A tentative comprehensive plan for the Toano revitalization project includes a residential development of townhomes.
The newly unveiled plan comes as the latest development in the Toano revitalization effort, a bid by Toano natives Jack and Jeff Wray to return the town to the bustling village it was in its heyday more than 100 years ago.
“We were born and raised here and we loved the little community that we grew up in,” Jack Wray said. “We came back here to try to help this little place revive.”
The proposed comprehensive plan was developed by Allison Platt of Rivers and Associates, a North Carolina-based engineering consulting firm, who was contracted by Wray to map out a plan for the project. Platt presented the plan to a group of local business owners and others on Thursday at one of the Toano properties owned by the Wrays.
The plan maps out an expanded scope for the revitalization project beyond the proposed Toano Station for an area of town along Richmond Road between Toano’s fire station and Toano Middle School.
Perhaps the most noteworthy element of the plan is a residential development of either townhomes or small houses that would be off Toano Drive. The plan suggests 60 new buildings in the development..
Centered on Wray’s plan to develop Toano Station — a proposed mixed-use commercial district that would include apartments on top of storefronts that could house cafes, small grocery stores and the like — the plan calls for a variety of improvements large and small to capitalize on the town’s history and potential for investors.
“There’s a lot of potential for this area to be commercially successful if you set the right image,” Platt said.
Platt didn’t provide a cost estimate or timeline for building something along the lines of what she shared in her plan, which also includes relocated buildings and increased green space.
Other proposals included suggested usages for existing buildings, such as retail, bed-and-breakfasts or office space, and better pedestrian access.
Platt noted community buy-in would be critical to make the plan a reality. She expects there will be a cascading effect once the project kicks into gear — as renovation and construction occurs, more property owners may be encouraged to get involved or sell off property to someone who wants to be involved.
Moving forward, there’s a need to solidify community consensus around the plan. If history is any indicator, that shouldn’t be hard to do — public response to the Toano revitalization has on the whole been positive since Wray went public with the idea late last summer. No one in attendance at the meeting voiced opposition to any aspect of the proposal during Platt’s presentation.
Once the plan is finalized, market research and development would follow, Platt said.
At the turn of the 20th century, Toano boasted factories, hotels and a school. Demolition of shops and businesses on Toano’s main street as part of Route 60 expansion project in the 1960s ushered in a period of decline for the town.
Wray has said creating Toano Station would give the town a social and commercial hub that’s currently lacking. He and his brother, now Charlottesville residents, own a handful of properties in Toano, including their grandparents’ home.
Part of the land that would be the site of Toano Station isn’t owned by Wray, and he has been in talks with the property owner to bring it into the fold.
“He’s for it, he wants us to do it," he said, adding negotiations are complicated by the property owner’s desire to continue operating his business on the site for a few more years.
The project got a boost with the recent creation of the Toano Commercial Historic District, which makes tax credits available to property owners within the district located on the north end of Richmond Road in Toano. There are 11 properties in the district, including a property owned by Wray he would like to turn into a restaurant.
The designation doesn’t restrict what owners can do with their property, but allows tax credits to be used for historically appropriate renovation projects. Wray hopes the district encourages property owners to improve their properties in line with the revitalization effort.
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jajacobs_