During our Two Communty eetings, we we're asked a lot of great questions about Bluestone Town Center. We're posting them here so that members of the communty who weren't able to make it can learn more. Please reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you cannot find an answer to your question.
Bluestone Town Center's request to change zoning from R1, R3, and B2 is rooted in the desire to create a vibrant "Town Center" Development instead of your typical subdivision development. As of right, a developer without the goal of including supportive and attainable housing in an attractive way could develop approximately 900 units, but if developed under the current zoning standards, there may not be a requirement for road improvements. By Re-Zoning the parcels to R7, our development team is committing to a master plan as well as significant improvements to the road network surrounding Bluestone Town Center. These improvements may include addition traffic signals, additional turn lanes, and other traffic mitigation techniques that will improve the existing road system.
· Has there been a partnership like the one with HRHA and Equity Partners before?
HRHA received an unsolicited proposal from Equity Plus in the Fall of 2021. After a period of negotiation, HRHA and EP agreed to a Joint Venture agreement in December 2021 to jointly develop Bluestone Town Center. HRHA has 51% ownership rights. Its role in the development is to ensure that the housing meets community needs and will remain affordable to rent over time and for first time home buyers and working families to afford to purchase.
More information on EquityPlus can be found on their website.
HRHA/EP has under contract approximately 84 acres of land for the development. The vision is to develop a community that includes a town center and green space and is walkable, bike friendly, and accessible to public transportation. The development will be ~60% homeownership and ~40% rental with an emphasis on mixed-income and mixed-use.
Homeownership will include single family and town homes for sale and will be targeted toward first time homebuyers with incomes between $60,000 and $100,000. Rental housing will include town homes, senior, and multifamily housing serving families with household incomes from $40,000 to $60,000.
Density is an important tool to combat sprawl, efficiently use limited existing spaces in the City, and preserve the rural county landscape. The town center design emphasizes a community of mixed income and mixed ages of individuals and families. It is comparable to other areas of similar size in the City such as the Central Avenue and Park View neighborhoods, which are composed of apartments, townhomes, single family homes, and commercial properties.
This development is not a shelter, and residents will not be transient. Residents will be homeowners and renters who are employed, with only ~75 units designated for elderly or disabled people who need rent subsidies. The average length of stay for HRHA residents is 6 years, and the national average of multifamily residents’ length of stay is 27.5 months. Most people moving into this development already live and work locally. HRHA currently has multiple families and aspiring homebuyers who can afford to rent on their own or buy their first home but cannot find units available.
The City is in dire need of affordable housing for teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and other civil servants who are priced out of the current market, as clearly shown in the 2021 Comprehensive Housing Assessment. Harrisonburg City ranks 83rd in the nation in terms of housing shortage and is 1,256 units short of meeting its housing need. That is according to a recent study by Up for Growth, a national cross-sector member network committed to solving the housing crisis through data-driven research and evidence based policy.
As part of the town center, HRHA/EP is proposing retail/offices/community services on the first floor with housing on the second level. HRHA/EP plans to focus on services versus retail and is working with local nonprofits and community service providers for healthcare, childcare, employment, and educational services primarily for the development’s residents, similar to what has been done in other developments nationwide.
HRHA/EP has no desire to compete with nearby existing retailers and services such as Wal-Mart and businesses on South High Street. HRHA/EP does want to promote a sense of place and destination, which is a critical value of the development.
Homeowners and apartment owners will be responsible for 100% of real estate taxes for their respective properties. Taxes on this development will increase City revenues. Tax revenue for 899 units at Bluestone would build up to $1,751,000 when all phases are completed.
Housing is a significant concern for many in the City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. With a 2-3.5 percent vacancy rate for rental and less than 5 days on the market for homes for sale, the challenge of finding a home is a real issue in our community. The lack of housing is having a negative effect on local businesses in recruiting and retaining employees due to their inability to find suitable and affordable housing. There are few to no options for first time homebuyers, and demographic trends show an increasing need for senior housing. HRHA’s waiting list is thousands of households long and composed of families living locally.
The City is in dire need of affordable workforce housing and housing for the elderly and disabled who need supportive services, as clearly shown in the City’s 2021 Comprehensive Housing Assessment. Lack of affordable housing is one of the City’s greatest challenges and consistently among the top concerns of residents in recent surveys.
The 2021 Housing Assessment noted that there was a large “missing middle” of housing availability in the Harrisonburg area – noting that there was demand for another 3,600 units of housing affordable to households earning between ~$40,000 and $100,000 annually. This project will deliver ~600 units of housing to meet this unmet demand.
The same study indicated a need for another ~530 units of senior and supportive housing. This project will deliver ~100 units to meet this need.
Additionally, housing was just named the number one need in citizen input on how the City should use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Harrisonburg City ranks 83rd in the nation in terms of housing shortage and is 1,256 units short of meeting its current housing need. That is according to a recent study by Up For Growth, a national cross-sector member network committed to solving the housing crisis through data-driven research and evidence based policy.
· More cars on the roads
· Enough parking spaces in the development?
The City requires adequate parking for new developments. Total parking spaces will be determined by the final number and type of units, which is still evolving as part of the site plan. The site is on existing bus routes and adjacent to the greenway bike and walking path.
A traffic impact study has been reviewed and approved by VDOT and Harrisonburg Public Works. The Full Study will be made available at the January 17 City Council Meeting. This study considers the current state of traffic, the impact of improvements, and potential mitigations that can be done to alleviate additional pressure on roadways.
Bluestone Town Center is proposing 60 senior apartments comprised of one-bedroom units. Multifamily units will include one-bedroom units. The total number of one-bedroom units in the entire development is not yet finalized as adjustments to the site plan continue to evolve. Housing policy requires one-bedroom units to house only one or two people.
· How will the cemetery on the property be handled?
· How much blasting will there be?
The existing cemetery will be part of the proposed green space and will be fenced off and left intact for access. Additionally, the development team will take great care to ensure that the cemetery is treated with respect, including the addition of space for people to visit to pay their respects. HRHA/EP anticipates little blasting will be necessary – nothing like what was needed to build Bluestone Elementary School. For sale individual homes will be manufactured off site and placed on permanent concrete foundations onsite. Townhomes and apartments will be stick built onsite. The site plan is being developed to place units in such a way as to minimize blasting.
Few sites of any size are available to develop in Harrisonburg. Current affordable housing is spread throughout the City. The majority of units in this development are for sale single family homes and townhomes for working people, including much needed teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and other civil servants, as shown in the project renderings. This development will be built in phases over six to eight years, and HRHA/EP will meet any City requirements for proffers for traffic mitigation and impact on schools and city services after the appropriate studies are completed. This development is not any denser than many existing neighborhoods in the City.
Mixed-income and intergenerational housing is the trend and best practice recommended in housing nationwide. Long-established City neighborhoods, townhouse developments, and apartment complexes already contain this same mix of incomes and ages.
Generations Crossing is a successful local United Way agency that combines day care for the elderly and children from infant to pre-school as well as before and after-school care. In the Bluestone Town Center, subsidized units for the elderly and disabled will be traditional apartment-style units situated among community service and garden-style apartment buildings at the development’s center.
HRHA/EP has conducted a phase 1 environmental study that identified no significant concern with any site issues on the property. While additional subterranean exploration and studies are required, HRHA/EP plans to work closely with the development’s architects and engineers to minimize the impact of rock and soil on site development costs.
Effective property management and consistent lease enforcement are best practices in reducing crime. HRHA, as the 51 % owner, will ensure the property management group addresses issues promptly and responsively. The development will also use “Crime prevention through environmental design” to ensure building placement and design promotes reduced criminal activity. As with all HRHA properties, use of a security camera system with access for the City Police will be employed to assist in passively reducing criminal activity.
The City’s comprehensive plan was drafted in 2018 and is scheduled for a review in 2023. The plan does emphasize the need for affordable housing, use of density to address the City’s housing challenges, and the desire to strengthen neighborhood communities. HRHA/EP envisions developing Bluestone Town Center as a Green community that meets specific community standards that promote sustainability, walkability, and use of green/environmentally friendly practices. Adhering to these standards will ensure consistency with the comprehensive plan. https://www.greencommunitiesonline.org/
In evaluating the site, HRHA/EP determined that the location is highly suited for the proposed community due to its close proximity to K-12 schools, parks, healthcare, and retail. As part of the planned community, some services and possible retail is proposed onsite. The specific services and retail have not been determined.
Amenities and distance:
Bluestone Town Center has the following amenities nearby: