Study: Grocery Store and Home for Martha Jeff.

A study proposes that the best use of the Martha Jefferson Hospital, once vacated, would be a grocery store and a retirement home, Seth Rosen writes in today’s Progress. They’ve got thirteen acres they’re looking to sell once they move to their Pantops location in 2012. It had been thought that the building could be appropriate for a hotel or conference center, but the study shows that those things just don’t make sense. Martha Jefferson assures people that they’re not going to sell to the highest bidder, but find a buyer whose plans are right for the area. Martha Jefferson sponsored the study.

The hospital announced the move in 2001, but has taken pains to make sure that their departure doesn’t make the neighborhood hate them. The whole area grew up around the hospital since its 1903 founding, so this transition is going to be tricky.

49 thoughts on “Study: Grocery Store and Home for Martha Jeff.”

  1. I think its important to point out that not only are we talking about the hospital, but all the hospital related businesses which will be relocating within the next 5-10 years. This leaves a gaping hole at the east end of the town and on an “entrance corridor”.

    Hopefully the city is starting to figure out now how they are going to catalyze redevelopment of the site. A legal partnership could be an option where the city agrees to infrastructure improvements or perhaps construction of a parking garage to serve the pavillion. Some sort of area plan should be started ASAP.

  2. Nat: “Some sort of area plan should be started ASAP”… but…that’s what the article was about. Seriously, there has already been about 2 years of meetings btw MJH, the neighborhood, and the city to address the impact of the move. But until somebody who comes along that is serious about proposing something for the site, talk is cheap. Regarding the idea of a parking garage — one of the reasons MJH is leaving is due to pressure from the neighborhood on parking. The current MJH parking garage was supposed to be much taller until the neighborhood raised hell and got it limited to the current 2 stories. (Disclosure: I am a former president of the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Assoc. My tenure came after the move decision.)

  3. Why not tear it down and put back Jackson and Taylor Streets? The current building is not the original hospital. The first hospital sat where the staff parking lot is.

    To give you an idea of how well thought of MJH was: On February 10, 1926, my grandparents (who never drove a car) got a teenage neighbor to drive them from Park Place (where the UVa Medical Center is today) to MJH in an ice storm so my dad could be born there instead of UVa. I can still hear my grandfather, “Every time the boy touched the brakes, we hit the curb. I was scared green.”

    His half sister, Sophie Ashby bought 711 Locust Avenue from the Locust Grove Land Company in 1905. She never drove, either, but owned a Model T and hired neighborhood boys to act as chauffeurs. My grandfather did drive a delivery wagon for the Michie Grocery–around 1912. After the family moved to Locust Ave in the mid 1940’s, he bicycled to Union Station (now a restaurant) on W. Main, where he was employed by the Post Office as transfer clerk. He was in charge of moving mail off and onto mail trains. For 3 cents, you could get a letter delivered overnight anywhere within 800 miles of where you mailed it.

    Locust Avenue, south of the Bypass bridge, was lovely, tree-lined on both sides, and quite narrow, until it was widened around 1960. As far back as I can remember (early 1950’s), a bus ran along Locust to downtown. My mother didn’t get her driver’s license until 1957, so we hiked up Calhoun Street from North Avenue to catch the bus and meet my grandmother somewhere on East Main.

  4. I’m pretty sure the dialysis center a block from the hospital will move when the hospital moves, that’s a pretty big building that will be hard to convert to other uses with its very limited parking. A lot of Martha Jeff. doctors have already moved up to Peter Jefferson Place but it does seem as if there will be a lot of empty buildings around the hospital when it moves.

  5. May I suggest for your consideration the following uses for the MJH and surrounding soon to be vacant doctors office buildings and other hospital buildings: (1) New and expanded facility for the salvation army, (2) New and expanded facility for region ten, (3) New and expanded facility for the homeless we are suppose to have in Charlottesville,(4) A new facility for the local inebriates to sober up in rather than taking them to the joint security complex. Finally if there is any room left over I think we should follow Demo’s suggestion and use the rest of the building or buildings for a minimum security federal prison.

  6. I went from this site to Cville blogs where the entry at the top of the page was titled, “Another Downtown Hotel Would be Nice.” Why not convert the old MJH to a hotel?

  7. According to Martha Jefferson’s own study, we’ve already got enough hotel rooms in the city. Seth Rosen wrote:

    At the moment it is also unclear if downtown Charlottesville could support another full-scale hotel, with construction on a nine-story boutique hotel on the mall about to begin. The Charlottesville area already has 28 hotels and motels – with 3,130 rooms – and the occupancy rate is a healthy 74 percent, the study found.

  8. Miss Patience: I think there should be another hotel only if it’s part of a larger shopping center/office space.

    That’s so much prime space right in the heart. I think I will actually pray that they make it into a shopping center. With at least 2 grocery stores and lots and lots of parking and generic space so lots of businesses and offices of all kinds can open there. Maybe a shopping center on the bottom floor and offices above. Or maybe a big-city-style interior shopping center that’s all fancy-like. Keep the parking there (and add even more) so we attract the big names. We must be careful because this will be the heart of our city. Let’s put some affordable housing on the land too.


  9. Waldo wrote:

    According to Martha Jefferson’s own study, we’ve already got enough hotel rooms in the city.

    I think we also already have plenty of grocery stores.

  10. I think we also already have plenty of grocery stores.

    I wouldn’t argue with that, in the sense that there appears to be no shortage of food to go around. :) But there are a good number of people who live downtown who are unwilling to shop at Reid’s. Now, as far as I’m concerned, those are basically fightin’ words, but, then, I only came around to really liking Reid’s in the past half decade or so. So while there’s no shortage of supply, there is certainly a good bit of demand for another downtown grocery store, and that demand will only grow as the residential population of downtown grows. So, in that sense, I can certainly see the logic of putting a grocery store there.

  11. Are there any good reasons why a grocery store would want to locate downtown? What type of grocerty store do you people want? The area is saturated with grocery stores as it is now. All different types to satisfy all different socio/economic classes of our “community.” Grocery stores have a very small profit margin and usually cater to a particular member of our socio/economic society. I for one feel fortunate to at least have Reid’s as a somewhat downtown grocery store. (and they do have the best prices on bananas in Charlottesville) I feel that if it were feasible economically a grocery store would have already located downtown.

  12. anybody up for a second downtown pedestrian mall- it seems to have worked so well the last time? While we’re dreaming— some park to replace the shrinkage of Mcintire? or move the Y downtown

  13. I feel that if it were feasible economically a grocery store would have already located downtown.

    That notion is premised on the assumption that downtown hasn’t changed and will not change. It’d be like declaring, back in 1992, that “if it were feasible economically a McDonalds would already have located just south of Madison on 29.” Things change.

  14. Maybe it hasn’t been feasible economically in the past because there hasn’t been a huge chunk of land opening up in the already-filled-in Downtown area like the MJH chunk. Waldo is right that some people just aren’t going to go to Reid’s, for whatever reason. I think it would have to be a relatively high-end grocery store (think Teeter, not Kroger), for the gentrified-Belmont and the Locust/Park street crowd. If I lived on Locust or in that area I would be interested in a grocery store that I could walk to and from. I wouldn’t want to see anything strip-mallish in that area — I know people would want parking but at the same time I would hate to see a big parking lot there. I wonder if that would be a good spot for the rumored/wished-for Trader Joe’s? It’s got the right wealth demographic around that area. Or maybe Foods of All Nations has always been wanting to expand? I realize there’d be a tension between having a specialty/expensive grocery and something more egalitarian, but I don’t think it’s going to be a Food Lion.

  15. I remember when MJANA vehemently opposed the expansion of the Medical Arts Pharmacy building on the south side of East High Street. I believe there was a call to re-zone the commercial area along E. High Street to residential during the 2003 process. I, for one, do not believe that any grocery store will be welcomed with open arms by a significant number of residents of that area. It is possible that the property will sit like that in the 100 block of Main Street beside the Wachovia Bank for years until MJH’s board decides some time down the road to sell it without stipulation to whomever wishes to buy it. After all, they have a much larger hospital to build from the ground up. It is possible that we will see any one of jogger’s fabulous five list on that property since it seems everybody with a hand out knows which jurisdiction to come to.

  16. Those who were in town in the 70s will remember that the downtown mall once had a grocery store. Reid’s Market was located directly across the mall from the parking garage. It did a healthy amount of business with downtowners until a fire gutted it around 1984; it was never reopened.

  17. could be wrong but I always thought the store downtown was called Stop and Shop and Reid’s did not come into being officially until it moved to Preston Ave. in yet another used to be Stop and Shop. As I recall there was a stop and shop downtown across from the PG, one on preston ave where reids is now located and one on west main where under the roof used to be located. Could be wrong. If am feel free to correct.

  18. I can’t speak for the very early days, but as of the time of the fire (1983-84ish, can’t remember exactly) the West Main and Downtown Mall locations were both operating under the Reid’s name. I’m not sure about the Preston Avenue one, though I do remember it later.

  19. I’m OLD>>>>I can remember actually driving down Main Street and parking in front of Tilman’s and Miller and Rhodes…..HOORAY! Timberlakes is still there.

    There are loads of organizations working on this issue and advising MJH foundation….neighbors would be concerned about the traffic for a big commercial project as well as Jogger’s suggestions….

  20. “It makes sense for a giant grocery store to be in a giant shopping center, but to have it in the middle of the neighborhood would seem out of place to me,” Melanie Miller said.

    A grocery store’s out of place, but a major hospital’s not?

    That’s the kind of low-density suburban thinking that keeps us trapped in car culture. It has become “odd” to think that our neighborhoods should have grocery stores we can walk to in them.

    Trvln: we don’t have “plenty of grocery stores” downtown. We have “plenty” on 29. If they put one in, it better be 24 hours.

    Jogger: I *want* a grocery store within walking distance of the downtown mall. I want one that doesn’t suck (like IGA did). I want one that’s 24 hours. I want downtown Cville to be perfect, and it just won’t be without a good grocery store.

    Cecil: ain’t nothin’ wrong with Food Lion. I definitely would not want to see another Foods of all Overpriced Nations. Let’s be normal here and shoot for Kroger or something. A Piggly Wiggly would be zawesome. Hipsters would buy up their tee-shirts like crazy. Re parking: let’s just keep what’s already there.

  21. It wouldn’t have to be a giant grocery store. Something like a Food Lion would be totally out of place in that neighborhood. A mid-size shop–larger than a convenience store, but smaller than a supermarket–would be perfect. Dare I say Trader Joe’s? Or something like C’ville Market only in a more attractive setting.

  22. No grocery store would be out of place across from a doctors’ office that plainly used to be a drive-thru bank, and a down-home open-door mechanic’s garage one block from it. Let’s not get too above our station here. We are Charlottesville, not Boca Raton. We country here. We are both town and gown. We got rundown rentals and we got super-nice physician/professor homes in that neighborhood. Don’t let Locust Ave make you forget about Lexington Ave, mmkay?

  23. CVillecpm, you’re not that old. I too can remember Main Street, pavement, traffic signals and parking places in front of the stores. The bricks were the death of the mall in my opinion. I can’t recall the last time I spent a dime on the mall.

  24. The only way a grocery store like you folks are talking about and in the location you are talking about is if the city subsidized it.
    The support needed for a grocery store is not there (downtown). If the support were there you can bet your liberal A#$@’S they would have put one downtown by now.
    Reid’s will do nicely.
    Now let’s start thinking about things that would really go at the old MJH site….see my previous post….and I would like to add one item to my list…Central Virginia headquarters for the YMCA (i’m sure the city would approve this suggestion since they are already in bed with them..joined at the hip)

  25. Lexington Ave *is* beautiful, Miss Patience. I was talking about income level, not beauty. Owner-occupied vs renter occupied. The High Street neighborhood is a mix of all kinds of people and architecture. It’s not some froufrou place that’s too uppity for a Food Lion.

  26. Jogger, that’s not how business works and you know it. Just because a need is not being met doesn’t mean there’s no market for something. There’s no single entity that keeps watch over what businesses would do well in which neighborhoods then fills that need.

    If you build it they will come, son.

  27. “There’s no single entity that keeps watch over what businesses would do well in which neighborhoods then fills that need.” The City’s Department of Economic Develop does. Mr. Watts was hired to write it all up in an in-depth report to Council several years ago.
    “Just because a need is not being met doesn’t mean there’s no market for something.” No, but it usually means there’s no profitable market for it.

  28. You’re right, Uva LaGrape, and it would be too bad if people felt priced out of their neighborhood grocery store. But before I get an undeserved reputation as the self-appointed spokesperson for whiny people who think they’re too good for Food Lion, I’ll just clarify that my objection to Food Lion is that it is ugly, as is Kroger and Harris-Teeter and any other supermarket. Why put something that ugly into a pretty neighborhood? And yes, that clutter of doctor’s offices across the street from MJH are ugly too, but at least they don’t come with giant parking lots, like a Food Lion would.

  29. When developers profit and greed motivies can be satisfied then you will get a grocery store and not one minute sooner. Private industry operates on a different set of business principles than do the local or national governments.
    Patience please describe the type of grocery store which you preceive would be an acceptable design for the MJH neighborhood. You represent another reason a grocery store will probably not locate downtown or in the MJH area. The cost of your vision is out of all reason….but I await your reply….with very little anticipation of anything commercially acceptable….

  30. I don’t see what is so controversial about hoping that commercial development will be appropriate for a neighborhood. I used to live on Locust Ave, although now we live in Belmont. I’m not saying that we need to keep a fake, Disneyesque prettiness in all areas of Charlottesville. I grew up in Buffalo, NY, and on the West Side, where I lived, grand old houses—some single family, some converted to apartments—mingled with all sorts of thriving businesses including grocery stores. The effect was a vibrant city neighborhood—not pretty– but interesting and charming. Is it inconceivable that we couldn’t have something similar along High St, near Locust, something that developed gradually? And as for cost, I’ll be honest and just say I didn’t give it much thought. I don’t see that tearing down existing structures and building a big supermarket from scratch would be cheap.

  31. I’ll try to analyze myself carefully since Patience and CvilleEye are posters I usually agree with…

    CvilleEye: You know what I mean though. The city/county can do a study saying this or that, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to directly fund the opening of a business usually funded by the private sector (like a grocery store or restaurant). Ultimately it’s up to the Colin Rolphs and Blockbuster Videos of the world to actually open the businesses. The opening of a specific business in a specific loaction is based on a long list of capricious factors.
    The non-existence of a business does not mean it doesn’t exist because it wouldn’t be profitable. It just means it doesn’t exist yet. Every business in town used to not exist, right?

    Patience: I see what you mean now. Any kind of shopping center would want more significant signage than MJH’s subdued set. But that doesn’t mean that the city has to let them have it. Shopping centers can be indoor as well, designed like the Macy’s or Union Stations of the big cities. I’m only guessing that you’re referring to signage, because other design aspects are easily adaptable — Just think about all the different looks the various grocery stores here have. Teeter Barracks looks different from Kroger Barracks looks different from Kroger Hydraulic. I think that an indoor shopping center could meld with the current structure of MJH, maybe even be designed within the same exterior somehow.

    But regarding parking lots…MJH already has a big parking lot.

  32. UVA LaGrape, I cannot find fault with anyone with such a name. I was trying to point out throughout that Council generally bows to the pressures placed upon them by residents of north downtown and MJANA is a part of it. It the long run, it will be the residents of that neighborhood only who will decide what will be the future zoning of that property which will restrict its future use. I use the history of the expansion of the former Medical Arts Pharmacy as an example. That project would have left a small foot print in that neighborhood but residents came out against it in droves. There was a request to remove the commercail zoning along East High Street. It will take new residents or a massive change in the composition of Council to introduce any substantial retail uses in that area. Outside traffic is not welcome. Its funny how it seems that the people who complain most about traffic are the same ones who want their neighborhoods to be entirely residential and must exit for their needs.

  33. I understand you more clearly now, C Eye. You’re thinking that the neighborhood assoc will oppose retail. That opinion could go either way: I believe that the neighborhood is already used to traffic specifically because of MJH (and because of being one of only 3 (?) ways of entering Pantops). Others might find this their chance to reduce neighborhood traffic. I don’t think traffic to the neighborhood will be reduced unless the land is used for housing.

  34. UVA LaGrape is right. It is hard to imagine a more intensive traffic being generated by any other use. The hospital has about 1500 employees, not to mention 125,000 patient visits per year. This does not include deliveries, visits by family members, friends etc. Excluding those folks you are talking more than and assuming that 1/3 of the staff works on a given day you are averaging about 840 cars per day. Staff traffic is especially concentrated at shift change.

    I think people in the MJ neighborhood would not oppose some small retail including a grocery store. Having lived in the neighborhood, I know that you have to drive somewhere to get a quart of milk. It would be nice to have a neighborhood grocery store. Plus if the site is developed to capacity, you could have anywhere between 300-500 units by my rough calculations. (This is no where near the allowable density)

    Having been to the last meeting between MJH and the neighborhood association, the residents there seemed open to a range of options. They will have to strike a balance. Although they want to shape the future of the hospital, the worst case scenario would be for the hospital to remain vacant and become a blight on the neighborhood while we all duke out its future.

  35. Jogger,

    There were three Stop & Shop stores: 500 East Main, 1008 West Main, and 600 Preston Ave. All three became Reids in the 1960’s. The one on E. Main burned in the 80’s. The one on W. Main was PJ’s Market for a while. The building’s still there.

    As for being old and having driven on what is now the Downtown Mall, most any local yokel, like me, who is in his 50’s can wear that badge. And many of our grandfathers tethered their horses in the Tie Lot on the site of the Water Street Parking Garage. I remember, when I was quite small in the 1950’s, Santa was brought to the Tie Lot on a flat car, pushed by a yard locomotive, generously lent by the C&O Railroad.

    Of course the REAL fun began between 1970 and 1980, when wonderfully imaginative folks, like Sandy McAdams, David Simpson, Steve Tharpe, Chief Gordon, Ann Porotti(then Chief’s wife), and Ray and Michael Williams, set up restaurants (C&O, Miller’s, Fellini’s), a night club (C&O Music), a delightful movie theater (Vinegar Hill), and two of Charlottesville’s most enjoyable bookstores (Daedalus and William’s Corner). 1980 remains my favorite year. I had an apartment at 413 Park Street (next door to Chief’s law office) and could walk to all of these great establishments.

  36. Steve, you are absolutely right about the grocery stores. I’m a little older than you so I’ll throw this out to you…I can remember going to the Paramount Theater, early 60’s, after school to see various rock n roll shows…Got to see Roy Orbison, Danny and Jr.’s, the Dovell’s, Freddy Cannon and a host of others. All brought to us by a local radio personality Bob Grant. What ever happened to Bob? Also, during warm weather, shelter parties at McIntire Park. Different local bands, teenagers having fun…What I wouldn’t give to do that one more time. “Wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then.”

  37. Jogger:

    Jingle: “The happy ‘welkome’ sound.” Down and under for:

    Announcer: W-E-L-K. 1010 on your A-M dial!

    It sure beat listening to Richie Haney on WINA!

  38. Since we are throwing out ideas about what to do with the MJH and surrounding buildings I would love to see the proposed YMCA aquatic/fitness center moved out of McIntire Park and put in the MJH Buildings.
    I hate like the devil to see McIntire Park destroyed like the YMCA is proposing.
    I know it would take a lot of money, but the city will be paying for the new facility for the next 40 years so why not put it in at the Corner of Locust and East High Street.
    Give me a hell yea if you like this suggestion!!!!!!!!!

  39. As someone living in the downtown area, I can attest to the fact that Reid is too far to walk to from the MJH neighborhood. Many people in the neighborhood would love to have a grocery store within walking distance. I’m thinking something like Trader Joe’s.

  40. Cynic, I enjoyed your speech before the school board concerning spending other than on salaries. Keep up the good work!

  41. Cville Eye, you’ve got the wrong guy. I wasn’t there…though I would probably concur with his statements. I haven’t even seen the tape yet.

  42. I think whatever is put there, it should be something the local neighborhood will use and will be pedestrian friendly. If people will use a local grocery store instead of driving to Barracks rd, or 29 then that’s a great idea. Whatever gets built, parking should be limited or underneath the buildings. There’s a real opportunity to put the neighborhood model into practice here with a genuine mixed retail and residential use.

    As for Joggers creative suggestions, I could think of several better locations to put those… How about out by Glenmore?

  43. This site is pretty unique in that it has a good deal of parking already in place, a good bit of it in a multilevel garage. A grocery store could fit this spot, I think, but parking will be key for those beyond a desirable walking distance or with to many bags to carry.

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