Good neighbors? Controversy brews over apartments at Meadowbrook

The phrase "mixed-use" may be all the rage when talking about city and county developments, but some neighbors of the Meadowbrook Shopping Centre aren't thrilled with proposed plans to make Charlottesville's oldest shopping center mixed- use by adding as many as 128 apartments.

"Any situation with increased density would be a mismatch for this location," says Roger Chevalier, who was alarmed by a letter from the city, dated March 28, notifying residents of a nearby neighborhood of the shopping center's submission of a preliminary site plan and request for a special use permit that would increase the allowed dwellings per acre from 21 to 54 on a nearly two-and-a-half acre site at the southeast corner of Barracks Road and Emmet Street.

"We would welcome more choices for our family to enjoy," says Chevalier, who lives within walking distance. "Shops and restaurants have made good 'neighbors,'" he writes in an email. "They have set hours. They are quiet at night. They have limited hours on weekends and holidays. Housing units," he notes, "do not have these pluses."

Chevalier isn't the only one concerned.

"It's just a lot of residential units they're proposing, so there would be a lot of cars coming in and out on regular basis," says Rugby Road resident Kaye Teasley, who describes driving down Barracks toward Emmet Street, particularly at rush hours, as "horrible," even without a new apartment building drawing more drivers.

This is not the first time development plans at the shopping center have bred controversy.

For seven years, ending in 2006, Meadowbrook tenant Anderson's Carriage Food House tangled with Meadowbrook's owner, Clara Belle Wheeler, over accusations that she'd harassed them in an effort to make way for a CVS pharmacy. Wheeler vehemently denied the allegation and a judge tossed out the Andersons' charges of fraud and trespass against Wheeler and her attorney. A jury eventually awarded the Andersons $100,000, an amount the Andersons claimed wouldn't cover their legal expenses.

This development, Wheeler says, won't affect any current Meadowbrook tenants in the near future since construction is planned only for the undeveloped grassy area at the back of the shopping center parcel.

"They're all good tenants," she says, noting that they've all recently signed new leases.

Management at both Anderson's Carriage Food House and Meadowbrook Pharmacy declined comment, citing a wish to learn more about the plans before expressing an opinion on the project.

"I just don't know anything about it yet," says Anderson's manager Ted Anderson.

According to Wheeler, the vacant Tavern building will likely be demolished to provide an area for construction staging and storage of construction material. And while the plans call for two phases, it's only the first one– a 75-unit apartment building– that could be imminent if the city grants approval. Phase two, which calls for the demolition of the existing commercial structures to make way for an additional 53 apartment units with 12,000 square feet of commercial space, is likely years in the future.

Wheeler says she believes the city and nearby residents will appreciate the plans, which will feature self-contained parking under the building and will have an entrance to Emmet Street.

"It will not impact anyone other than it'll be pretty," she says, describing "nice roof lines." And the one- and two-bedroom apartments will be particularly desirable to grad students at the JAG School, Darden and UVA Law, all of which are within easy walking or biking distance, says Wheeler. 

As for other future developments at the shopping center, including the CVS that's long been rumored to be eying the parcel that's now home to ALC Copies– which is not owned by the shopping center– Wheeler will say only that it's an "ongoing discussion."

A site plan conference is scheduled for April 17, and the city will hold a joint public hearing on the project on May 14.


WOW. What a beautiful plan. Thank You Ms. wheeler. It's a win for everybody, especially The City. Your taking good care of your valued tenants (Anderson's is not my favorite) and vastly improving this corner. The development is so convenient it should actually reduce traffic as the future tenants can walk to most of their destinations. Charlottesville needs more thoughtful development like this.

Applause is either smoking crack and/or in bed with Wheeler. Enough said as I obviously have my own local problems to deal with...

Applause is either smoking crack and/or in bed with Wheeler. Enough said, as I obviously have my own local problems to deal with...

While the future clearly belongs to increasing density and Charlottesville should welcome it, at the same time Charlottesville cannot have a dense urban core with the road system it had 50 years ago. Preston Ave. should have been widened 40 years ago along with numerous other streets.

Angel, Plenty of cities have dense urban cores with the road systems they had 500 years ago. Roads aren't the solution as the Meadowcreek Parkway will soon prove. Smart planning and quality construction are what we need more of, but both are in short supply around here and in the US in general. Heck, we're supposed to be the leaders of the world, but can't seem to get a simple bridge to last more than 50 years (see Belmont).

The Donald speaks for himself.

How can I get on the wait list for one of the units? Walking distance to both Chipotle and the ABC store! What could be better? Plus, a bunch of nice backyard fences of rich folks' houses in the Rugby neighborhood to throw my empties over! Woo hoo!!!


@not buyin it...500 years ago? The only road “system” that existed 500 years ago was the worn out remnants of the Apian Way built by the Romans. The rest of the world was still traveling under 25 MPH...

The city should give her the expanded density, and she should tear down the whole shopping center, and the city should ask as a proffer for her to widen Barracks Road all the way up the hill to the light. Have you ever tried to drive from Rugby to Barracks Road Shopping Center on a Friday afternoon? A friday afternoon of a football game? The traffic can back all the way up to Washington Park. That's without any new development on that corner.

First of all, there is absolutely no way that the road from the emmet st-barracks rd up toward the rugby rd light can/or will ever be widen. So get used to the traffic jams and especially potential gridlock coming from 128 potential tenents in the meadowbrook shopping center. Which is another thing, where are those 128 tenents going to park? I know that shopping center, it's only two acres, even if half the tenents have cars, where are they going to go? More useless deveopment...

Angel eyes wrote: " While the future clearly belongs to increasing density and Charlottesville should welcome it, at the same time Charlottesville cannot have a dense urban core with the road system it had 50 years ago. Preston Ave. should have been widened 40 years ago along with numerous other streets."


Increasing density?? Have you sat in traffic lately on Emmet St and Barracks Rd? Have you noticed the topography of the area? There's no where to expand to without tearing the infrastructure and residential areas of the city of Charlottesville apart. This is an old city, with a layout that didn't figure in the aspect that there would be the amount of people (with cars) traveling these old roads that there is today. Please, don't think, you only hurt the team....

So who is traveling that corridor. City workers headed to their homes in the county? Maybe they will take an apartment and go to work on the bus? Think it through before getting all worked up.

This is a large, important, centrally located property ripe for development.

It is currently a pretty dumpy looking property. Any improvement would be a nice change.

This has been a shopping center for 50 years or longer. It is not in a residential neighborhood. It's on 29N and faces Barracks Road Shopping Center.

Just stop it. If you build an unnecessary reservoir and an unnecessary highway, er, parkway through downtown and an unnecessary bypass, all with public dollars, you really have no standing to complain about a private citizen developing their property to maximize density. If the traffic is a limiting factor it will work out in the economics - people wont live there. owners' risk/reward. where is everybody when they spend our money on everything but public transport? where is the bus lane from the parking garage at Catech with a loop trolley to downtown/barracks/uva? where is the parking garage at pantops with a trolley woolen mills/downtown/uva/barracks? Wait till they spend 40 million on the stupid belmont tunnel under tracks.... live by the sword (car) die by the sword (car).

So do all you guys work for Clara Wheeler?

No! No!

But more than half the town works for the Democratic Club and receives their handouts. "Vote for me and I will set you free! ". Ah just slaves of The Club but don't know it.

And you Esteban?

Old shopping centers should be re-done instead of building new ones. Andersons should be left alone as long as Andersons wants it that way. Build an underground parking garage for residents under the whole new shopping center (like University Village etc), then have stores with their parking out front. Visitors after store hours could park in the lots or have extra spaces under the stores.

The shopping center has the problems of many older centers. And I say this independently of the center and/or it's owner.

Older buildings
Older Businesses
Older leases

The buildings require maintainence. More and more year after year. The cost go up with the age of the building and the rate of inflation.

The businesses are now competing with new business models. The old hardware store competes with Lowes. The independent drug store vs CVS. The older stores are losing and are dependent on their old leases. Raise the lease rate and poof they are loosing money. Storm Water tax and increasing real estate taxes will claim some already. The rest are just waiting their time. The buildings keep aging.

The leases of yesteryear were long with renewal clauses. The shopping center owners are locked into these old leases. Modern leases are shorter and allow for increases as new taxes are created, old taxes are raised, buildings get rejuvenated. They have minimum sales requirements for the tenant, and the lease rate includes a % of total sales. Low sales column stores move out and high volumn stores get renovations.

The owner of this center is keeping up with the times. The land will be dedicated to its highest and best use. The center will get a massive upgrade and become a better sight on the entrance corridor.

It's important for it to be well-architected because of its location, but the residents of the Venable neighborhood protest too much of they want to shut this down.

There is no way the intersection of Emmet and Barracks road can absorb the amount of traffic coming in and out of that proposed development no matter how much is dedicated to its highest and best use. period....

Is it your goal to preserve cville circa 1955?

They have minimum sales requirements for the tenant, and the lease rate includes a % of total sales....that is incorrect.

It was fab and great, the Tavern is where people met, but that was in 58.
It was still rocking in 68
By 78 Anderson's held on, but Food of All Nations was coming on strong
By 88 the gas attendants were gone, but the paint at Meadowbrook hardware kept them going on
By 98 it was old but hanging on
By 08 the tavern had food poisoning, the gas station was a makeshift copy center...
By 18 will it be great?

Fact is, the Venable neighborhood is caught in the pincers of the only growth story in town, the big state U

With her unreserved praise for the project and intimate knowledge of leasing economics for that center, "Applause" comes off as a verrrrry impartial observer.

Hook-Reader your just too wrapped up in yourself. I have no real estate in Charlottesville and am not involved in real estate deals. Just want the town to prosper.

grow up little man.
What is your problem?
Inaccurately reading the situation for starters.
Jealous loser?

It seems a little extreme for the Venablers to get worked up over such a small development. The addition of 128 rental units will not generate as much traffic as did the Tavern, and the Exxon on the northeast corner (when those existed), so in the long run it's still a net reduction from what existed just a couple years ago. And given the volume of traffic that goes through that intersection now, which is still not even close to being one of the most congested in the area, any addition from the current baseline caused by just 128 units will not even be noticed. Will the Venablers get similarly worked up if anyone develops the vacant lot on which the Exxon station used to stand? The only legitimate way to stop that would be to buy the land from the owner and then choose to keep it as open space, absorbing the lost economic opportunity if the additional peace and quiet is worth that much to them.

It's actually a perfect place for apartments although I don't know if 128 units is plausible or not

Applause is obviously Clara Belle Wheeler!!!! I feel bad for all of the current tenants that have to deal with that narcissistic woman. Warning to all homeowners in the area....don't trust a word that she says!!!