Councilors advance gateway project

Posted: October 16, 2013

The Winchester Star

This rendering shows the proposed entrance to the city at the eastern corner of Shenandoah University’s campus on Millwood Avenue as part of its project to improve Winchester’s eastern gateway. SU officials have said the city will control what is on the sign; the city logo has been used as a placeholder.
This map shows areas that Shenandoah University has proposed to landscape as part of the Millwood Avenue Public Improvement Project. University officials have said their goal is to improve the eastern gateway to Winchester and their campus.
This image shows the low wall and sidewalk that Shenandoah University has proposed for the campus perimeter as part of its improvements related to the Millwood Avenue Public Improvement Project.

WINCHESTER — A proposal to alter the appearance of a major eastern gateway to Winchester was embraced by City Council during a work session on Tuesday.

By a 7-0 vote, the councilors advanced a resolution endorsing Shenandoah University’s landscaping plans and timeline for the Millwood Avenue Public Improvement Project. The resolution could be approved at the panel’s Nov. 12 meeting.

The proposal calls for a reconfiguration of the Millwood Avenue-Jubal Early Drive corridor, including the controversial closing of a short stretch of Millwood in front of the university.

Changes planned to mitigate that closure’s effects include installing a free-flowing right-turn lane along Jubal Early Drive to redirect traffic onto Millwood and the installation of a traffic light at the slightly relocated campus entrance.

Road construction costs alone are estimated at about $2 million. SU has said it will pay all expenses associated with the project.

“We hoped that we’d meet council’s expectations,” Mitch Moore, SU’s vice president for advancement and planning, said following the decision. “We tried very seriously to come back with as much detail as we could so council could go back to the citizens and say this will be a good thing for the city and the citizens of Winchester.”

The presentation included a two-minute, three-dimensional video simulation of the corridor’s appearance. The video can be viewed at su.edu/easterngateway.

Councilors viewed the video and a heard a detailed overview of the plans from Syd Knight, a principal with BCHW/Van Yahres Studio. The Charlottesville architecture and planning firm is handling landscape design for the project.

Among the features highlighted were a faux orchard with flowering trees inside the main campus entrance, flower gardens at key corners, and a 30- to 36-inch tall wall likely made of limestone that would weave along much of the campus perimeter.

Landscaping also would be added near the Hampton Inn on Apple Blossom Drive because Shenandoah would extend the city’s Green Circle Trail there and be introduced to the stretch from the main campus entrance to the Winchester-Frederick County Visitor Center entrance, most of which is not part of the roadway project area.

The university would build and maintain an entry sign for the city at the easternmost part of the campus along Millwood Avenue. For illustrative purposes the city’s logo was placed on the sign, but Moore said city officials could control the content.

“I like the plans I see,” Councilor John Hill said. “I’m really glad there will be something for people to see, a sign to say that they’re now in Winchester.”

SU will maintain the landscaping and signage affiliated with the project, Moore confirmed.

Council Vice President Milt McInturff noted that the video did not show any overhead utility lines and asked if the university were looking at having them run underground.

Barry Schnoor, SU’s director of physical plant, said he’s working with multiple utility companies in hopes that they can be buried.

The overall plan impressed President John Willingham.

“This exceeded my expectations,” he said. “I think this is a great introduction to the eastern gateway.”

Major events in the project timeline include the start of an estimated 150 days of road construction in mid-May 2014 and the installation of final landscaping in the spring of 2015.

The councilors also:

Received an update on Old Town special events provided by Downtown Manager Jennifer Bell.

Voted 7-0 to advance a resolution supporting a bond initiative to fund the Frederick-Winchester Service Authority’s waste-to-energy project.

Voted 7-0 to advance a resolution and memorandum of understanding related to the Northwestern Regional Juvenile Detention Center’s operations.

Heard a presentation by Jim Deskins, Winchester’s economic redevelopment director, on a market analysis performed for the city.

Reviewed dates for city government’s strategic planning retreat.

Attending the meeting at Rouss City Hall were President John Willingham, Vice President Milt McInturff, Vice-Mayor Les Veach and councilors Evan Clark, John Hill, John Tagnesi and Ben Weber. Mayor Elizabeth Minor and Councilor Jeffrey Buettner were absent.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com