Crozet resident Katina Wilberger and her niece, Lexi Pannell, look at a Crozet Plaza design concept Credit: Credit: Josh Mandell, Dexter Auction

A plaza designed to be centerpiece of downtown Crozet could feature wading pools for children, a communal fireplace or a railroad-themed concert stage.

At a public meeting of the Downtown Crozet Initiative on Thursday, Crozet residents offered feedback on three design concepts for Crozet Plaza, a 25,000-square-foot civic space at the former site of the Barnes Lumber Company.

“We wanted to give people an idea of where the plans were going so they can respond,” said Steve Kelly, project manager for landscape architecture firm Mahan-Rykiel Associates.

The Downtown Crozet Initiative, in collaboration with developer Frank Stoner of Milestone Partners, chose Baltimore-based Mahan-Rykiel over several other firms to design Crozet Plaza. The design concepts presented at Thursday’s meeting grew out of discussion at the initiative’s public meetings from this fall.

The meeting was held at Piedmont Place, an indoor market and apartment complex that officially opens Saturday. Attendees enjoyed food samples from Morsel Compass West and Smoked BBQ Co., two food trucks that will open restaurants in the new mixed-use facility.

Kelly said that, with public input from the meeting, Mahan-Rykiel and the Downtown Crozet Initiative can begin work on a new plan for the plaza that incorporates favored elements of all three concepts.

All three of the concepts are tied to Crozet’s history. The first, entitled “Orchard Grove,” alludes to the town’s agricultural heritage. It includes a “market-inspired” pavilion and an interactive water feature. A brick path winds through the center, with grass and trees on either side.

The second concept pays tribute to Crozet’s origins as a railroad depot. It includes seating elements that can move on rails embedded in the pavement. It also suggests repurposing an old train car as a concert stage.

The third concept is inspired by the former lumberyard that Crozet Plaza will occupy. A steel arbor and dense wooden benches would give the plaza a more industrial aesthetic.

Kelly said Crozet residents have expressed a desire to protect Crozet’s distinct, “quirky” culture as their community changes. “We want to create a place that feels like Crozet, not New York or even Charlottesville,” Kelly said.

Tim Tolson, chairman of the Crozet community Association and a member of the Downtown Crozet Initiative, praised Mahan-Rykiel and Milestone Partners for hosting a community event to get feedback on Crozet Plaza concepts.

“This is a unique and special opportunity to design our own park,” Tolson said. “All three concepts have something to offer. [Mahan-Rykiel’s] flexibility is key.”

Meg West, a resident of Crozet for 31 years, said she came to the public meeting to see how far plans for Crozet Plaza have progressed and to learn how a final design will be chosen. “The end result is what counts,” West said. “The plaza sets the tone for the whole development of Crozet.”

Alexander Brisker said he has missed the Town Square Plaza of Rockville, Maryland, since moving to Crozet in 2010. “There are restaurants and markets. It’s got everything you need in a small footprint,” he said. “You go there and make an evening out of it.”

Brisker brought his two daughters, ages 2 and 5, to the meeting. “We’re going to be in Crozet for a while. We’d like to have something our kids to grow up with and enjoy,” he said. “This is an important thing. I wanted to have my voice.”

The Downtown Crozet Initiative estimates that developing the plaza will cost approximately $3 million. Construction could start as early as 2018.

Milestone Partners has applied for a rezoning to incorporate a 6.25-acre parcel near The Square into the Downtown Crozet District. The property is currently zoned as Heavy Industrial.

Milestone also has applied for a proffer amendment on the remaining Barnes Lumber property to allow locally owned Perrone Robotics to relocate there.

Josh Mandell graduated from Yale in 2016 and has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association with five awards for education writing, health, science and environmental writing and multimedia reporting.