Developers of two blocks in downtown Fredericksburg are asking the City Council to approve converting the section of the one-way street between the blocks into a pedestrian and bicycle path despite the Planning Commission’s concerns.
The Fredericksburg City Council will hear the appeal by William Square LLC and Liberty Place Partners LLC at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday during the public hearing portion of its regular meeting in council chambers at City Hall, 715 Princess Anne St.
Liberty Place Partners, which is affiliated with developers Tom and Cathy Wack, and William Square, a Vakos Cos. affiliate, are planning to develop the blocks containing The Free Lance-Star’s former office and the old William Street Executive Building, which was recently demolished. The two companies want the city to vacate the 35-foot public right-of-way for the 1000 block of Douglas Street, which divides those properties, so it can be turned into what they are calling “The Promenade.”
The northern half of the right-of-way would be converted to a 20-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle path through the site. It would be constructed with stamped brick concrete to support emergency vehicles.
The southern half would transition to an alley with 5-foot-wide sidewalks. It would provide access for services and deliveries for Liberty Place, the commercial building that Liberty Place Partners plans to build on the William Street side of the block where the William Street Executive Building stood, and the adjacent parking garage.
The developers plan to enhance The Promenade and alley sections with street trees and street lights. They envision it as a gathering place for the patrons and residents of the projects, as well as the adjacent neighborhoods and downtown as a whole.
Vacating the public right-of-way also would give William Square an additional 0.26 acre for the two apartment buildings that it plans to build on the Amelia Street side of the properties. Amelia House, which would have 50 units and underground parking with 100 spaces, would be built on the part of the block where the former FLS office stands.
The other building, Winchester Place, would have 34 units and be located on the block where the old William Street Executive Building stood. That block is bounded by Winchester, Amelia, Douglas and William streets.
The Planning Commission voted 6-1 against endorsing the developers’ request to vacate the public right-of-way, saying the plan was not in accord with the 2015 Comprehensive Plan for several reasons. These included a reduction in on-street parking, a change in traffic patterns and concern that it would set a precedent for other downtown street closures to accommodate private development.
They also said that the pedestrian and bicycle path would be out of character for the neighborhood, and the application didn’t include a commitment to develop the overall project as shown on the William Square Development Concept Plan.
Besides the two apartment buildings, the plan calls for William Square to build a 98-room hotel facing Washington Avenue and William Street and a future mixed-use site facing Douglas and William streets on the former FLS property. The adjoining block would have a 4.5-level parking garage in addition to the Liberty Place commercial building, which would have restaurants on the first floor and offices on the two upper levels.
Six tenants have already been announced: Burger Bach, Mellow Mushroom, Union Bank & Trust, Cary Street Partners, Pasta Fresca and Blue Cow Ice Cream.
William Square would also extend the lease agreement with the city for the parking lot at 700 William St. for public parking for a period of two years or until the parking deck opens, whichever comes first. And it would pay $8,000 for the production of two historical panels that would be placed along The Promenade. The panels would be designed by city staff to tell the history of Douglas Street and the surrounding area.
The developers’ appeal to the council cites five reasons for its justification, including the city’s goal of making the city more pedestrian-friendly. It also noted that the proposed projects will continue the revitalization of the western end of William Street.
City Council will hold two other public hearings Tuesday. They will focus on:
- Approving Riverview on Sophia LLC’s final subdivision plat application for Riverview, 13 townhouses that Tradition Homes plans to build behind Fredericksburg Square and facing Sophia Street.
- RCKF Fredericksburg Park LLC’s request for the vacation of the right-of-way for Alum Spring Road to realign Alum Spring Road and the VCR Trail in accordance with the proffered conditions of the 2014 conditional rezoning of the Fredericksburg Park development.