Development Proposed for Cherry/Ridge

In today’s Progress, Seth Rosen describes a dispute over what to do with a big chunk of undeveloped land on the corner of Cherry and Ridge. It’s in private hands, owned by developers, who want to acquire a couple of small city-owned parcels next to it, but the neighborhood is opposed. Rosen does something in this article that’s so rarely done in the Progress, which is to present a brief, factual overview of the heart of the story, rather than merely dancing around it:

Yet in the coming weeks the developer likely will press councilors to make a final decision. If councilors acquiesce to a land deal, they risk alienating many outspoken residents. If they rebuff the offer, they could kill a development that would bring tax dollars and help revitalize the Cherry Avenue corridor.

Land owner Southern Development says the project can go ahead with the land that they have, they just figure it’d be better with the city’s land, too.

72 Responses to “Development Proposed for Cherry/Ridge”

  • Golly, how many more $300-K condos can we accommodate? And with all hyperbole aside, cars going in-and-out of a parking lot right there at the intersection of Ridge and Cherry will be a bitch. What about The Flower Man? Does he get bought out? On the plus side, maybe the “hos” that hang out at Tonsler Park will have to peddle their tawdry wares somewhere else. My, my, my…how times they are a-changin’.

    P.S. – I wonder what former mayor Maurice Cox thinks of this idea since it’s literally, right in his front yard.

  • It was a good article, but it had a glaring omission that is so very common for the DP – there was no map. This is a community with lots of new comers, and sometimes a small map in the DP stories would be immensely helpful.

  • Who cares what Cox thinks. The bigger concern is that the city is developing every inch of vacant property in the city, or lets developers have their way, and just last night council gave up McIntire Park to an acquatic/fitness center and parking lot.
    The park is gone. Shame on Lynch, Norris and Brown.

  • Isn’t population in the city stagnant, or even declining? I’m pretty sure the C’ville’s outline of population trends showed a decrease in the city population. And yet more and more dwellings are built. I fear a glut of expensive housing.

  • What I want to know is who exactly is buying or will be buying these $300K condos and houses??? Those townhouses on Rt. 20 coming into Belmont sat vacant forever.

    It boggles the mind (mine anyway).

  • The article mentions that the buildings would “meet stringent environmental standards”. This could be an opportunity for the City to make the developers walk the talk. Let’s finally see some design features like green roofs, rain gardens and landscaping with native plants. This could also address some of the neighbors concerns.

    Also, I suspect the developer owns lots of property. Maybe it could swap or buy some land elsewhere near existing greenspace to donate to the City?

  • Wait, I’m a little confused. Is this that hunk of land that more or less backs up to the graveyard? With that big, abandoned 3 story yellow brick house on it?

    If so, the idea of those woods being something terribly precious all of a sudden is a little silly. It’s all absolutely riddled with decades of trash and broken glass. My wife and I once entertained the idea of trying to buy that house as a big fixer-upper project and we took a good look around the property. This was probably 3 or 4 years ago. The only wildlife in evidence were some rabbits and feral cats. That whole strip of woods and brush right along the road is so full of trash that you’d probably need a bulldozer to get rid of it.

    It could eventually be a nice little patch of habitat with a lot of work put into it.

  • Jack, you hint at one of the great issues with “green space” in the urban area. Many people treat any area with forest as a convenient place to dump everything from household trash to appliances. Stribling avenue is another great example of this. In that case, it does have at least one unusual species (Umbrella Magnolia), but there seems to be a new load of trash there everytime I run down that road.

    As someone who really appreciates having green space in the city, I don’t really know what the answer is. I do, however, think we need to change the idea that greenspace is simply unmananged property. That said, I’m sure for the residents in this area, any group of surviving trees in the city would be something they might value. We’ve done such a terrible job as a city in creating, protecting and managing urban greenspace that any vacant lot with trees becomes treasured.

  • I’ve always been fascinated by that abandoned yellow brick house. If the lot in question is developed, it would be nice if the house could be rehabilitated or moved to a new lot where new owners could fix it up.

  • You have the wrong lot. That house abuts Elliot Avenue. The lot in question is on the west side of Ridge (same side as the tennis courts and the Flower Man). You could call it the northwest corner of the Ridge/5th/Elliot/Cherry intersection.

  • A neighbor's concern

    As grateful as I am to the Daily Progress for writing about this project I was also left wondering about some of the focus. A tiny piece of forest has no value with regards to protecting our native Virginia forests. A few old trees do not serve the same function as a more complete forest ecosystem. These forests exist in the counties surrounding Charlottesville and are being fractured by lots/houses that cost a good deal more then $300,000. Wouldn’t it be better if we lured such folks into the city? Although I am not excited about more buildings and more traffic on the outskirts of our neighborhood it does seem that the Cherry Avenue corridor is ripe for redevelopment. Perhaps Mrs Roades (who lives directly behind the proposed building site) and the rest of us living in Fifeville should out our effort into making the current parks in our area safe and enjoyable places to walk at all times of the day? I’d rather see increased car traffic along with increased foot traffic from this development then the stream of cars that are coming and will continue to come in from large developments out 5th street extended.

    I certainly agree with Lonnie that it is a sad day when vacant lots are our description of green space. To me, urban green space means public and accessible space with both quiet spots and places filled with noisy children. I don’t think they have to be as large as the Mcintire park golf course (which I have always found incredibly difficult to access as green space) or as fancy as the new park behind the McGuffey building but a nice mixture is what we have (sort of) and could certainly improve upon.

    This corner will be developed. It is zoned correctly and a large developer owns the property. It seems that if the city would like to maintain the most leverage over the project then they need to barter the sale of the small plots in question. Perhaps what we need to be focusing on is holding the developers to their promises of housing integrated with the neighborhood and built with a mind towards reducing energy use and building with more sustainable materials.

  • What are “sustainable materials?” Is this merely a phrase that people use for “feel good?” Is one material more “sustainbale” than another. What does this material sustain, itself? climate? quiet? habitat? I don’t understand “green” either so I hope nobody uses “green” to explain “sustainable.”

  • This is something I found:

    The term sustainable building is used interchangeably with green building. Its purpose is to reduce the adverse human impacts on the natural environment, while improving our quality of life and economic well-being.

    So let’s all move back into caves. Maybe Osama is on to something.

  • “Sustainability” and “green” are becoming used sometimes synonymously – it generally means materials and designs that are more energy efficient and less destructive to the environment. Currently, they cost a bit more to use, but the savings over time can be substantial.

    The terms fit more generally in with having a lower impact on the world around us.
    Also, more can be found
    here, here, here, and locally – TJPDC’s Green Building Sourcebook.

  • Thanks for taking the time to respond No Stone Unturned and Jim Duncan. It actually helps my understanding.

  • Funny how we independently and simultaneously gave almost the same answer.

    @Cville Eye – Glad it helps your understanding; please feel free to ask me any questions you may have on the matter.

  • A neighbor's concern

    I knew as I penned the word “sustainable” that I was in for trouble. . its been terribly abused as of late. I was careful not to say sustainable design or sustainable building which is confusing to me. Using sustainable materials, for me, means using materials that are built intelligently with regards to the environment. A huge component of that, especially as we are concerned with reducing our energy use, is materials that are produced locally or require less energy to produce. Another key component is that the materials work (shocking) and don’t need to be replaced in 10 years.

    Of course creating a building that is designed to reduce its impact on the surrounding environment is critical as well and I think that it probably the most common definition of sustainable. It can, as Jim points out, cost more. . but in the end its not only going to last longer and hopefully perform better but it will be more attractive to perspective buyers as more and more of us become concerned with reducing our impact on the planet.

    Lonnie mentions above the fact that a lot of the “sustainable design” (there it goes again) techniques (such as using native plants, green roofs etc) are attractive and put a lot of emphasis on thinking about how a building etc fits into its surroundings. It sure would be nice if this development didn’t look like. .say. . Walker Square?

  • “Sustainable” means that a particular action can be practiced (theoretically) in perpetuity because the action does not undermine the conditions that allow it to be practiced.

    That rather tortured definition can be clarified by thinking about it within the context of this contentious development. Let’s consider where the wood would come from for making the condos. Say that the developers will not use what is probably the most sustainable option, which is to obtain salvaged wood from demolished buildings, which would have probably the smallest environmental impact (assuming it did not require the release of toxins from old paint, asbestos, etc, etc) because it would not require the felling of trees, saw milling, and other energy-intensive processing requirements.

    Unfortunately, salvaged wood is not easy to find in one place. So, let us turn to where the “new” wood will be obtained.

    Basically, if the forests from which the wood is obtained are managed such that there is a fairly constant ratio of stand ages (and a reasonable mix of forest types) ranging from newly replanted to mature (or even old growth), than the wood can, in a crude sense, be considered to come from a sustainable source; the forest managers are not using up the stock of mature forest. This means that there is a mix of habitat available for different species, ranging from those that depend on old growth to species that prefer slash and other pioneer stage habitats.

    Of course, there are many other environmental factors to consider pertaining to forest management (how roads are made, what sort of erosion control is put in place, how habitats for rare species are treated, etc.), as well as the energy costs of wood processing and transport (it would be more “sustainable” if the forest is located in VA, rather than CA, in terms of the carbon impact).

    Sustainable does not mean “no impact”, because the individual organisms living in a given stand in our hypothetical forest will be affected when that stand is felled. However, the main question is, will the overall habitat available to the species diminish, remain constant, or increase over time?

    Anyway, that is a quick example of some of the factors that go into considering sustainability.

    A parting thought: is it more sustainable to maximize your use of already developed areas, even if it means densifying, or is it better to spread outwards onto new, less developed ground?

  • So adobe, for example, may be the most sustainably green material but is unattractive so it’s out?
    I’ve read that the old walls around two local graveyards are made of rock taken from the Ridge Street area. Would using that rock to make three-foot thick walls (like in a European castle) be acceptable? It would cut down on a lot of heating and air-conditioning and that rock is millions of years old. Also, Southern Development removed a lot of it from its development along 5th Street SW.

  • lde, posted before I read your additional information. Again, everyone thanks. So, baked brick is less sustainable than my rocks.

  • A neighbor's concern

    Excellent description Ide. For me the choice is obvious, maximize our use of already developed areas by increasing density (as “nicely” as possible) and everyone can live closer to where they work, play and shop.

  • I live in Fifeville. I chose to live where I do in large part because I like being able to leave my car at home and walk most places. The more people in the center of the city, the more businesses, the more walkable. For environmental, economic, and quality of life reasons, I think the city has been wise to encourage density in its zoning of downtown and West Main. So I am on board with all that. My main concern is that we see quality development that fits both the physical site and the character of the neighborhood. The site has a creek, beautiful old trees, and a very steep slope along Ridge. The slope will surely make a large project like this very disruptive. Few trees will survive. So there is a cost. It also sits next to some of the grandest old houses in the city.

    Train’s design seems to work relatively well with these challenges, but it is ultimately up to Southern Development to execute the plans. Here is where I become wary. Judging by their projects I have seen (Burnet Commons, Brookwood, Willoughby Townes) SD appears to be very capable with bulldozers, vinyl and hardiplank, but their projects seem to be flow from the “bigger house for the same money” strategy of suburban development everywhere rather than something more suited to infill on a difficult, historic site. This is just not what they do. Combine this with a reputation for being “aggressive” with neighborhoods and regulations and I think that we have good reason to be skeptical of what SD promises. The project will almost certainly use cheaper materials, fewer sustainable elements, and be more disruptive to the site than they promise at the outset.

  • I would agree about intensifying rather than extensifying. However, no one wants to live in a concrete jungle, so there are certainly limits to the amount and type of intensifying that should happen. Unfortunately, those limits often veer into the realm of personal taste and interest, which is why developments of this nature can be so contentious.

    Cville Eye, your stone sounds far more sustainable to me, given the local proximity and salvaged nature of it, but adobe might well trump stone in another area. Sustainability is situation specific!

    Also, i.r.t. the first paragraph of this response, reclaiming the old stone from the walls might mean digging up a part of someone’s history, thus touching on another aspect of sustainability–the social side. One person’s sustainable reclaimed stone is another person’s cultural travesty, just as building condos at the corner of Ridge and Cherry is one person’s example of good infill development rather than suburban sprawl, and for another it is a blight on a neighborhood that is changing character far too rapidly for their liking.

    The concepts seem simple enough, but the devil is in the details….

  • Arthur’s right, play hardball with those types. And since the real estate market is crashing, now is the time to work a deal. If some Mr. or Mrs. Deep Pockets can buy that creek and old trees and roadside cliff, and keep it green, now is the time!

    On the other hand, if the developer is Mr. Deep Pockets and in no hurry, and/or getting a good deal from some very hungry contractors during this crisis, that puts the advantage back on his side. I heard lumber prices are way down.

  • lde, the stones I’m talking about are not currently in walls; they were removed from the construction site recently and dumped somewhere. I used the walls as an example because they have shown that they are obviously hard enough to last. I believe the two graveyards and their walls are under local historic protection. One is near Martha Jefferson hospital and the other near the house that Jack Landers was talking about.

  • Well that makes them a very sustainable option indeed. I was simply using them as a rhetorical device to show how complicated the concept of sustainable development can become, particularly in a densely populated area. In the case of your stones, it seems that they would pose no such complications….

  • “Sustainable” means that a particular action can be practiced (theoretically) in perpetuity because the action does not undermine the conditions that allow it to be practiced.

    Excellent definition, lde — that’s far more concise than I’ve ever been able to manage.

    So adobe, for example, may be the most sustainably green material but is unattractive so it’s out?

    I’ve read that the old walls around two local graveyards are made of rock taken from the Ridge Street area. Would using that rock to make three-foot thick walls (like in a European castle) be acceptable?

    Actually, adobe is not a sustainable or green material, because it can’t be made locally, or so is my understand. We’d have to have the proper mud shipped clear across the country. Maintaining it would be difficult, to, because patching it up would involve, again, shipping mud across the country.

    But using local rocks? That’s just great — it’s the very definition of sustainable.

  • Oh, I didn’t catch that and was afraid someone would spend two weeks cussing me out about my advocating the destruction of those walls. I didn’t read your post carefully enough.
    As Kevin Lynch has said in the D.P. article, the lot will be developed. What he didn’t say is that the working policy of the City has been for years is that it SHOULD be developed. It’s my understanding that a former City Councilor has been on the payroll of SD for several projects. The part of the lot not abutting Ridge Street was re-zoned in 2003 by the City from apartment-type development to mixed-use to encourage development. The article says that the City has been working with the developer “unofficially” for several years to come up with a project that it will approve involving the two small city-owned lots before they sell. As colfer says, it will take deep pockets for the no-development option. Of course, the City-owned lots appear in the Comp Plan to be in the Ridge Street Historic District so the Board of Architectural Review will have to be involved so that ought to add to the expense. And I imagine the City will insist upon something called LEED(S?) so that will add to the cost. And being mixed-use there willl have to be some commercial space, so SD will have to figure out who will want to live there with maybe a beer and cigarette’s store there. Will be an interesting development.

  • Waldo, I don’t know if they could use the dirt in that area or not, but it used to be used to make brick in the brick yard that used to be in that area. Probably not. I don’t know the first thing about it, just conjecturing. Re-reading my previous post “Would using that rock…” clearly points to the rock used in the walls. Glad it was caught. I meant the current rock from the excavation.

  • Okay, Arthur just mentioned something here that sent up red flags for me:

    main concern is that we see quality development that fits both the physical site and the character of the neighborhood. The site has a creek, beautiful old trees, and a very steep slope along Ridge. The slope will surely make a large project like this very disruptive. Few trees will survive. So there is a cost. It also sits next to some of the grandest old houses in the city. (emphasis mine)

    I was unaware of the creek and that does change matters significantly. We really need to completely eliminate culverting (i.e. putting streams into a concrete pipe and channelling them into the sewer system) and enforce adequate stream buffer requirements. The practice of culverting streams is barbaric, outdated, and needs to stop. There’s no reason why developers can’t use functional wetlands and water features in their design instead.

    As keeping the character of the existing homes, I have some mixed feelings about that. I do think the level of quality should match or exceed the neighborhood; however, I don’t think that you should let existing building designs hold you back from building something better or more modern.

  • Also, a note about how I view the difference between sustainable building and sustainable design. A sustainable building might contain energy efficient materials, or materials from local renewable resources. A sustainable design can use normal materials but is designed with features like passive solar, green roof, or landscaping elements that help minimize the building’s impact on the environment and energy usage. For example, the county office building is a conventional building, yet they’ve retrofitted a green roof on top. I would probably call that a sustainable design, even though the building wasn’t necessarily made for it.

  • The mixed-use zoning does not allow for landscaping, but streetscaping, because the zoning requires the building to abut the sidewalk. The facade on the Ridge Street side must conform to the turn of the century designs in the district because of city code. The interior can be anything anybody wants.
    I think I saw a Planning Commission meeting on TV where SD said that it does sustainable development by using hardiplank and metal doors without wooden cores.

  • Lonnie,

    Reading your comment, I’m wondering if “creek” might have been an overstatement on my part. I can’t think of where the source for such a creek would be and I haven’t been in there for a while. I think I remember the neighborhood making such an argument and the city saying that the ordinance for streams and such didn’t apply. In fact, I take it all back. Bring on the bulldozers! (not really)

  • If I recall correctly, a year or two ago, a representative from Southern Development came before the planning commission asking for permission to dump all their debris (dirt, rocks etc) from another site onto the Ridge/Cherry site. Their argument was that they owned it and were going to build on it some day anyway, so why not start doing the infill now rather than later.

    Thankfully, the PC shot that idea down. The dumping would have required tearing the lot up and throwing in massive truckloads of debris– essentially destroying this steep wooded lot, causing erosion, and changing its topography radically and prematurely– long before a site plan or anything like that had even been submitted. IIRC, I’ve also heard about a creek there, and possibly graves, though local historians would have better info on that than I do.

    Does anyone know if Southern Development is one of uber-developer Charles Hurt’s many tentacles? And yes, Arthur is correct– SD has a bad rep for heavy-handedness and steamrolling neighbors.

    That parcel is far better off in the hands (er, paws) of feral cats and possums. It’s currently space, and it’s green, possibly has a cool creek, and it emits oxygen and much-needed peace and quiet. And I submit that that’s just fine. It doesn’t have to have the latest in stylish bright whirling doodads all over it to entice children, or mountain bike trails for the sporty set, or gravel paths for Urban Professionals to stroll upon without dirtying their shoes. Why does everybody feel the need to turn our dwindling green spaces into something “useful” or attach “attractions” to them? Civilized areas have to have some places, no matter how small, whose sole purpose is just to exist and sustain life. Redevelop the already developed Cherry St corridor and leave this green area alone. There’s no need to barter it for other green spaces elsewhere in the city.

  • Virginia Land once owned the land at Burnet Commons that SD developed.

  • A neighbor's concern

    Doolittle writes

    “That parcel is far better off in the hands (er, paws) of feral cats and possums. It’s currently space, and it’s green, possibly has a cool creek, and it emits oxygen and much-needed peace and quiet.”

    I walked through the site yesterday. Much of it is indeed peaceful and moderately mature woods (hardwoods) although that is largely the portion towards the top of the parcel. There is also a very large bamboo stand and the lower part of the parcel has a lot of brush etc. There is no creek. As with all pieces of land there has been run-off which appears to go under Cherry Ave and since it does not come out the other side I would guess it goes into the sewer system. This lot, however, is private and surrounded by very busy roads on all sides. At no time did we not hear traffic etc. As for animals. . I think the feral cats and possums spend more time living around houses then in this forest.

    The lot will not sit empty unless the city buys it and turns it into a park. Personally, considering how expensive that option must be, I would be opposed to such action. Cherry Ave has been zoned for these larger building projects. It seems that the question remains. . what do we want this project to look like? Can it be integrated into the neighborhood at all? Will we be proud to walk by a well planned and built project or will we be embarrassed that we didn’t lie in front of the bulldozers.

  • Regarding:

    It’s currently space, and it’s green, possibly has a cool creek, and it emits oxygen and much-needed peace and quiet. And I submit that that’s just fine. It doesn’t have to have the latest in stylish bright whirling doodads all over it to entice children, or mountain bike trails for the sporty set, or gravel paths for Urban Professionals to stroll upon without dirtying their shoes. Why does everybody feel the need to turn our dwindling green spaces into something “useful” or attach “attractions” to them? Civilized areas have to have some places, no matter how small, whose sole purpose is just to exist and sustain life. Redevelop the already developed Cherry St corridor and leave this green area alone. There’s no need to barter it for other green spaces elsewhere in the city.

    I can’t speak for others, but when I speak of management, I mean doing things like controlling invasive exotic species on the property (like Bamboo) and making it viable habitat for wildlife. A bunch of trees doesn’t necessarily provide a sum environmental or ecological benefit, especially if they make it possible for people to use an area as an illegal dumping ground. That doesn’t mean that the trees are without value, but it would be more valuable to have managed green space. With a little effort, a space like that could be made into viable greenspace, but the cost of that is certainly a factor.

  • Lonnie, I’m with you on cleaning up the invasive species. And illegal dump sites can be cleaned up a few times a year. But beyond that, I wouldn’t support further alteration of the site. Value is subjective.

    A Neighbor’s Concern– when I say that the site is emitting peace and quiet, I’m not saying you can’t hear traffic noise there. I’m saying that the site itself isn’t contributing to the overall noise level of the area. Trees and vegetation also act as an amazing sound buffer. Once they’re gone, and replaced by hard surfaced buildings, parking lots, and industrial dumpsters, the change in noise levels on surrounding properties will be pretty profound.

    Of course, the pipe-dream I’m proposing won’t fly in these revenue hungry times, but green spaces add so much to everyone’s overall living experience. Even the incredibly modest variety of green space like the one we’re talking about here. The civilized amount of vegetation in Charlottesville was one of the reasons I settled here decades ago. Sad to see it go.

  • Doolittle, you make good points. I hope you write City Council or go to the meeting to share them.

    Of course, there are other ways of getting some of those same things but through a more effective design. While you may prefer to keep the space as is, if that’s not an option then perhaps there are ways to “green” the development site? Sound can be mitigated, and by requiring native plants shrubs and trees, instead of traditional turf, you can make sure that the site has the highest level of ecological value possible. Things like a green roof or rain garden can also make sure that any stormwater leaving the site is clean, while also providing additional habitat.

    I also recommend that the neighborhood pick out some of the trees or areas of the property they feel are most important. That way you can maximize your voice in protecting the site. In the larger sense, I hope you’ll join me in advocating for a better set of policies that will do more to create, restore, and manage a network of private and public greenspace throughout the City. I’d love to see us come up with a comprehensive policy like the city of Tallahassee or other cities that have done this much better.

  • Southern Development was started by one of Hurt’s proteges and Hurt has been very supportive of SD. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hurt has some ownership stake. I asked someone who worked with both companies about it and they said that the relationship of Virginia Land and SD had always been curiously and ambiguously close. (not implying anything sinister, just that they are related)

    Antoinette Roades has assembled some evidence of a small graveyard on this land. It would have been the family graveyard of the Allen Hawkins family that lived in the small brick house on 5th across from the IGA. Hawkins owned much of the neighborhood now called Fifeville and built many of the pre-civil war houses on the surrounding streets.

    Antoinette and other long-time residents would be the ones who would know, but I believe that the bamboo came after a developer (Hurt?) decided to start clearing the land rather than wait for permission. He got some way into the trees with a bulldozer before the city stopped him.

    Doolittle, thanks for reminding me about the proposed debris dump. I knew I had better reasons to be suspicious. I remember going to a neighborhood meeting where the SD folks were talking about how they were trying to protect the oldest trees and listen to the neighbors concerns etc. But then someone asked about their plan, which seemed to be built on flat ground where the site had a 30 ft drop. “How are you going to do that?” “We have some ideas, but it’s premature to get into the details right now.” We learned the details of plan A in a few weeks when it came out that they wanted to dump all the debris from the hill they were destroying up 5th. I believe that Jim Tolbert stood up to SD and told them they needed PC approval. Otherwise they were just going to try to make it so ugly that the neighborhood would welcome whatever they proposed as an improvement. Those guys just reek of sneakiness.

  • Perhaps the City could fund another design competition for this site. This time they can include the requirement for green solutions. Too bad Ms. Hamilton is leaving Council at the end of the month and can not push the idea. She was quite successful with the Water Street design competition.

  • Thanks for the background information.

    I generally don’t like to be pessimistic; however, the association, even remotely, of Hurt to this project makes me really doubt that any aspect of it will be sustainable by any meaning of that word. You’d have thought that local government would have figure this out too by now, and go over any project associated with him or Wendell Wood using a fine toothed comb.

  • Lonnie, the City enjoys the large increases in real estate taxes SD’s projects have brought. It seems that SD has developed the corner of 5th and Harris Road, Burnet Commons, Brookwood and now Carter’s View. This was all vacant until about four years ago. I friend of mine insists that the two streams connecting 5th Street to Avon were left out of the City’s stream protection ordinance until SD had developed its portion of the land between Ridge and Willoughby so that the project would be less restrictive, calling it more “innovative.” With such a large tract of virgin land, I’m surprised its development went virtually ignored by the environment protection community. So, I don’t know why this 2.5 acres have risent to such paramount importance. After all, before the new 5th Street was built in the ’70s, there were houses there along Ridge.

  • I have at least one friend who I believe was also active in challenging aspects of the 5th Street Project on environmental grounds. The moment she’d heard what company was doing the project, she was instantly concerned about it. I never did follow up with her to find out if she felt any of her time she spent bringing her concerns to the City had any real impact on the final design or not.

    I was not aware that streams were left out of the protection ordinance to benefit specific developments. I certainly hope that’s not true, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it were. I think as a city we’ve been under the delusion that wetland mitigation is a fair trade. So, we allow developers to destroy a stream here or there and then create detention ponds, and artificial “wetlands” to replace them. I think the stats about our local water quality demonstrate rather clearly that policy has not been working. Just because you stick a stream in a concrete tube doesn’t make all your problems go away, no matter how many fake wetlands you create.

  • Lonnie, was your friend talking about 5th Street/Harris Road corner or 5th Street/Ridge Street Brookwood? Brookwood and Carter’s View appear to be very close to Moore’s Creek on the map.
    The City is full of creeks that alternate above and below ground, it’s hard to tell which are connected to which.

  • If Tolbert was the person that stopped SD from wrecking that lot, then that’s good to know. Any time an NDS staffer stands up to a developer, well that’s definitely newsworthy!

    The planning commission meeting involving SD and the debris was mind-blowing. The SD rep honestly couldn’t believe that anyone would have a problem with their making the lot look like a moonscape for a few years until they got around to building there. That should give you an indication of how out of touch with the day-to-day reality of the existing neighbors these developers are. And they honestly don’t care– it’s all about the lip service and doing the absolute bare minimum to squeak by. They know if they throw in an affordable unit here and a faux wetland there, the Planning Commission/Council will usually roll right over and stick their legs in the air.

    Hurt (along with many other developers) has a bad rep for starting to clear long before zoning and/or site plan issues are sorted out. Sure it’s against the rules, but only very rarely are fines ever levied. If the city is so desperate for revenue, then I suggest they start fining scofflaws. In our neighborhood alone, we had one person issued a big fine for having a compost heap and keeping a wetland safe– but a developer wasn’t even given a slap on the wrist for tearing up every scrap of vegetation and grading his huge lot before he even had a permit. Our city has some horribly skewed priorities.

  • “…usually roll right over and stick their legs in the air.”

  • Um, guess I should clarify that I meant they roll over like a doggie, not like a ho… D’oh!

  • Thanks, Doolittle, for helping me up off the floor. I’ve just been told that there is a creek that runs through the property, through a culvert under the park across the street, and culverted underground besides 5th Street to Rock Creek. I know cows used to drink from the creek along old 5th Street, so I’ll put some credibility in the creek story.
    The City does care about waterways evidently. I just saw a story on TV tonight where the City has joined hands with the Army Corps of Engineers to try to protect a stream, but I didn’t hear which or where. Mayor Brown was in attendance.

  • My frustration is that I think the general public is completely unaware of what it means to “culvert” a stream. Most people are horrified when they find out. Nonetheless, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of public attention given the issue, and for the most part it still seems like “business as usual” despite the new regulations. just look at Hollymead. They actually violated federal wetland laws and sailed through approval from the county anyway with a minor fine.

    The site for Albemarle Place, also has a stream running through it (the other half of which is buried under Seminole Square). Out of sight is out of mind, and once buried the streams are usually gone forever. Basically these developers are basically turning these streams into sesspools. UVa to it’s credit has initiated one of the only programs I know of locally to “daylight” streams like the Dell and bring them back to life. There’s really no logical reason though why our community can’t demand that we stop burying them in the first place…

  • Why does our culture think that somehow we can buy/build “green.” Give me a break! You can’t buy your way into a better world. The best technological/environmental solution is to just curb consumption and that includes all new construction.

    Frankly, i don’t understand who’s buying all these new houses and townhomes. I’ve been noticing a fairly significant slowdown in purchasing and ultimately, the glut of ticky-tacky pastel palaces impacts the rest of the real estate market.

    The developers have run our city for a long time now and whenever “we the people” express concern over the loss of green space the battle cry is “buy right.” The density is killing me. Our once quaint city is turning into a traffic filled congested mess. I grew up in atlanta and this is beginning to resemble my nearly two decades in the “fastest growing county in the nation” (Gwinnett). Building close to downtown doesn’t really cut down on traffic. With all the added in-fill, i’ve noted added traffic. People can walk places but still aren’t choosing to do so. And i’d really like to understand why all new construction is HUGE. Big news here: you can’t have a “green” home that’s 3000 sft with two heat pumps….that’s called denial. And ultimately, i don’t think c-ville needs any more high-end trendy retailers. We need a reality check.

  • Oriah, I think the idea is to build in the City and not build in the rural areas. That’s the way most counrtries in Europe are laid out. It’s new urbanism when you build up and not out. It’s smart growht when you live near where you work, you live near where you shop, and you live near where you play or you ride a bike or mass transit to do those things. “Greeness” is a different idea and so far there has been little discussion, if any, in City Hall. If you go by past history and not a lot of hot air, Southern Development will pretty much build what it wants to, how it wants to; the only stiupulation may be that some “affordable” units may have to be included in return for the City’s selling its two lots as was the case with Willoughby Towns on 5th Street Extended. Consider it a done deal.

  • Another Consideration - The Neighbors

    I certainly think many of the areas discussed in these posts are of interest, and I love the fact that in a town the size of Charlottesville people are extensively blogging about the environmental, aesthetic, and other elements of this project.

    However, noticeably missing is the effect of this development on the individuals who currently live next to or close to this proposed development. The only mention I found of local residents in the past 51 posts was of the “hos” that are found in Tonsler Park. I spent several years working with youth in the area, and in Tonsler Park in particular, and can attest to the fact that there are many more people in the area, and who populate the park, than “hos.”

    This issue is, of course, more broad than this specific development. The redevelopment of Cherry Ave./Fifeville started a while ago, with the roots laid long before that. The expansion of downtown (and the medical center, student housing, etc.) is of course inevitable. In addition, the issue I raise is, of course, not new – gentrification is a staple condition of many cities, including Charlottesville.

    I guess the issue I raise is not one of practicaliy or reality – of course this development will happen, and Cherry Ave./Fifeville will continue to slowly (or quickly) undergo “Belmontification.” I think my issue is one more of ethics/morality. While there are many economic, criminal, and other social problems within the neighborhood, people live there, and a culture exists. Kids walk to each others’ houses, neighbors sit on the front porch, people walk to the store, etc. As I think about the kids and adults I got to know during my work in the area, I feel sad that the neighborhood they grew up in will change – not to accomodate them or better their existence – but to force them to relocate somewhere else. No matter how the neighborhood is “fixed up,” building $300,000 condos does not fix social conditions of impoverished people in the area. That pattern of development, through property taxes, sale of rental properties, and other social and economic pressures, forces them and their poverty to move elsewhere. The only thing that changes is that they can’t call home “home” anymore.

    If folks are interested in promoting development of the neighborhood that improves current residents’ quality of life and maintains the population currently in residence, one strategy is the construction of new affordable housing targeted toward lower-income individuals with strict income restrictions for purchase/rental. Of course, there are many such initiatives across the country, and in Charlottesville, that produce variant results. I won’t argue too hard for this particular idea as I’m not an urban planner/developer. However, constructing new housing for current residents is a way to politically prevent private developers with narrow interests in mind: It’s hard to tear down new construction, even if it is for low-income folks. Building a new house ensures that that house will be there for a while, and that the resident who lives there will stay there.

    Whatever the strategy, my biggest argument is to consider the intentions behind building more condos similar to the ones on Route 20 or going up elsewhere. Instead of only considering the best interests of (1) the private developer, and (2) the fairly wealthy individuals who will be able to afford the commercial/residential space, should we also consider the interests of those that already live there and call that area home?

    As we move forward with continuing to drastically change Charlottesville, can we make room at the table for all who deserve a spot?

  • That last comment was enormously interesting. Thanks so much for your contribution!

  • Oriah, I greatly appreciate your comments. I fear we’re a rapidly dwindling minority however. The American culture is overwhelmingly consumptive, money-centered, and obsessed with reinventing the wheel (let’s create new green spaces out of old green spaces!). They do indeed think that if it can’t be bought and sold, it’s of no use to anyone.

    Most of the developers are sucking all the charm out of this city. Their idea of innovative design is exemplified by the clumps of Swedish seaside village homes in weird colors with out-of-proportion cornerboards (10th and Page for instance). And Walker Square? Holy Toledo, I hope that development isn’t a horrible presaging of what the coal tower project will look like.

    New Urbanism certainly has merit, but it’s being used as a singular tool to fix every single problem, regardless of whether it’s appropriate or not in every instance. That’s just lazy thinking. Sometimes you need a screwdriver, not a hammer. The disturbing thing about the Urbanistas is that they’re emerging from school having been indoctrinated rather than educated. It’s a form of label worship. There’s no wiggle room in their thinking, and I fear that our city will begin to physically mirror this narrow-mindedness.

  • Cville eye, i understand the concept of in-fill but have observed it’s impact. Cville isn’t europe and until we address creating mass transit, what we get from in-fill is more traffic. I chose to buy a home in fifeville for a variety of reasons. I work at the medical center and i can walk to work, i can walk downtown, and i can walk to the parks (Tonsler and Forest Hills). I love the convience of the area and don’t see anything Southern Development as being “good.” I mentioned “green” building as a function of the posts to the blog. At the neighborhood association meetings i attended about 3 years ago, they (SD) were pushing the agenda of developing that site with the attitude of, “it’s our property and we can do what we want with it. We don’t need your lowly opinions….” And when i look at what they have developed, all i see is plastic…literally. Burnett Commons is 60 houses built in 60 days.

    And to bring something to the table that’s being overlooked, i’d like to mention that all this high density in-fill in occuring in the traditionally “black” (and lower income) parts of town. You don’t see density in affluent areas. If it’s good for the city it should be good all over the city. I’m unfortunately sitting close to all the potential high density development (cherry ave across from tonsler and lets not forget the land behind the salvation army is owned by keith woodard and is also zoned for density).

    Maybe i could embrace in-fill if the added units weren’t granted parking space. And if “green-space” were something more than lawn with a service berry bush or two. I personally would rather have a few “ho’s” and maybe even a drunk or two hanging around than have more cars cutting through my neighborhood.

  • Another Consideration – The Neighbors, your concern for the current residents is interesting. For decades, housing in Belmont, Ridge Street, Fifeville, Tenth and Page and Rose Hill Drive were more than affordable, it was comparatively cheap. I choose these neighborhoods because they have been designated by the City as Community Development Block Grant neighborhoods and are currently elligible for about $700K in federal funds annually. Funds have been allocated for housing rehabilitation, both for home owner and rental, weatherization and handicapped accessibility, and downpayment and closing costs assistance. AHIP, Habitat and Piedmont Housing Alliance have been very active in these areas. When housing has come on the market, it has been the residents, for the most part, who have not wanted to buy the housing in the neighborhoods where they have lived and could easily afford. When they chose to buy, they have bought elsewhere. Of course, now that people observe the higher income moving into these neighborhoods, it is thought they do so by displacing current residents. They are moving into empty housing.
    And, too, new house construction is a for-profit business. It is not a social service. Private property owners should not be required to diminish their wealth by performing charity work, nor should grocery stores, gas stations or clothing stores. If the public wants low-income, affordable and safe housing then it should create it in publically-owned housing and spend its money to support it.
    Housing is usually the largest source of wealth for most people and they should be encouraged to sell it at the highest prices they can in order for them to maintain themselves through their retirement years and not be dependent upon the public. People seem to have a resentment towards developers and let that resentment narrow their focus on issues concerning housing.

  • oriah, I was not giving MY opinion on development, I was simply stating where the City is in its thinking. It’s the City that people will have to deal with, not me. I will most likely be looking to move to another locality in the not-to-distant-future that more closely resembles the Charlottesville of my youth. I find this place more and more irritating in my old age. I was not criticizing anything that you had to say or the way you said it.

  • Gentrification is often not what it seems. Living in Fifeville for a few years now, I have seen cases of long time residents being forced out by rising rents or demolition. But more often it is decades of landlord neglect that finally drives them out, leaving housing stock unlivable for years before the new development comes in. If there is a dominant story of what has happened in my corner of Fifeville in the last 5-10 years, that is it. But there probably isn’t any one dominant story. It is really a mix of lots of different stories. A husband and wife who grew up in neighborhood are ashamed to be living in the ghetto and determined to provide a “better life” for their family. They both work two jobs and finally save enough to buy a house in one of the outlying areas. Others who left were longtime residents of Charlottesville, but seemed to be constantly moving from one place to another, renting rooms from friends, relatives, and slumlords. They may have been pushed out by gentrification, but it would be hard to say exactly. They were already so transient. As for the long time owner-residents, I am sure that some of them are upset about changes in the neighborhood and I doubt anyone likes increasing property taxes. But there are also many who welcome the changes. When UVa Prof. Corey Walker made a documentary about the gentrification of Fifeville, he clearly wanted to show the negatives of “revitalization.” However, the people who had been there long enough to speak to the changes had very few criticisms. Indeed, most were enthusiastic about the changes.

    The story of long time residents being pushed out of their homes by wealthy developers is not the only story of gentrification in Fifeville. The belief that it is the only story distracts from the more relevant issues at stake in this case – traffic, environment, aesthetics, a particular developer with a history of bullying, and the other things we have been talking about here, all of which are directly relevant to residents.

  • What Arthur says is true for many areas in Charlottesville. I find it interesting that he says that the longtime homeowner residents seem to have few complaints about the change in the economic demographics of Fifeville. They were more concerned about their property taxes, is the way I’m hearing it. Just like everybody else in town. Most of the complaints seem to come those who do not live in the neighborhood but consider themselves “advocates” for those who do. Since English is not a second language for most of the residents or those who have left, I wish the “advocates” would allow them to speak for themselves. It should be noted that all of my comments have been informational and without recommendation. I am not a member of that group and do not have the arrogance of speaking for them.
    Arthur is also right that the issue is the development of this particular tract. I would like to observe that I saw absolutely no neighborhood inpurt, pro or con, when this property was being rezoned to Transition Zone for Mixed Use. I wondered what kidn of high density housing and commercial uses would be appropriate for that site on that corner. The time for the neighborhood to have provided input was during that process rather than during the by-right process when the horse is already out of the barn. Again, the only real issue, according to current code which will govern as soon as the site plans are submitted is vehicular access, historic compatibility if the City parcels are included and what “proffers” the developer will offer in order to buy the City’s small portion.

  • Another Cosideration - The Neighbors

    First, let me say how much I appreciate the ability to discuss issues like this on this website. Many cities do not have a site in which so many important issues get intelligent, yet respectful, treatment. Thanks.

    Second, my response:

    Overall, I’d like to share thoughts in two areas: (1) my right to speak or voice an opinion on the issues in Fifeville, and (2) the distinctions among (a) causes of community problems, (b) goals for the community, and (c) solutions implemented to achieve those goals.

    Regarding the first area, several of the responses above questioned the ability or right of others (including myself) who do not live in the community to voice an opinion or share ideas about the improvement of that community. I disagree for several reasons.

    First, I think there are many different types of people who may be “part of the community.” Of course, residents are part of the community, but so are people who own businesses in the community or work in the community. The gentleman who runs Tonsler Park, for example, has been an integral part of that community for many years, yet he doesn’t live there. As someone who worked in the community for several years, I would consider myself to have been a part of it.

    Second, I don’t think that it’s critical to be a part of a community to share thoughts or ideas about how to make it better. Building and maintaining a community is complex, and may require a lot of perspectives and expertise in many areas to achieve success. If I get a complex form of cancer, I very much want to gather a team of experts to tell me what’s wrong with me and how I can fix it. Those doctors aren’t me, but they certainly may have a sense of how to fix me. In the same way, all of the experience and expertise required to successfully build and maintain a community may not be located solely within the community.

    Third, while some residents may have voiced an opinion publically or been interviewed for the professor’s documentary, there are many more community members who either did not have the opportunity to speak up or do not have the ability to do so. For example, there are many children in the Fifeville area who likely do not have the skills to seek out public forums or compose speech to adequately describe their developmental needs. There are also many adults in the area who, because of lack of education, intimidation with the political/social processes at hand, or otherwise lack of understanding of how to meaningfully participate, do not and/or cannot voice a true opinion of their opinions on community change. I believe that it is not irresponsible, but highly responsible, for those with both (1) intimate knowledge of the community, and (2) the means and skills to do so, to speak on behalf of those who otherwise cannot or will not.

    Regarding the second area of my response, I believe there should be a distinction among (a) the causes or roots of community issues, (b) the values and goals for community development, and (c) the specific solutions taken to move forward toward those goals.

    The comments above that address “why” people leave or the “reasons” that communities decline are speaking to the “causes” of community-based problems. Although they may be considered when discussing solutions, the causes are independent of the solution. The causes to do mandate particular solutions, though they may influence the selection of potential solutions. That some residents may leave due to conditions other than gentrification (cause) does not mandate or justify gentrification (proposed solution).

    Different than causes are goals and values for community development. I would imagine that most people – in Fifeville and across the city – have similar values and goals for their neighborhood – aesthetic quality, safety, etc. While there many be some disagreement (e.g., some community members may be more interested in affordability , some in property values), there are probably many shared values and goals. I doubt few in Fifeville would argue with the goals of reducing crime and improving the beauty of area.

    One particular value or goal that I think is important to address is both improving a community while at the same time maintaining the composure of that community. The Fifeville community is not only defined by the geo-political boundaries of certain streets. The “community” is – more importantly in my opinion – the people who are a part of the community and their culture. If the population base of the neighborhood changes by 50% over the course of the next five years, the community was not improved – it was replaced. The physical infrastructure of the neighborhood may have been improved, but the community moved out.

    Finally, there are the “solutions” to community problems, or ways to improve a community. Mixed-use development, mixed-income development, increasing youth programs, and improving schools are just a few of the potential solutions to improving a community. I believe that the selection of particular strategies should occur in a highly sophisticated and planful manner. I believe that, while some change may be initiated and led by residents, more comprehensive community change often takes a team of individuals with a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise. While input from community members should be considered when selecting strategies, other factors should be considered more heavily, such as which strategies have been shown by research and experience to have the greatest probability or producing measurable change (attainment of goals/values of members of the community). The average resident or member of any community is not likely to have the expertise necessary to make these decisions, which is why the field of urban planning exists.

    I am not an urban planner, and as I said in my last post, I am not making a strong argument for any one of these strategies. I will comment, though, about the affordable housing strategy I mentioned earlier. Cville Eye – you mentioned the number of housing initiatives and organizations that have increased the stock of affordable housing in the area, but I wonder if most of those are truly affordable to the residents. Piedmont Housing Alliance, for example, frequently targets new construction toward individuals/families at 15-33% of median family income. Many of the residents in Fifeville and in other transitional or low-income neighborhoods are below that threshold, and therefore cannot afford the housing that is replacing the physical infrastructure in their neighborhood. In my work with many families in the neighborhood, I know of none that would not be interested in owning a beautiful new house if they could afford it and had the skills to investigate and purchase a home. None of the families I met were interested in continuing to live in deplorable housing conditions.

    In summary, I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do think that it is not only my right, but my responsibility to use my words to further the improvement of the neighborhood of which I was a part. I also believe that we should be more specific when talking about causes of, goals for, and potential solutions for community improvement. Finally, no matter which solutions are chosen, I believe we need to move forward with community improvement with the fundamental belief that the “community” refers to people, not just buildings, and that community improvement only occurs if the community actually stays.

    Thanks again Cville Eye, arthur, Waldo, and everyone who makes this forum so interesting to frequently visit!

  • Another Cosideration – The Neighbors, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts.
    I do disagree that people need a formal education in order to participate robustly and effectively in our democracy.
    I do disagree that space should be reserved in neighborhoods so that the children can live in the neighborhoods of their parents.
    And, I do disagree that urban planners are in a position to make the best decisions for neighborhoods. I believe their most useful role is to compile the necessary information, present it and let the people decide how and where they wish to live.

  • Another Cosideration – The Neighbors,
    Thanks for the long, thoughtful comment. That is a lot to digest and respond to on Christmas Eve, but I will take a shot at some of it.

    I am not sure if you are including mine among the “several of the responses above questioned the ability or right of others (including myself) who do not live in the community to voice an opinion or share ideas about the improvement of that community.” I suppose, I did say “residents” though I didn’t intend to shout you down with that. I probably should have said “stakeholders” or some such. Of course you have a right to speak to this issue.

    I do object to you using an inaccurate picture of what is happening to residents in Fifeville to claim the moral high ground. You were advocating on behalf of the residents, were you not? Well, I was just trying to point out that the residents and their reasons for leaving are more varied than you implied. I’m not trying to be impolite, but I think the storyline of long-time residents being forced out by investment is misleading and lends itself to distracting, self-righteous crusades.

  • Arthur, at first I thought self-righteous then I re-read the post looking for it and found mere concern for what some people consider unfortunate people. The issue that Council has to decide is whether to sell its two small parcels. Since it is publicly owned land, this is a city-wide issue.
    One danger in speaking for other people that you suspect are being harmed is that they may not follow you. I’m thinking about the big clamor for city housing for the teachers, firemen and police officers. Money poured in to build new houses for them and they are still trying to encourage them to buy them. So, now the money can also be spent to house them in the County. It seems the problem of public servants not being able to afford to buy a new house in the City did not equate to public servants not being able to find a new house in the City that they could afford. I don’t think they were looking.
    Fifeville was a neighborhood built primarily by the middle class. A large number of that demographic moved. No one complained that they and their children should stay there because it was there home. Now, that demographic is moving back. And, eventually, they will move out again. That’s why so many low-to-moderate income people supported the Fair Housing Act, realizing that it would work both ways.

  • Another Consideration - The Neighbors

    So, interesting that I chose a topic as my name instead of my actual name – it’s made for an interesting way of being addressed :).

    Cville Eye – I very much agree with all of your points. I don’t think you need a formal education to have an opinion, that children by default should be entitled to live in a certain location when they grow up, or that urban planners are in the best position to make decisions. I think my posts related more to obtaining multiple perspectives and then using an effective, structured approach toward making complex decisions. I am a school psychologist by background, and have a strong belief in involving children in their own therapy. If you don’t, it doesn’t work, and if it does, it doesn’t last. At the same time, I would never expect the child to treat him/herself by him/herself. So, dumping to the neighbors and giving them sole control over what happens in their neighborhood is most likely not a good thing, but not considering their input would be disaster.

    Arthur, I absolutely love what you said about “self-righteous crusades.” All too often in education, I hear people advocate for programs, services, or interventions that sound really good to people’s hearts. But, in reality, there is no research beyond them. I love my sister, but she spent two years of her life in the Teach for America program, which places college graduates with no experience in education in the neediest classrooms. My sister had 5 weeks of training before she became solely responsible for teaching every 4th grade student at her school how to read. She thought she could do the job because she had a big heart, but quickly learned that it takes more than “thinking and believing you are good” to actually be good. All with good intentions, but perhaps one of those “self-righteous crusades” you mentioned.

    All of that is to say that I agree – my intention is certainly not to walk into an unfamiliar situation and start preaching my gospel, and I love to sniff out a self-righteous individual as much as the next person. I appreciate the comment, Cville Eye, about me being more “concerned” than self-righteous. I guess all-too-often I find myself in the position of having to stand up for the communities I work with because they don’t/can’t themselves. True, I may be wrong about my perspective, but at least I’m someone who is trying to ascertain their best interests, even if I’m wrong, as opposed to looking out for my own financial gain. I guess as long as I clarify that they are indeed my perspectives, not residents’, maybe I can help some of the time.

    Arthur, in terms of your comments about my inaccurate picture, I certainly appreciate you expanding my viewpoint in that area. While I did work with many families in the area, I worked primarily with the kids, and didn’t always have the opportunity to hear parents’ extended perspectives on community change or their reaons for movement. I don’t think my thoughts about new development pushing people out is completely off-base, but I think you’re right – to claim that that’s the only story of folks, or even the main one, may be misleading. Again, that’s one thing I appreciate about this forum – the ability to learn so much.

    Lastly, Cville Eye – very interesting and poignant comment about community change that tries to give people something they don’t want. I think this happens a lot, and is the strongest danger in not involving residents in community change. As much as I may argue for the right of residents to stay put, many of them may be excited to move out of the area for slightly better living conditions. While it may seem important to myself to be able to live close to downtown in a historic neighborhood, some residents may actually prefer to live in a new apartment complex in the suburbs provided there is adequate transportation. I guess my main argument in this area is that that should be their choice, not a choice forced by new development or a lack of support in maintaining their living condition in their current location.

  • Another Consideration – The Neighbors, I am glad that you continue to post. Your concern for significant resident input in neighborhood development has been expressed many times by others in many meetings in the past ten years. Indeed, former Councilman Blake Caravati spoke about the issues of gentrification and the conversion of lower-income rental units to owner-occupied at one of the meetings during his month in office.
    The issue of gentrification in Fifeville in particular, I believe, is expressed as a negative impact in both the 2000 and 2005 neighborhood Comprehensive Plans, both of which have been adopted by the City as guides to official City policy. The City held numerous meetings in the neighborhood in order to allow the residents and property owners to have ample opportunity to express their desires and fears. According to a friend of mine who lives in the neighorhood, a city planner attends the monthly meetings of the neighorhood association. The neighborhood has also been a CDBG target neighborhood, receiving special funds for neighborhood improvements and has a permanent seat on the CDBG task force. My friend says that the concern translates into funds for homeowner rehab, rental rehab and new house contrruction for people with low-to-moderate incomes. This is all to say that the City has listened to a lot of what the residents with little formal education has had to say.
    It’s important here to separate the elderly and the physically and mentally handicapped from the hale and hearty low income residents. The latter should remain flexible in housing and employment choices in order to move up the economic ladder. It is often to their advantage to live near where they work and shop; thus, there is a need for many in this group to live in the urban ring. They don’t all wish to work at UVA nor do they want to shop downtown. So why not live in one of those brand new, modern apartments or townhouses in the County? And, too, the City schools are struggling to adequately education their children for “socio-economic” reasons, why not live where their children can attend a school that doesn’t say that it’s their fault their children do not succeed? As employment opportunities continue to grow in the surrounding area, it is almost imperative that many be prepared to migrate. Currently, there is no housing except for the limit units at the Independent Resource Center on Cherry for the handicapped so I suspect loss of housing has an neglible impact on that group. The elderly, my contemporaries, are not going to last anywhere for too long. The City has rental assistance, utility assistance, home improvement assistance, and real estate tax assistance for this group. These are the issues that have come out of the neighborhood and the City is attempting to address them. Often, we move where we can get assistance in living (even assisted-living) because we become unable to live along or we die.
    I guess I would be more concerned if I heard that the ranks of the homeless were increasing with people displaced from Fifeville, but I’m not.
    If I’m not a part of a group, I will give them my opinion, I will help them get information and I will go with them to add the support that comes with numbers. I will not speak for them.
    Some of the model of the migration from the South to the northern industrial towns decades ago can be compared here.

  • Another Consideration - The Neighbors

    Cville Eye – thanks for continuing in the discussion! I will admit, or shall I say express gratitude, that I have learned quite a bit about my perspectives on these particular issues from our conversations on this post. I think what you are saying makes sense – maybe it’s more important to other (e.g., me) that those residents continue to live where they live because it’s part of my value structure. Perhaps it’s me that’s being inappropriate, as opposed to developers, with imposing my values on others. I think you’re right in that moving to a newer neighborhood with less crime and schools that are perceived as more effective is a more attractive choice than trying to stay and “save the community.”

    Perhaps this changes the subject somewhat, but I’m interested in your viewpoints on how to proactively transition community services to those outlying areas as the geo-social characteristics of both the city and county change. With dense housing, it’s easier to concentrate services in central areas. However, when many miles separate consumers of such services, how should the city and county start preparing to shift services, or have they already begun such preparations.

    Another question for you – one concern in my mind is that as low-income residents de-centralize, their needs become less visible. It’s easier to ignore problems when they’re hidden in apartment complexes on the outskirts of the city. Do you think the same types of services and assistance offered by the city will continue to be levered on behalf of residents when they move?

    Of course, this transition has been occuring, so the answers to some of these questions may already be able to be answered. What are your thoughts?

  • Another Consideration – The Neighbors, please, please remember this is a conversation, I am not a part of the group, and there’s a good chance I don’t know what I’m talking about. Also remember, I believe there is a place for others to show support by serving as resources for people, to sign their petitions, and fill the ranks at public meetings.
    I am not certain exactly what services the City provides for the residents of Fifeville that are not available in Albemarle or the surrounding counties. Can you enlighten?

  • Another Consideration - The Neighbors

    Cville Eye – No worries. I do indeed remember this is a conversation, not a decision-making forum, and most of all interested in simply discussion. So, I won’t hold you to your comments :).

    That’s a great question about the city vs. county services, and I think is similar to the question I posed to this discussion forum – how will services change as the living patterns of low-income folks change?

    One specific thought I have is in after-school/recreational programming for kids. Many kids in low-income areas walk to programs, or possibly catch the bus from a school. They also are often expected to walk home. The proximity of such programs to kids’ homes is crucial then. I’ve seen in Charlottesville how the location of a program even a few blocks away from a residential area prohibits use of that center by those residents. If people become more spread out in the county, will kids differentially use community-based recreational and other youth development services, or just hang around their apartment complexes?

    Of course, I’m not expecting anyone in this forum to know the factual answers to these questions, but it does seem that many folks have a lot of experience with community development, and I’d be interested to hear thoughts.

  • I’m not sure there’s as great a demand for recreational services in the surrounding counties as in the City. With so much land the kids usually can amuse themselves. There is a program that the city’s school system had in conjunction with parks and recreation during the summer that had good press. The recreation division held annual summer camps for the city’s children, enrolling hundreds. Two suumers ago, it teamed with the schools to add a strong educational component. It was reported that this partnership would help the kids to not lose academic ground over the summer and improve their performance in the fall. I don’t know if this is something that the County provides or is willing to provide, but I hope so. I don’t know if the effectiveness of this program has been evaluated but it wreaks of common sense.
    It seems a major problem with the low-income is income and I feel a greater concentration on education is what should be paramount. Learning socialization skills through play is not a close second. I believe the County of Albemarle has after school educational activities, but I’m not sure about the other counties. One thing I feel is certain, hanging out in the new YMCA facility, “playing a little ball before dinner,” will not improve the life-situation of the group we’re talking about.

  • Another Consideration - The Neighbors

    I very much agree with your comment that a focus on strong programming after school, especially in the academic sector, is crucial. I also do not know the level of services that the county provides, so I guess this may be the case of the blind speaking to the blind, but it’s still fun to talk about :).

    In terms of services provision, however, I think that nothing can happen unless the infrastucture exists and kids can get to and from that location. Some programs are starting to be housed in schools, with evening transportation offered, but I’m not sure if this is the case with the county. I suppose a simple phone call would provide that information.

    Sounds like after several rounds back and forth, we may have reached common ground!

  • The City and County are headed towards forming a transit authority that will provide bus service to the shopping centers and housing in the urban ring. That may help solve the transportation problem. This is not to say that I support creating another independent authority.
    The county schools seem to be proactive in identifying true needs of their students so I’m fairly confident that they will provide for high quality after school activities. I think both systems run after-school activity buses to provide equity with their athletic programs but I’ll not testify in court on that.
    Both localities survey their residents periodically in order to determine the demand for services so there is a mechanism for input.

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