The Strategic Investment Area (SIA) plan is an ambitious, multi-layered vision plan for an important and complex neighborhood in the City of Charlottesville. Known as Charlottesville’s historical industrial center, the Strategic Investment Area provided middle and lower-class jobs for much of the 20th century. With the modernization of Charlottesville’s economy, the area moved away from these industrial uses, leaving behind under-utilized buildings and land. Starting the in 1970s, the city developed several major public housing projects within the SIA, creating inward-facing superblocks with few connections to adjacent neighborhoods. Today, the SIA Plan area exhibits serious challenges (such as lower economic indicators -population density, income, education and homeownership) with great opportunities of civic leadership, proactive property owner engagement, and an enthusiastic community.
The SIA Plan proposes a new vision for the neighborhood, highlighted by three central ideas:
1) Ecological Corridor: Building on the existing terrain of Pollock’s Branch, the vision plan proposes a new typology of water management in Charlottesville – a linear park that connects the historic downtown Mall with the popular Rivanna Trail greenbelt. This new corridor incorporates new technical systems of storm water capture, storage and release, while relieving downstream erosion and water pollution. The resulting open space is also a multi-functional amenity for the local community with areas for urban farming, playgrounds, play fields, urban spaces and connections to nature.
2) Economic Drivers: The vision plan strongly connects with Charlottesville’s downtown mall (an economic anchor for the city) via a redesigned 2nd Street corridor and urban plaza. Pent-up demand for downtown commercial and residential development is structured to help lift the SIA by providing new connections, services and amenities. Rather than being an isolated development, the SIA proposes a tighter connection to Charlottesville’s greater economy by integrating people from all social and economic classes.
3) Mixed-Income housing and jobs: The SIA Plan knits together the study area and adjacent neighborhoods by updating and refreshing outdated public housing and industrial properties. SIA residents currently have few housing options and fewer ladder opportunities to higher quality housing. Informed by months of community dialogue and awareness, the vision plan proposes higher quality mixed-income housing with urban connections to the surrounding neighborhoods.
The Strategic Investment Area plan is the culmination of a year-long dialogue with community leaders, public housing residents, adjacent neighborhood residents, property owners, businesses, civic leaders and the greater Charlottesville community. Because of the unprecedented number of community meetings, the SIA Plan vision has received very positive support from a diversity of stakeholders and the City of Charlottesville.