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Fredericksburg officials to consider changes to downtown development

Fredericksburg officials to consider changes to downtown development

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Fredericksburg City Council will vote next month on local developer Tommy Mitchell’s proposed mixed-use project at the corner of Hanover and Sophia streets downtown.

The “Hanover House” project has been in the works since 2013, but the original plans have been significantly altered.

“We appreciate that he stayed the course,” City Manager Tim Baroody said of Mitchell during Tuesday’s public hearing.

The four-story building will have 24 residential units, including four for affordable housing.

Mitchell initially planned multiple restaurants on the second floor, but that idea has been scrapped because of financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Fredericksburg Planning Commission recommended approval of the project with conditions and a vote will take place Oct. 13 whether to grant a special exception for residential density.

The Architectural Review Board also must approve the mass and scale of the project. Past iterations were approved in 2018. The gross square footage was 41,432, and it’s now 28,566.

Commercial square footage dropped significantly from 13,068 to 2,755 and will be limited to the first floor rather than the previously approved first and second floors. The building’s proposed height has been cut from 48 feet, 4 inches, to 44 feet.

The project is also set to include improvements in lighting, street trees and a brick sidewalk with mirrors installed at the Sophia Street parking garage for increased safety.

The four affordable units will be one studio apartment, one 1-bedroom apartment and two 2-bedroom units.

Chuck Johnston, the city’s Community Planning and Building Director, stressed that the four units are affordable and not low-income.

Vice Mayor Chuck Frye and Councilman Matt Kelly expressed concern that when residents hear the term “affordable,” they don’t realize what that’s based on.

The project calls for the four units to be occupied by families or individuals making less than 50 percent of the median income in the area.

Fredericksburg, along with Spotsylvania and Stafford counties, fall under the National Capital Region, which has one of the highest median incomes in the nation because it includes affluent areas such as Washington, D.C., Arlington and Alexandria.

Councilman Jason Graham asked if the percentage can be dropped to 35 or 40 percent for future projects. Johnston said that’s a possibility, but the city will not invent another formula. It could instead use a preexisting model to determine the definition of affordable.

Kelly said he applauds Mitchell for at least trying to bring some affordable housing to the city.

Taft Coghill Jr: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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