Monticello Avenue represents both an oft-used corridor into Williamsburg and an opportunity to modernize a part of the city that sits adjacent to an important project — the redevelopment of the Williamsburg Shopping Center.
Representatives from Newport News-based architecture firm Kimley-Horn joined city staff to lead a charette, a public meeting meant to gauge what the community would like to see in the redesign of Monticello Avenue.
In three fluid groups, people marked images on possible changes and filled out a survey gauging the importance of certain features. All parties supported a roundabout at the intersection of Monticello, Lafayette and Richmond roads.
Kimley-Horn senior vice president Carl Tewksbury said his firm placed a similar roundabout in Virginia Beach and was struck by the popularity of the project.
“If we tried to remove it, they’d have a riot,” he said. “The city thinks there might have been two fender benders, but there have been basically no crashes otherwise.”
Rick Overy, vice chairman of the city’s Economic Development Authority and partner at Compass Wealth Strategies, said roundabouts have a strong precedent overseas.
“They are everywhere in Europe, and they are safer,” he said. “Traffic moves a bit smoother when you don’t have to stop.”
Baltimore-based Broad Street Realty bought the Williamsburg Shopping Center in January, and the city would like to align the company’s work with their changes to Monticello Avenue.
“The Williamsburg Shopping Center is the primary driver pushing us as we are doing these improvements to Monticello Avenue,” said city Public Works Director Dan Clayton.
“You wouldn’t want to bring all the business in, then start tearing up the streets once they open up,” said City Manager Marvin Collins.
Collins tied the shopping center and street redevelopment efforts to a bigger effort to retain young talent and modernize that part of the city.
“You have to have places to attract that talent,” he said. “The design is more about tomorrow than yesterday.”
Attendees valued certain possible aspects of the redesign, including bike lanes and stark signage. Both the survey data and verbal audience feedback will aid Kimley-Horn as they fashion the next version of planned changes to Monticello Avenue.
Sal Musarra, another vice president at Kimley-Horn, said some of the features he saw praised Wednesday evening conflict with each other.
“You always have hard design constraints,” he said. “By the time you would put everything you say you would want, you couldn’t even walk.”
By summer 2019, The city hopes to have the work completed in summer 2019.
Wright can be reached by phone at 757-345-2343.