Monthly Archive for July, 2008

Downtown Mall Renovation Approved

City Council signed off on a $7.5M overhaul of the Downtown Mall last night, Rachana Dixit writes in the Progress today. The whole affair will be torn up, block by block, and replaced with 4″x12″ bricks. It’s ambitiously scheduled to take place over just four months, beginning in January.

Arrests Made in 6th St. Murder

Police have arrested four in the Saturday murder on 6th Street, and they’re exploring whether there’s a gang aspect to the killing, Stephanie Kassab and Brian McNeill write for the Progress. City and county police, along with the ATF, arrested three males and one female, all in their 20s, in a hotel on 29N. Four guns have been seized. Nineteen-year-old Joshua Anthony Magruder was found dead at 3 AM Saturday morning. Police say that Magruder was trying to escape a conflict between two groups at the spot; he was shot twice while running away. “Quite a few” people witnessed the murder. This is the third homicide of the year, which is a pretty high rate given that it’s only July.

Yesterday I drove by the scene, and it’s as Zoe Krylova photographed it: a retaining wall turned into a shrine, covered with chalked remembrances, stuffed animals, candles, and liquor bottles.

07/24 Update: Brian McNeill has many more details in today’s paper.

City Gets $328k for Walking to School

VDOT has given $328k in funding to C’ville to get more kids to walk and bike to school, the Daily Progress reports. This is the third year running that the city has gotten a big chunk of change for this ongoing project. For decades we’ve built our transportation infrastructure in support of vehicles, but largely ignored pedestrians. Simultaneously, childhood obesity has become a major problem. That’s no coincidence. It just hasn’t been safe for kids to walk or bike to school, but that’s changed, and it’s continuing to change. The city has been using the money to build bike paths and trails, and this year’s allocation will go for new sidewalks and crosswalks.

I used to bike to school regularly in middle school. I’d show up awake and ready to learn, rather than groggy from a the soporific morning bus ride. This Safe Routes to School is a great way to get kids doing likewise today.

City Energy Savings Mean Spending Cuts

The greening of Charlottesville is saving the city money, Henry Graff recently reported for NBC 29. (Weirdly, they don’t seem to date their stories on their website.) Conservation is fundamentally about reducing the consumption of resources, and consuming resources costs money. The water is reused when washing buses, they’ve replaced drafty windows, installed motion sensors to activate lights in some buildings, and, of course, installed a green roof on city hall. The city has spent $1.3M on energy-saving measures in the past five years, and it’s already recouped $561,000 in energy bills in the last two years alone.

Media General, in an uncredited story, reports today that the county office building’s green roof is actually a tourist destination. Lee Catlin says that hundreds of folks are visiting it each year, including representatives from other municipalities coming to check it out.

Local Housing Market in Rough Shape

Things are not looking good for the local housing market, Brian McNeill writes in the Progress, but few real estate agents will say that in so many words. Dave Phillips, CEO of the Charlottesville Albemarle Association of Realtors, actually claims that the market is “hot,” with the caveat that that’s in relation to Alaska’s temperatures. Pat Sury of Montague Miller says “we have stabilized,” and that “it’s a great time to buy.” And the president of CAAR, agent Judy Savage, says “we’ve hit bottom.” Real Estate III’s Pam Dent suggests that now is the time to buy a home in Glenmore because, really, who can commute all the way to a barn to see their horse? (It’s dreadfully inconvenient.) All of that tells me that we may have a lot farther down to go. Real estate blogger Jim Duncan is inclined to agree that, at least, there’s no way to tell whether or not we’ve hit bottom: you’ve got to start back up before you can know. Real estate agents are dropping like flies, expensive houses are being rented for a song, and houses are languishing on the market for months and months. True to its mission, the Bubble Blog says the bottom is nowhere in sight, and its proprietor has taken to drinking. So it’s a buyers market…as long as you don’t need a mortgage.