Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
August 29, 2022: Former grocery store on Cherry Avenue sells for $3.5 million; Task force continues work on JMRL name
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August 29, 2022: Former grocery store on Cherry Avenue sells for $3.5 million; Task force continues work on JMRL name

A Monday edition of a somewhat regular newsletter and podcast on issues in the area in and around 22903

According to rudimentary arithmetic, we are today at two-thirds of the way through 2022. This milestone has been foretold in recent editions of Charlottesville Community Engagement, and what shall we look forward and count up toward now? Answering that question is not really the point of this newsletter and podcast, but neither is pointing out that August 29 is also a late summer bank holiday in other parts of the world. I’m your host Sean Tubbs. 

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In this slice of the program:

  • A former grocery store on Cherry Avenue changes hands as a local development firm pays $3.5 million for the property 

  • A JMRL task force is working to organize information about a potential name change, but Trustees remind people it is up to localities to make a decision

  • John Gaines of the Tenth and Page neighborhood and a frequent City Council speaker has died

  • A quick update on COVID as the end of summer approaches

Today’s shout-out: WTJU adjusts nighttime programming

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, WTJU 91.1 FM wants you to know about changes to its programming schedule that start today, August 29. There’s a lot to love about WTJU’s programming, but from time to time, the station needs to adjust to better serve our community. WTJU’s strategic framework prioritizes better representation of the diverse demographics of our community – both in the on-air talent and the audience. Here are some of the changes:

  • Monday-Thursday evening classical shows will mostly move to Sundays, which will air classical music almost the entire day.

  • Monday-Thursday evening jazz shows will move up two hours, from 9 – 11 p.m. to 7 – 9 p.m.

  • Monday-Thursday evenings 9 – 11 p.m. will air four new shows featuring hip-hop, soul, R&B, funk, and more.

For the full list of the changes that go into effect today, visit wtju.net. 

Key parcel on Cherry Avenue sells for $3.5 million

There’s a new owner for a property in Fifeville that contains a former grocery store. Woodard Properties has paid $3.5 million for five properties including 501 Cherry Avenue across from Tonsler Park. 

The combined properties total 1.361 acres and have a combined 2022 assessment of $1.568 million. They are within the jurisdiction of the city’s Cherry Avenue Small Area Plan, which notes the lack of a grocery store where residents can buy fresh produce. For many years, the Estes IGA store was an anchor for the community.

Developer Anthony Woodard said the company is in the early stages of planning a mixed-use development. 

“It may take until 2025 or later with the current approval and construction timelines, but this property will eventually feature a mix of retail, non-profit use, and residential housing,” Woodard said in an email to Charlottesville Community Engagement. “We would love to bring a grocery market to the site if we can find such a proprietor, as we have heard loud-and-clear that the neighborhood wants and needs a walkable grocery destination with healthy fresh foods. 

The Woodard company has purchased several sites on Cherry Avenue in the past two years, including the Cherry Avenue Shopping Center and undeveloped land behind it. Woodard said they have no specific plans for those properties, but will put their focus on redeveloping the former grocery store. 

“We see Cherry Ave as such an important corridor for Charlottesville’s future, and these properties are an exciting opportunity to bring what the neighborhood and City need,” Woodard said. 

Woodard said the company will also await the outcome of the zoning ordinance rewrite before proceeding. The company also owns several acres of land on the western side of Fifth Street Extended just south of Tonsler Park. 

The image of 501 Cherry Avenue on the city’s GIS depicts an earlier time when the market was an actual store (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

Update on JMRL naming policy 

Earlier this summer, several community members asked the Board of Trustees of the regional library system to consider a new name, while others have remained adamant that it continue to be named after Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

At the beginning of the JMRL Board’s meeting on August 22, Board Chair Tony Townsend reminded the public that such a decision is not up to them. 

“It is not the Board’s authority to change the library’s name,” Townsend said. “It is the responsibility of the jurisdictions. And also, the library has formed a task force to look into the naming of the library. “ 

The public discussion began in late May when Myra Andersen, president of the Reclaimed Roots Descendants Alliance and a descendant of enslaved laborers, asked for the name to be changed. Before the next meeting in June, the Boards of Supervisors in Louisa County and Greene County passed resolutions saying they would not support a name change. Multiple perspectives were offered at the June meeting

A slide from a previous presentation on the potential for a name change (view the page)

The task force includes Trustees Lisa Woolfork of Charlottesville and Michael Powers of Albemarle County as well as Library Director David Plunkett. He told the full Board that the group has come up with a goal. 

“And that goal is to synthesize public input on the name of JMRL, and to make a recommendation to the Board on any particular action JMRL should take,” Plunkett said. “Any solicitation of expertise or input needs to come with an upfront understanding that the authority to change the name of JMRL lies with Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson.”

Plunkett said the working group will organize information meetings to discuss background, and these will be available for the public to watch online. A survey of library staff will also be conducted. 

You can add your thoughts through an online comment form on the JMRL’s page on the name. So far there are 179 pages in a Google document of the results

View the JMRL meeting here:

Community mourns passing of 10th and Page activist 

A longtime champion of Charlottesville’s Black community died last week at the age of 85. According to an obituary in the Daily Progress, John Gaines passed away on August 22 at the University of Virginia Medical Center. 

Gaines graduated from Burley High School in 1953 when it was still the segregated school for Black students for both Albemarle County and Charlottesville. After attending the Hampton Institute, he returned to Charlottesville to become a teacher and then an administrator including a long stint at principal at Jefferson Elementary School, which was closed and eventually turned into a community center. 

Gaines retired from education in 1998 but did not slow down in his activism representing the Black community in the 10th and Page neighborhood. He served as president of the Albemarle and Charlottesville NAACP and was instrumental in having a new connector road in Fifeville named Roosevelt Brown Boulevard, after an NFL player who also grew up in Charlottesville. 

The funeral is scheduled for tomorrow. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center's "Embracing Our Narrative" program. That’s a one-week seminar for K-12 educators to explore local history through the Black experience. You can make that donation here

In the days before the pandemic, John Gaines was a frequent speaker at City Council meetings but his participation dropped off in the Zoom era according to quick search of the City Council minutes. The above is from a February 6, 2020 work session. (view those minutes)

COVID cases still strong in Virginia

It has been 899 days since former Governor Ralph Northam issued a state of emergency marking the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Virginia. That declaration is long over, and this week all of the meetings of appointed bodies in Albemarle County return to in-person ones rather than virtual.

Today, the Virginia Department of Health reports another 1,613 new cases as recorded through PCR tests, and the seven-day average for positive test results is at 21.4 percent. 

The Centers for Disease Control continue to post transmission levels on a locality-by-locality basis. Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties are currently rated as “high” and wearing masks indoors is recommended to stop transmission of the virus.  Both Albemarle County and Charlottesville are considered at the “medium” level. 

COVID cases have remained on a plateau since early May. (Credit: Virginia Department of Health)

For those who are infected, Dr. Costi Sifri recommends they follow guidelines and stay at home if they can.

“If a person is sick with COVID, the most important thing is for them to initially to be at home where they are spreading the virus to co-workers and to others in their work environment,” Sifri said. 

Dr. Sifri said COVID continues to be highly transmissible in indoor settings and that people should remember that wearing masks can be effective. 

“As we head into the COVID, cold, and flu season we also have to remember there are other respiratory viruses that be transmitted,” Dr. Sifri said.

Dr. Sifri said the majority of people have now been vaccinated and have also likely been infected at least once. The rates for hospitalizations and death have both dropped, even if case rates themselves remain high. 


Housekeeping for episode #423

It’s another Monday edition, and a little shorter than a lot of recent installments. I’m hoping to get out a full week of updates this week to say goodbye to a lot of stories I’ve not been able to really say hellw to yet, and I want to try to come up with some system where I get the newsletter out by 1 p.m. every day.

The original model for this newsletter is the old 12 p.m newscast that used to run on WVTF Public Radio when I was a kid. The local station used to run a full 15-minutes, and when I was in my first professional journalism job in 1995 an intern on a stipend, I always loved how the format was determined locally and not by the mothership at National Public Radio. My bosses got to select what they wanted, and had a whole system in place to get content out. 

Content that listeners paid for directly, similar to how the cost to produce Charlottesville Community Engagement is covered by the people who read it or listen to it. Right now, there are hundreds of people reading or listening, and about a third are paying. Last week, I got a check from someone who didn’t want to use a credit card, which is perfectly okay! A P.O. Box is one of the things paid for by Town Crier Productions and that is P.O. Box 1754, Charlottesville, VA, 22902.

But if you would like to support the show and don’t mind putting it on a card, signing up through Substack is the way to go. And, if you do, Ting will cover that initial payment. That could be at $5 a month or $50 a year, which gets you first-look access to stories such as Friday’s report from the Charlottesville Circuit Court on the Comprehensive Plan lawsuit, or the forthcoming September property transactions. 

And if you sign up through this link in this newsletter, you’ll get a free standard install, your 2nd month free, and a $75 Downtown Mall gift card! Enter the promo code COMMUNITY for full effect.

And don’t forget, I’ll be on Charlottesville Right Now on WINA with Courteney Stuart this afternoon at 5 p.m. and every Monday to talk about various things. Will I say something scandalous? Doubtful. I am manufactured from milquetoast. 

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