Monthly Archive for May, 2012

VA Supreme Court to Hear YMCA Case in June

The Supreme Court is finally taking up the lawsuit seeking to halt construction of the YMCA in McIntire Park, Sean Tubbs reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. Two years ago, ACAC, Gold’s Gym, and Total Performance Sports & Fitness filed a pair of lawsuits against the city and the county, alleging that the municipalities failed to follow standard bidding practices when they awarded the Young Men’s Christian Association a $1/year ground lease to build an aquatic facility in the park, along with $3.3M for construction costs. The project has been on hold as a result. It was August of last year when the Supreme Court of Virginia agreed to hear the case, and is finally going to do so June 7, with a decision due in the summer.

Time Capsule Disappointment

The 50-year-old city time capsule was opened today, Hawes Spencer writes for The Hook, in front of an audience of hundreds. It was…soggy. The ostensibly waterproof capsule turned out to be anything but, with its contents reduced to mush after its tar seal broke down over time. No word on whether its more interesting contents (especially the letters people wrote and placed in there) are salvageable. You might recall that the city had a heck of a time finding the time capsule, but managed thanks to one man’s film of its burial.

A new time capsule will be buried late this year. Any more ideas about what could go in there?

Wintergreen Sold to Coal Baron

James C. Justice II has bought the financially distressed Wintergreen Resort, Nate Delesline III reports for the Daily Progress. The colorful coal baron was profiled by the Post when he bought The Greenbriar three years ago, after owner CSX put the money-losing West Virginia resort into bankruptcy. A remarkably warm winter put Wintergreen in a tough spot, presumably lowering its value enough to make it a tempting takeover target for Justice. The sale should close next month.

Justice also owns seven square miles of land in southern Albemarle, which he bought from MeadWestvaco last year. No word on why he bought it, or what he intends to do with it.

Daily Progress Sold to Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is buying Media General’s newspapers, which means that the Daily Progress is changing hands. It was 1995 when Media General Bought the now-120-year-old newspaper from Worrell Enterprises, a local, family-owned business, and by most measures, the newspaper has not fared well since. The entire print journalism industry has been in a slump since advertising dollars began moving online a decade ago. It’s not clear what the future financial model will be for local journalism, and the whole industry seems to be waiting for somebody to swoop in and figure it out. Berkshire Hathaway—technically, BH Media Group—is buying 63 newspapers for $142M.

Buffett already owns a few newspapers, including the Buffalo News and the recently purchased Omaha World-Herald, and owns the largest share of the Washington Post. Buffett has said that he sees newspapers’ value as a community hub, and that their most valuable function is providing information that isn’t available elsewhere, something that many newspapers—including the Progress—have been struggling with. He’s also said that it’s a mistake for newspapers to give away so much material online for free.

What all of this will mean for the Progress remains to be seen, but it’s a fair guess that this is good news. Media General has basically been supervising a slow collapse of their print properties, with no apparent ability to arrest or reverse that collapse. Buffett is perhaps the deepest of deep-pocketed investments out there, known for shrewd, long-term, community-focused thinking. The future of the Progress is looking a lot brighter.

Western Bypass Bids a Rorschach Test

The construction bids are in for the Western Bypass, Sean Tubbs writes for Charlottesville Tomorrow, but it’s not yet clear whether they’re good news, or bad. Seven bids were submitted, ranging from $136M to $214M, all of which exceed the $125.6M budget. A Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman says that they’re all within the entire $139M design-build budget, but Tubbs points out that pretends that none of that additional $13.4M engineering budget has been spent when, in fact, $9.3M of it had already been spent as of June 17 of last year. That seems to make it pretty clear that all of these bids are beyond the state’s financial means, unless VDOT chooses to allocate additional funding to the project.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board is scheduled to name the winning bidder of the design-build contract on June 20, which is also when the public will be able to see the design that was submitted.