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Watch Now: Redevelopment plan for CVTC site presented to Amherst County supervisors

View story at The News & Advance...AMHERST — Two years after the last resident of the Central Virginia Training Center was moved from the Madison Heights campus, a plan to redevelop the property was presented Tuesday to the Amherst County Board of Supervisors.

The CVTC Master Redevelopment Plan will be a catalyst for connecting the twin communities of Madison Heights and the city of Lynchburg and aims to transform the closed site into a “premier urban core that attracts talent, investment and enhances the area’s quality of life, said Megan Lucas, CEO of the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance.

“The plan is the beginning of actual redevelopment and will be the directive that guides policymakers, developers and stakeholders toward the preferred future of the site,” Lucas said.

The plan is available for viewing online in its entirety at www.trainingcentermasterplan.com.
Lucas and Doug Bisson, of HDR, a Nebraska-based company instrumental in forming the plan, outlined the highlights of the 216-page document to supervisors. The board formally accepted the plan and is giving direction to the Amherst County Planning Commission to examine the document and include it in the county’s comprehensive plan for growth and development.

“I think we are ready to take the next step,” County Administrator Dean Rodgers said of the process to usher in new life for the 350-acre campus.
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 The state-run facility, which was in operation for more than a century, relocated its last remaining resident the first week of April 2020.

Specifically, the plan calls for redeveloping the site by taking advantage of its hilltops to create a pedestrian-friendly urban community with more than 100 acres deemed reasonable to level and grade for uses. The plan outlines mixed-use development through housing such as townhomes, cottage homes and estate-style houses along with commercial buildings, offices, parks and recreational facilities and a brewery. A funicular, a type of cable railway system which connects points along a track laid on a steep slope, to the James River to connect the site to Lynchburg also is envisioned as a possibility.

The plan aims to allow potential developers to reimagine the state-owned property’s future and identify the best use but $25 million in outstanding bonds, along with the cost of demolishing many of its existing buildings, are significant impediments to any development, according to officials. The Senate version of the state’s pending 2023 fiscal year budget includes the money to take care of the bonds but the House of Delegates still has to agree to it, which Lucas said stakeholders in the redevelopment are hopeful for.
If the state can work out the outstanding debt the property is much more appealing for potential developers to purchase, Lucas said.

“Nobody will buy a piece of property that has such a significant amount of debt on it,” Lucas said.
The plan includes about 1,000 square feet of commercial retail use, about 200,000 square feet of technology and light manufacturing uses and another 120,000 square feet of commercial space.
“This is a complex site,” Bisson said. “Lots of topography, lot of other things that are impacting the potential development.”

The overall concept includes a village center or a neighborhood center that embeds retail into a mixed use of housing and business activity.

“Under this concept alone, we’ve got just under 1,500 residential units so we could have somewhere probably in the range to 3,000 to 4,000, maybe even more, people living on that site,” Bisson said.
Preservation of some buildings and trees also is crucial to future development, he said.

“It takes 100 years to grow something this magnificent in many cases so we want to use those as key focal points of the site,” he said of certain trees.

A new entrance from Virginia 210 into the property, which would connect with Colony Road, the current main corridor, also is envisioned as a new gateway, according to Bisson.

“The intersection of those two routes becomes the heart and soul of this neighborhood,” Bisson said.
Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, has been working to get the outstanding bonds settled to allow the plan, which he said in a news release is a great step toward realizing the site’s potential, to succeed.
“Otherwise, this site will likely become a blight for our region, particularly on Amherst County,” Newman said in the release. “In short, the vision cannot succeed until the bonds are eliminated.”

Victoria Hanson, executive director of the Economic Development Authority of Amherst County, said future development will take years so the plan is critical in preparing for it.

“Overall, Amherst County is very concerned about a void that was left when we lost our largest employer in 1,600 jobs, $87 million in annual activity,” Hanson said. “So we are looking very forward to seeing this plan successfully implemented so it can be a catalyst for new investment and bring back some of these higher paying jobs, new rooftops and basically revitalize the Central Virginia Training Center.”

Amherst County Board of Supervisors Chair David Pugh said he knows a lot of work went into it, which the county is appreciative of. He said the plan looks outstanding and beautiful and spoke of family members who at one time worked at CVTC.

“I understand the importance of the site and the many people who worked there,” Pugh said. “At one time the training center was the largest employer in the county. We’ve lost that tax revenue so it’s imperative we can redevelop this site.”

He said the plan will make a huge difference and is a game-changer for the region.
“The last thing we want is to see this place neglected and abandoned because it would be a disaster for the county and the region as a whole,” Pugh said.

Rodgers said in the release the county is eager to put into place zoning tools that will facilitate investment and create the environment and relationships “that will launch the site into a thriving success for its new owner.”