UVa Buys Econo Lodge Under a Pseudonym

UVa bought the Econo Lodge on Emmett St. using a pseudonym, Will Goldsmith reports for C-Ville Weekly. They paid $6M back in May under the name “Meadow Creek II Corporation,” rather than as the UVa Foundation, which is the name of the corporation that holds the university’s property. They’ve never made their acquisition public—it’s Goldsmith who discovered it.

This is interesting because of the university’s relationship with adjacent landowners and the city itself. When UVa acquires land, it’s taken out of the tax base of the municipality, so their physical expansion is not particularly welcomed by the city or the county. (Hence the interest in UVa’s recent announcement that they’re looking to grow up, not out.) Some of the folks who own property adjacent to the university see themselves as holding the line against the school’s sprawl, so it’s reasonable to speculate that UVa used an alternate name to circumvent the prior owner’s reluctance to sell, and presumably to bargain for a lower price than might otherwise be exacted from the university. I can’t see that there’s anything illegal about that—there’s even an argument to be made that it’s a smart use of public funds—but if that is what’s going on, this does mark a new tack for the growing university.

Note, too, that the Daily Progress records a building permit to Meadow Creek II for 1600 Gordon Avenue, indicating at least one other property on the fringes of the university is owned by the corporation.

12 thoughts on “UVa Buys Econo Lodge Under a Pseudonym”

  1. I’m actually surprised that UVA didn’t already own the Econo Lodge. I seem to remember reading an article a few years ago that listed all the properties that the University owns on Emmett and it was nearly everything from the Cavalier Inn up to Barracks Road Shopping Center.

  2. Is this a chicken or egg puzzle? Is it possible that we’re finally seeing who really owns the University?

  3. oh, poor Carmello’s Restaurant. or maybe it should be, good for Carmello’s! seems like they’ll eventually have to move. maybe more people will find out they are not the Econo Lodge diner.

  4. Waldo,
    Perhaps you can help explain something. I was under the impression that properties held by UVA are non-taxed, but that properties held by the Foundation that are not yet used for “educational” purpose are still taxed. I remember reading when John Kluge gave the Foundation the 8,000 acres, that one of the concerns was that it was not to be used for education purposes at that time, and thus they had an enormous tax burden to pay.
    Do you know how this plays out?

  5. A public institution hiding in the shadows to do business. This is nothing but underhanded and shameful! I would have expected better from UVa, but I guess they too are a bunch of good old boys smoking cigars and doing back room deals out of the public’s eye.

  6. They didn’t try too hard to ‘hide’ the purchase. The mailing address for current owner is to the UVA Foundation’s PO BOX. I hope the Meadow Creek II name means this is tied to plans to daylight more of Meadow Creek, but you never know.

    City tax records indicate that Budget Inn and Panda Garden are the only remaining properties between Ivy Road and University Gardens on that side of the road not owned by either the Foundation or University.

    The 1600 Grady building permit is interesting, since it’s already non-tax property but currently listed as owned by Martha Jefferson Hospital. (Martha Jefferson House). I wonder is some sort of partnership is in the works for extended care.

  7. I was under the impression that properties held by UVA are non-taxed, but that properties held by the Foundation that are not yet used for “educational” purpose are still taxed. I remember reading when John Kluge gave the Foundation the 8,000 acres, that one of the concerns was that it was not to be used for education purposes at that time, and thus they had an enormous tax burden to pay.
    Do you know how this plays out?

    I’m afraid that I don’t—that’s a line that I don’t understand, and I don’t know how much of their holdings aren’t taxed and why. Maybe somebody else here will know. I’d sure like to find out.

  8. This isn’t even remotely underhanded or shameful. This is something that happens every single day, here and elsewhere. It’s common practice for one entity (a university, a hospital, another business, or what have you) to arrange for a purchase and/or negotiate in the guise of a less well-known entity. This is done for several reasons, not the least of which is to give the larger entity the ability to negotiate for a fair market value, rather than a value inflated by the seller because of the buyer’s real or perceived deep pockets.

    If the buyers misrepresented themselves and said they are not affiliated with UVA, that would be one thing (and presumably a fraud). There’s no indication that happened in this case.

    Perhaps if the owners of the Econo Lodge hadn’t allowed their property to deteriorate over many years they would have actually had something worth holding onto, or something worth asking more for. Being across the street from U-Hall and JPJ is a great location – but why would anybody want to stay in that dump?

  9. The UVA Foundation, like most nonprofits, does pay real estate taxes. It is the University itself, a different entity, that does not.

  10. theUniversity of Virginia’s own economic impact statement has a bunch of information about this:

    Because it is tax-exempt, the University pays no taxes on its academic operations. In 2005 this exemption amounted to $4.6 million of forgone tax revenue for Charlottesville and $6.9 million for Albemarle County. The University of Virginia Foundation does not pay taxes on its real estate used for academic purposes. In FY 05 this exemption amounted to forgone taxes of $69,479 for Charlottesville and $26,787 for Albemarle County.


    The total value of taxable real estate owned or rented by faculty, staff, and students was $3.3 billion in 2005, yielding $28.3 million in prop-erty tax revenue, divided nearly equally between Charlottesville and Albemarle County. In the city,the property tax revenue alone exceeded by $2.3 million the local cost of educating the children of faculty, staff, and students; but in the county,which has about double the number of public school children attributable to U.Va., property tax revenue was $7.5 million less than the educa-tion cost.

    There are a bunch more details in the bulleted listing in this brief report. Anybody interested in this topic will enjoy reading over it.

  11. I know they do intend to daylight as much of the meadowcreek as possible, and if this helps them daylight another section then I’m all for it. In a time when local goverments are apparently still approving developers to culvert (i.e. bury) streams, UVa is the only one I know about that has actually daylighted streams. I don’t even know of any city or county projects that have ever done that.

    Also since it is the foundation, they very well might flip the property when the economy improves, or redevelop it then sell it. So, it isn’t a given that it’s out of the tax base just yet. Nonetheless, I too find the slow creep of UVa a little unnerving, especially when they pretty much seem to be unregulated. I tend to worry more though about the apartment complexes and such that spring up on property bought out by the foundation rather than things built by UVa itself. With some exceptions, UVa usually is pretty responsible in how it builds these days.

    We used to eat at that little restaurant there back when it was a Mecican restaurant named “La Hacienda”. I still miss that place. Carmello’s is good too, and definitely one of those hidden places that more people should know about (but if they did, then would it be the same?) It would be a shame to see that little restaurant disappear. Our family have a lot of good memories of that place.

  12. I know they did a great deal of this in re-arranging the ‘other side of the tracks’ – the Cavalier Inn acquisition and all the other small, associated properties around it. I’m glad they’re conserving money, Carmellos would hardly be a loss (it’s not good Italian, just pretentious), and neither would the EconoLodge particularly. Presumably the U will be doing infill.

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