $250,000 and up for a condominium unit, and $350,000 to over $500,000 for a townhouse or “Brownstone” type residence depending on size, amenities and location. This pricing is tentative and will be driven by market demand.
The mix of residential units and phasing of units and price points is based upon data from a study conducted by the same consultants who performed the Town’s downtown housing study. It reflects the market demand for units in this area and price-points for young professionals, empty nesters, families, and retirees who are downsizing.
Current market trends focus on units where town residents can age in place in a zero-maintenance home that has accessible features and is walkable to downtown. We are excited to bring this product to market. A number of fully and partially accessible units are planned; and for sale residences can be fully customized to the owner’s needs.
+ IS THIS ANOTHER STUDENT HOUSING DEVELOPMENT?
No. A number of steps and proffered restrictions are in place to prevent purpose-built student housing and to encourage long-term town residents.
The creation of a vibrant downtown community is an important aspect of the project in order to promote a mix of non-undergraduate student oriented and/or purpose-built housing. It will include long-term town citizens that embrace a mix of young and urban amenity seeking professionals, families, empty-nesters and active seniors.
The entire Planned Residential District (“PRD”) of the project is limited to a family and two unrelated individuals, or no more than three unrelated individuals. In order to encourage these goals, the following additional steps are being be taken:
All leased communities and apartment buildings within the PRD shall adopt the following criteria:
No four bedroom, four bath product will be offered for lease.
All leases shall be by the unit. “By-the-bedroom” leases shall not be permitted.
The residents of 75% of the units offered for rent by any owner shall be required to verify an income, at the time the lease becomes effective, of twice the monthly rent.
Onsite management shall be provided to all owners with more than fifty units in the PRD, and will be provided during office hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 24-hour on-call emergency maintenance will also be provided. One office on the OBMS site may manage all properties of an owner located in the PRD.
All “for sale” residential units and developments in the PRD (excluding transfers by the developer to related and/or subsidiary entities), whether single-family, townhome, duplex or condominium unit, shall be part of a Residential Homeowners Association (“Residential HOA”) which adopts the following rules and regulations prior to the sale of any units:
All purchasers are required to represent to the seller at the time of purchase their intent, or that of an immediate family member, to occupy the unit; or that the unit will be occupied by one or more owners of a beneficial interest in the unit, in the case of a residential unit to be held in a corporation, LLC, life estate, trust or similar entity.
All purchasers are required to represent to the seller at the time of purchase that they are not acquiring the property primarily for investment purposes or as a “rental property.”
+ WILL THERE STILL BE GREENSPACE?
Yes. The project preserves approximately 25% of the property for publicly owned active and passive recreation spaces and other public uses.
This includes: (i) a large 3-acre public park, (ii) a central event space for small festivals, community events, concerts, and similar activities; and (iii) a large entry plaza on the corner of Main Street with outdoor gathering areas and a wide sidewalk down Main Street towards downtown with additional outdoor dining patios.
Interior to the site, new tree-lined public streets have generous sidewalks and landscaping areas. A number of new multi-use bike and pedestrian paths criss-cross the neighborhood along with a new bike lane on Eheart Street.
The PRD residential district is required to maintain a minimum of 20% open space.
+ WHAT ARE THE PUBLIC COMPONENTS OF THE PROJECT?
Current plans allow for a new public safety building for the Blacksburg Police Department to be located in the project.
A new public parking garage accessed from Clay Street is proposed to support the public safety building and Town parking needs, those of the office buildings planned for the site, and the general public when visiting downtown.
The large public park along Clay Street and Midtown Way, the event space and lawn that are the centerpiece of the commercial district, and the entry plaza on the corner of Eheart and Main Streets are proposed to be owned and developed by the Town, with the land contributed by the development owners. The park contains a multi-use trail and open spaces for recreation for town residents, and the central lawn offer a perfect site for community and family-friendly events within walking distance from downtowns shops and restaurants.
The new public streets and sidewalks will be dedicated to the Town, and will add a number of new parallel parking spaces in easy walking distance from downtown’s shops, galleries and restaurants.
+ WHAT IS THE TIMELINE FOR THE PROJECT AND WHEN WILL IT BE COMPLETED?
The rezoning process is expected to be completed in early summer, with site plan approval and initial site grading in the fall of this year. Construction of the first phases of commercial and residential building will start in the spring of 2019. The project will be completed in a series of phases over the next 5-6 years, with full build as early as 2025, and as late as 2030.
+ IS THERE PUBLIC INPUT IN THE PROCESS?
Yes. The public input process began with the development and adoption of the initial Master Plan in 2011. In July of 2015, the Blacksburg Town Council adopted a resolution containing 5 key development principles for the site. The proposed rezoning incorporates the elements of the comprehensive plan for this site and those of the original master plan, as updated by the Town Council in 2015. Since 2015, the owners have involved the town planning staff and elected officials in the design process and the development of the proposed plan and rezoning.
The proposed development honors and incorporates the best aspects of the original Master Plan, while updating it to today’s needs and the current tenant mix. For example, the street framework and park area establishes a roadway and open space structure that integrates the site into Downtown Blacksburg, and divides the site into a walkable, gridded series of development parcels. Church Street provides a primary north-south circulation route, while preserving the “T” intersections at Penn and Wharton Street, and incorporating shade trees, curb extensions and accent planting at intersections. Midtown Way provides an east-west circulation route, and connectivity between the public plaza at the heart of the commercial district with the central public park and residential components. The commercial district contains a loop road, civic event space, and lawn.
Public and civic spaces occupy over 20% of the entire site acreage. The large park that anchors the residential district park meets the original Master Plan’s desire for a significant public park on the site, and is larger than that proposed in the original Master Plan. Bike and pedestrian connectivity through the park into downtown and the adjoining Fiddler’s Green subdivision is provided, along with a bike trail along Eheart to allow access across Main Street towards the Huckleberry Trail. Finally, the corner plaza and entry to the site offers an attractive gateway along Main Street into downtown, and a community event space surrounded by mixed-use development of office, restaurant, hotel, civic buildings, and residential components.
+ WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN FOR THE PROJECT TO MOVE FORWARD?
In order for the project to come to fruition, several steps must first occur:
The Town Council must approve the current rezoning.
The Town Council must transfer the parking lot it owns on Eheart Street and a small portion of the one on Clay Street, to be included in the project, and the Town must accept ownership of the park, event space, lawn, and other publicly owned portions of the site.
The Town and the owners much reach agreement on and execute a “Performance Agreement” covering their respective obligations in the development of the site.
The Town and County must agree on their respective roles in encouraging the desired office tenants to locate downtown, decide how to develop the public areas, and help fund the public parking garage.
+ WHAT IS A “PERFORMANCE AGREEMENT”?
A Performance Agreement is a contract between the Town and the owners of the property wherein each makes binding commitments regarding the project. This can include the public components of the site, the Town’s financial participation in developing these public areas, the developer’s commitments to construct the shared underground storm-water system, transfer title of some of the property back to the Town, installation of new traffic lights, streets, and the remaining site improvements, and placing limitations on the type of development allowed.
+ WHY ARE THE LOCALITIES CONSIDERING SUPPORTING THE PROJECT?
The original Master Plan, the 2015 Design Principles, and the Town’s consultants, have all concluded that attaining the type of high-quality development desired for this property, and limiting the amount of surface parking by incorporating a public parking garage, will require public participation in the project.
In addition to a high-quality design that supports our downtown and adds to our community, the proposed development will significantly contribute new tax revenue to the Town and Montgomery County to support our schools and help fund projects throughout the Town.
Initial estimates are that at full development, the project, when real estate taxes, lodging and meals, and other revenue streams are considered, will contribute between $700,000 and $1 million per year in new tax revenue to the Town, and a roughly equal amount to the County.
The ability for the Town to locate a new public safety building downtown on a cost-effective site is also a unique opportunity with the project, as there are few suitable parcels downtown that can be acquired and developed by the Town as affordably as this site.
+ WHAT IS THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF THE PROJECT?
Midtown represents a total development investment in our downtown of between $125 and $150 million.
It will bring 200-300 new employees to new downtown offices, with average salaries of approximately $60,000 per year, who will eat, shop, live and play downtown, supporting our merchants and businesses.
Midtown will add several hundred new families as residents of our downtown. They will eat, shop and play downtown, within walking distance of their jobs on campus and in town, with easy bike and public transportation access.
Midtown will bring at least three new restaurants and other merchants to add to the vibrancy of our downtown.
+ WHY DOES THE TOWN NEED THIS DEVELOPMENT?
This project is critical to the development and economic health of our downtown. It is walkable, environmentally responsible, and will meet the growing need for additional businesses and homes in our community. It is a high-quality, planned community that offers recreational and civic spaces for all of our town residents.
Virginia Tech’s growth will bring new faculty, professional employees, and housing needs to our Town. No other planned project that can be built to meet this demand incorporates a true mixed-use infill project of meaningful size, or with the amount of public input and planning represented by Midtown.
+ WHAT STEPS ARE BEING TAKEN TO ENSURE THIS IS A HIGH-QUALITY DEVELOPMENT?
The proposed rezoning proffers have strict design and architectural material requirements.
The proffers limit the locations and types of uses, requires the street-grid, multi-use trails and expansive public spaces and amenities as required elements of the project.
The project encourages environmentally responsible construction, alternative transportation, and minimization of large surface parking lots.
A detailed pattern book sets out the specifics of the numerous proffered design criteria for each parcel in the development, and is available online for review.
+ WHAT ABOUT PARKING?
The proposal limits large surface lots and instead encourages commercial parking in a public garage and along new public streets.
In the residential district, all townhomes self-park in required garages, and multi-family buildings utilize a mix of small landscaped off-street parking areas and parking underneath of buildings.
There is a focus on and a requirement for bicycle parking, charging stations for electric vehicles, a public transit stop, a network of bike paths and bike lanes, and an extensive sidewalk system linking the residences to the public parks and commercial areas of our downtown.
+ WHAT ABOUT TRAFFIC?
While there will, of course, be some increase in traffic as a result of almost all new development, a detailed traffic study jointly funded by the Town and owners demonstrates that the existing road network, supplemented by a new stoplight at the intersection of Eheart and Main Streets, can handle the anticipated increase.
Encouraging people to live and work downtown, and Midtown’s focus on bike accessibility and walkable access, helps minimize the number of car trips and encourages a pedestrian and cyclist friendly community. Residents and employees working here can easily walk downtown to eat and shop without getting in their cars.
Studies support that an in-fill development such as Midtown has less traffic and environmental impact than a suburban sprawl type development on the outskirts of town.
+ WILL THE PROJECT BE ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE?
Yes. All buildings contained within the redevelopment project are to be built for energy-, water- and resource-efficiency, durability, and superior indoor air quality—all key factors in achieving a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. Each structure will use guiding principles of environmentally responsible and resource-efficiency throughout a building's life cycle, from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.
For example, the proposed public safety building and garage will be LEED certified buildings, and all buildings in the PRD district will be a minimum of Earthcraft certified, and residences will use energy-star appliances. All of the buildings in the project will share a state-of-the-art underground stormwater system that manages both water flows and quality of water discharges. Alternative transportation is encouraged and multi-use pedestrian and bike pathways are included as required design elements. Electric vehicle charging stations and a public transit station are also included.