With plans for eight new buildings, new access to schools and community green spaces, changes are underway in a long-term plan for the Albemarle County School Division’s Lambs Lane Campus.
The vision is the result of months of planning and outreach with input from school and county staff as well as community groups. The division hired DLR Group, an architectural firm with offices in Washington, D.C., to draft a master plan for the campus, which serves about a quarter of the county’s students.
The current campus, most of which is behind Albemarle High School on the water road, is an inaccessible and confusing collection of buildings. The design team hopes the changes outlined in the plan will make the area feel like a connected campus.
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The master plan is essentially a recommendation on how to use the 216-acre site. If the school board approves it, the plan will serve as a model for other potential projects to be carried out depending on the funding available.
“We want to help you improve the use of the site while conserving these resources and using them more,” DLR’s John Chadwick said at a community meeting earlier this month. “It’s your plan. It’s not our plan.
The plan, which will soon be heard by the school board, calls for a series of changes on campus which includes Albemarle High, Jack Toyt Middle, Greer Elementary and Ivy Creek Schools as well as Building Services and Transportation Services. Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Virginia is also building a new facility on campus.
The architects envision a campus connected by a new loop road with new entrances to the water road and lamb road; a dedicated green space with sports fields, pathways and community gathering areas; and sites for eight new buildings. However, the plan does not include a cost estimate.
New buildings could be used for a new central office. They could include a welcome center for new families or a satellite campus for Piedmont Virginia Community College. They could be an applied learning facility. They could be used to meet the most pressing needs the team heard about.
The master plan calls for moving the transportation and fuel center off campus and moving the fields as well as the building services department. The objective of the master plan was to improve the accessibility and safety of the campus as well as to make the neighborhood more connected.
The plan has 26 elements with varying costs and works. For example, the division could move fairly quickly to improve signage around campus, but building the entire loop road will take much longer. New signs are needed because the team has heard in conversations that getting around campus is confusing and the current signage does not help.
“It feels like each panel was added to solve a problem, and each panel is different from the panel before it,” Chadwick said. “A lot of these signs could probably be taken down because the problem went away or things changed. Orientation is therefore very important on the site.
Signs could also show people how to access trails on campus,
“You have a pretty cool trail system, which we don’t think a lot of people know about,” he said.
The team came up with ways to break down the blueprint and gradually integrate different elements, so that the eventual price doesn’t stop the project. Funding for the various items will likely be part of the county’s capital improvement program in which the Board of Supervisors has the final say.
New routes and other recommendationsCurrently, the campus has an entrance and exit on Lambs Lane opposite the Loaves and Fishes Food Bank. This is a security issue and a second entrance is urgently needed, the architects said.
The team recommended that the division build a road to connect Lambs Road to Hydraulic Road with a second campus access point near Georgetown Green as soon as possible. The road would pass between football and baseball fields. The existing country house would have to be partially demolished to make way for the road. The plan calls for a traffic light at the new entrance, but the Virginia Department of Transportation would have to approve this change.
“Given the use of this campus, I think it’s going to be really important that you start working on that now, because it’s going to take a while, if that’s even possible,” Chadwick said.
The new entrance and route would eventually connect to another new route. The team recommended moving the Lambs Lane entrance further up the road and constructing a loop road past Greer andtoyt, recently renamed Journey. The abandoned part of the present Lambs Lane would be removed. Construction of this new stretch of road would require relocating the transportation and fuel hub.
The loop road would house three new buildings in the master plan and, if the division builds a secondary loop road, there is room for a fourth. During outreach, Chadwick said the team heard about the need for a central green space where students and the community can gather.
The green space will better connect the schools on campus. Currently, if Albemarle High students want to travel to Greer to work elementary school students, they must take a bus.
Parents and teachers have worried about the lack of sidewalks for years, and the county now plans to build sidewalks for the area in phases.
Green space, as described in the master plan, would fill the area inside the new loop road. The AHS baseball field would be relocated around the central green space, making it more accessible from the high school.
The DLR group recommended limiting new construction.
To see the presentation, go to https://bit.ly/3M04u4x.