Charlottesville and Albemarle have many beautiful outdoor spaces but not enough connective greenway corridors. One project that will provide both is coming into view on the two localities’ southern border: the Fifth Street Hub and Trails.
The Fifth Street Hub and Trails Project consists of the design and construction of paved mixed-use trails at the confluence of Moore’s Creek and Biscuit Run at the foot of Fifth Street Station. This project is funded through the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) by a federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant and local proffer monies. The trail will connect multiple transportation routes to neighborhoods in both Charlottesville and Albemarle with shopping, jobs, entertainment, and parks. Straddling the City/County border, the project is a collaborative effort sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) with collaboration from both localities, and assistance from the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC).
The team, which also includes Project consultant Land Planning & Design Associates (LPDA), led an intensive public engagement campaign to better understand how the project’s design might best serve community’s needs. We held five focus groups, visited the neighbors door-to-door, joined forces with the Charlottesville Area Trail Runners for a social event at a restaurant next to the project site, and hosted an open house / public meeting at TJPDC’s Water Street Center. These interactions provided insight into user preferences and revealed several opportunities that we never would have thought of otherwise.
When complete (anticipated 2020) the project’s surface trails will be woven with natural trails for a quieter and more intimate experience. The hub will tie into the 5th Street Station shopping center, which includes such exercise-friendly enterprises as an outdoor supply store, a cafe, a grocery, and a low-cost fitness club. It will also link the Fifth Street corridor and the abandoned road south of I-64 known colloquially as the “Biscuit Run Trail.”
This project sits at very strategic location and is generating interest in additional connector trails to nearby neighborhoods, Biscuit Run Park, and the heart of Charlottesville. The next step will be to facilitate resident-led discussions in homeowner associations about extending the trail network up to, through, or along their lands.
Throughout the course of our work, we keep hearing over and over how important it is to build on local successes. That is what we are doing at the Fifth Street Hub. People are excited to see real progress. This project also illuminates new possibilities, makes them seem a little more attainable, and has pulled more stakeholders into the coalition. It will be important to build on that momentum from this and similar projects going forward.