Fred15’s Take on the Area 1 Small Area Plan

What you Need to Know

The City of Fredericksburg updates its comprehensive plan using a “small area plan” model, which allows a deliberate and fine-grained neighborhood approach to City planning. The City planning staff are currently developing a Plan for Area 1, west of I-95, which includes all of Central Park and Celebrate Virginia South. The Plan is under review with the City’s Planning Commission, and is expected to receive its official public hearing in November.

Here is a link to the most recent draft of the Area 1 plan. As written, the plan lays out a bold new direction for Area 1 over the next several decades. Highlights include: 

  • The gradual replacement of big-box retail stores and surface parking lots with a more vertical, dense and urban development pattern
  • A new interstate interchange at Gordon Shelton Blvd. (“Exit 131”) and additional off-ramps from I-95 into Central Park
  • A Special Tourism and Events District centered around the Fredericksburg Nationals ballpark and the Fredericksburg Expo Center
  • The permanent protection of significant green spaces along the Rappahannock River and its tributary streams
  • No new by-right residential development is proposed. Area 1 has no by-right residential capacity remaining as of 2021. The City envisions significant residential growth in the future, however, that residential development would come through developer-initiated rezonings or require special permissions, such as use permits.

This is a radical shift in vision for the entire City west of I-95, and reflects the City planning staff’s concern for the long-term economic viability of the big-box retail industry. Once the anchor of the City’s tax base, Central Park looks more and more like a relic of a bygone era and a threat to drain harm the City’s long-term financial situation. The rise of e-commerce and competition from new brick-and-mortar establishments in the surrounding counties have stunted its growth and begun to devalue the commercial real estate market. Meanwhile, the financial burdens required to maintain such a space-intensive landscape– like stormwater retention, road repaving and wastewater retrofits–are stressing the City budget. If these trends continue, the era of Central Park as the City’s golden goose may be coming to an end.

Tune in to the Planning Commission’s upcoming meeting on Wednesday, October 13 for a discussion of the Area 1 Plan development.

Fred15’s Take: The Area 1 plan lays out a compelling long-term vision for a more sustainable and financially productive landscape. A more urban environment with a mix of uses and transportation options would help absorb regional growth pressure, support nearby businesses and make this area a more attractive place to live, work and play. If correctly executed, this area of the City has the potential to become a compelling modern alternative to our history-rich downtown. But as the City opens up another access onto I-95, will Area 1 backslide into more sprawl-style development? Does the Plan contain adequate policy prescriptions to ensure that a more sustainable, productive urban vision is realized? We want to know:

  • How will the Plan discourage the creation of more surface parking lots and low-density highway-style development?
  • Once the interstate interchange at “Exit 131” is established, are there protections that can stop the new traffic congestion from paralyzing the City’s nearby arteries and disrupting residents’ quality of life?
  • How can “road diets” play a role in creating a more sustainable and livable Area 1?
  • How will public transit be incorporated in Area 1?

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