Downtown gateway plan moves forward

Posted: June 26, 2013

The Winchester Star

East Lane and Piccadilly Street in Winchester would be rerouted under a plan for a new gateway into the downtown. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — City leaders have changed the look of downtown. Now, one of the major entranceways to the city’s core is in line for a makeover.

By a 7-0 vote at a special meeting Tuesday night, City Council approved an ordinance authorizing the purchase of 11 properties so the National Avenue-East Lane-Piccadilly Street corridor can be realigned.

Plans for the gateway improvements were unveiled in May. The city intends to buy the 11 parcels, demolish structures on them, and realign the streets to eliminate the two 90-degree turns drivers must make only one block apart.

The new entranceway would be either a direct route with branches off it to connect with side streets or a roundabout with connecting streets, according to diagrams provided by the city.

No one spoke regarding the project during a public hearing before the vote, and the councilors also did not comment.

Jim Deskins, the city’s economic redevelopment director, said Tuesday afternoon that the high-end estimate for the entire project is $2.7 million. That would cover property acquisition, building demolition and construction of the roundabout option.

The first phase of the project — acquisition — is near completion. Deskins said 10 of the parcels are under contract at a total cost of $1,246,000.

The properties under contract are:

216, 222, 226 and 228 E. Piccadilly St.

209, 211-213, 215, 219 and 221 N. East Lane.

247 E. Fairfax Lane.

Efforts continue to finalize a deal with the owner of 236 E. Piccadilly St., site of The Corner Store. That’s the only parcel needed for the project for which a purchase agreement hasn’t been reached.

Most of the buildings are vacant because they are or recently were in foreclosure.

While property acquisition is to occur this year, city officials have said it will be fiscal year 2015 before funding is available for the realignment. That would allow any tenants with one-year leases to remain in their homes until their lease is up.

In the only other action taken at the special meeting, the councilors voted 6-1 to appoint Minh Le as a Ward 3 representative to the Winchester School Board. Councilor Ben Weber opposed her appointment.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com