CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) – New life is on the way to part of the former JC Penney building inside Albemarle County’s Fashion Square mall. On Tuesday evening, the Albemarle Planning Commission heard a proposal for the use of vacant space.

“Albemarle County has known for 15 or 20 years that there was an acute need for space for the police department – and growing,” explained facilities and environmental services manager Lance Stewart.

Albemarle wants to use the storage and office space for the county police department and fire department.

“One of the driving forces behind this is sort of a new function that the fire service has taken on in recent years. It’s not well known that the county actually buys all the major devices for the volunteer stations, and they take responsibility for the upkeep of those,” Stewart said.

The new space will allow ACFRD to carry out repairs in a more central location, which will increase efficiency. It will also add a garage that can service a full-size fire truck.

“Their facilities are not suitable for this. Sometimes they have to work outside, sometimes in the winter. And if they need a part, just a little thing is to turn around, go back to central offices and go. They really needed it for a while,” Stewart said.

The center will occupy only part of the former JC Penney space. The rest can be leased to private companies.

“Our intention is to identify a permanent space and a permanent home to fulfill these functions over time. But it’s a multi-million dollar investment to do it. And we had acute needs that we felt we had to address as soon as possible,” Stewart said.

The commission voted unanimously in favor, saying the proposal aligns with the county’s overall plan.

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