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Christiansburg Marketplace awaits approval for senior living units; Earth Fare opening still unclear
HOUSING

Christiansburg Marketplace awaits approval for senior living units; Earth Fare opening still unclear

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The Christiansburg Marketplace redevelopers are awaiting approval from the town on the addition of multi-family residences to the shopping center property.

Plans for apartments and a hotel to be part of the project were announced last year, but the developers need the green light from the town on several requests tied to that portion of the property’s ongoing redevelopment.

More specifically, the addition of multi-family residential uses is not currently allowed under a plan approved in 2019. Also, the latest proposed adjustments to the project include units for residents who are at least 55 years old, according to project documents.

Walt Rector, the long-time developer who has led the Marketplace project, recently addressed the proposed changes with the Christiansburg Planning Commission.

“This particular site was the best opportunity I saw, that I’ve seen in a long, long time. I knew instantly what I had to do to fix it,” he said during a meeting last month. “This property was originally envisioned by myself to be a redevelopment using most of the buildings … I was wrong. Since that time, with the pandemic, but more importantly with the larger influence Amazon has had, retail has changed dramatically.”

The amendments proposed by the Marketplace seek to allow multi-family residential uses, increased building height, reduced onsite greenspace and reduced residential parking requirement.

The planning commission this past week unanimously recommended the amendments sought by the Marketplace, but included four conditions in their vote.

The Marketplace’s revised application calls for two hotels, but one of the conditions requested by the planning commission asks for one of those hotels to be removed due the proposed location of the structure on the property.

The other conditions in the commission’s recommendation cover the subjects of the onsite green space, the cap on unit density and the possibility of another hotel building on the site years down the road.

On the density, the commission recommended a cap of 20 units per acre on the residences. The zoning ordinance for planned commercial developments—what the project is considered—allows up to 30 units per acre. The Marketplace’s plan calls for 11 units per acre or 320 units.

The maximum building height in the district is 70 feet, but each of the structures in the revised application would exceed that limit.

The residential buildings are 85 and 187 feet, the latter of which the commission didn’t recommend against due to its proposed location in the property’s rear corner and proximity to an already imposing and existing bank building. Portions of the residential buildings would house other uses such as retail, according to the developers.

The hotel the commission didn’t recommend against would be 85 feet, while the Marketplace’s revised application also calls for an 85-foot parking deck.

The planning commission, however, asked that the 70-foot limit be imposed should the development years later call for another hotel.

Town Ccouncil is now set to take up the proposed revisions, marking some of the latest developments in the ongoing revamp of a property that for years sat mostly vacant and under a cloud of uncertainty.

In addition to the developer’s own investment in the property, the town of Christiansburg contributed more than $1 million to redo the shopping center’s intersection with North Franklin, bringing a new traffic light and pattern.

The project has already brought several new tenants to the property, but the development still awaits the opening of its anchor grocer Earth Fare. A banner on the property has for months announced an opening date of summer 2021.

The grocer, however, isn’t set to open this month, said Eileen Baumann, president of the Blacksburg-based Uncork-it Inc., the Marketplace’s marketing firm.

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