Dec 20, 2021 • 15M

December 20, 2021: UVA Foundation purchases Ivy Square Shopping Center for $20 million; Friendship Court to break ground in mid-January

Plus: A bevy of transportation updates from the MPO Policy Board meeting

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Sean Tubbs
Regular updates of what's happening in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville, Virginia from an award-winning journalist with nearly thirty years of experience.
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The 2021 farewell tour continues with the final Monday installment of the year for the newsletter and podcast you’re about to read or listen to. This is likely also the last one that will be posted before the winter solstice. Will you be able to feel the shift, or are maneuvers of solar systems mechanics something that only shows up as a trick of the light? That’s not the concern of this edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement, but it certainly is something to note.

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On today’s program: 

  • The Ivy Square Shopping Center is purchased by an entity associated with the University of Virginia Foundation

  • Piedmont Housing Alliance sets a date for the groundbreaking for the redevelopment of Friendship Court 

  • Charlottesville is considering a historic district to honor the architectural legacy of prominent builder C.H. Brown 

  • Transportation updates from the Metropolitan Planning Organization 

  • Governor-elect Youngkin names a data policy specialist to serve as Secretary of Education

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: 

The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign  an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. Winter is here, but spring isn’t too far away. This is a great time to begin planning for the spring. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedm+ont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!

Covid update

As the week begins, the Virginia Department of Health reports another 2,991 new cases of COVID-19, and the seven-day average for positivity PCR tests has increased to 9.3 percent. The seven-day average for new cases has risen to 3,286 a day. The Blue Ridge Health District reports another 67 new cases today and the percent positivity is at 6.7 percent.

UVA Foundation purchases Ivy Square Shopping Center

A company associated with the University of Virginia Foundation has paid $20 million for the 2.77 acre shopping center where Food of All Nations is located. Ivy Square of Charlottesville LLC paid nearly 126 percent over the assessment for the two properties and three buildings. 

A second shopping center to the west is broken up among several owners. 

The UVA Foundation has been steadily purchasing properties along Ivy Road for many years. The UVA Office of the Architect began planning a master plan for the area east of Copeley Road in the fall of 2016. Work is underway for a precinct that will include the School of Data Science, the Karsh Institute for Democracy, a hotel and convention center, as well as other uses that have yet to be announced. 

This summer, the Office of the Architect presented a plan for the redevelopment of Ivy Gardens off of Old Ivy Road to the UVA Buildings and Grounds Committee. The Foundation purchased that property in Albemarle back in the summer of 2016 according to Albemarle County property records. (UVA making plans for Ivy Garden redevelopment, June 9, 2021)

The building where Food of All Nations is located was constructed in 1957 (Credit: City of Charlottesville)
Date announced for Friendship Court groundbreaking

The Piedmont Housing Alliance has set a date for the groundbreaking for the first phase of redevelopment of Friendship Court. The nonprofit has spent several years planning to upgrade the 150-unit complex and a ceremony will be held on January 15 to mark the beginning of construction. 

“The last five years of dedication and hard work by the residents of the Friendship Court Advisory Committee are finally about to blossom,” said PHA executive director Sunshine Mathon in an email to Charlottesville Community Engagement this morning. “The beginning of Phase 1 of redevelopment marks the beginning of a transformed neighborhood as envisioned by the residents themselves.  I am deeply honored by the opportunity to bring their vision to creation.”

According to the PHA website, the existing buildings were constructed in 1978 on what had been a neighborhood that was razed in the name of urban renewal. Piedmont Housing Alliance and the National Housing Trust acquired the property in 2002 and PHA began managing it in 2019. 

“We are committed to zero displacement,” reads the website. “The first phase of housing will be built on existing open land.”

The city of Charlottesville has committed to a multimillion dollar investment across four phases of development. The adopted capital budget for the current fiscal year sets aside $2 million in cash for infrastructure improvements, nearly $400,000 for the first phase, and $750,000 for the second phase. Future years carry on that investment. (Council approves agreement for Friendship Court funding, October 30, 2020) 

This image depicts out the four phases of the Friendship Court redevelopment project (Credit: Piedmont Housing Alliance) 
New historic district?

The city of Charlottesville will study whether to create a new historic district to commemorate a man who built many structures for Black families and businesses in the mid 20th century. Planning Commissioner Jody Lahendro is also a member of the Board of Architectural Review and he briefed his PC colleagues last week (staff report)

“This is actually a tremendous story that I wish more of us knew about,” Lahendro said. “This designation would honor and recognize the importance of the Reverend Charles H. Brown. From his experience in the building trades in the early 30’s and 40’,s Reverend Brown personally managed, financed, and participated in the construction of about 70 houses from the 1940’s to the 1980’s.”

Lahendro said Brown built in Black neighborhoods and used materials that allowed for houses to be affordable. 

“He often provided the co-sign and promissory notes and provided financing to get people into these houses,” Lahendro said. 

Lahendro said the district will cover the Holy Temple of God In Christ as well as five other homes in the Venable neighborhood built by Brown. The matter will go through the usual rezoning process including public hearings with the Planning Commission and the City Council. 

The boundaries of the proposed C.H. Brown historic district (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

You’re reading to Charlottesville. Community Engagement. Let’s continue today with two more Patreon-fueled shout-outs. The first comes a long-time supporter who wants you to know:

"Today is a great day to spread good cheer: reach out to an old friend, compliment a stranger, or pause for a moment of gratitude to savor a delight."

The second comes from a more recent supporter who wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, WINA, or some other place I’ve not mentioned - the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!

Youngkin chooses Education Secretary

Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin has selected the founder of a national education nonprofit to serve as his Secretary of Education. Aimee Rogstad Guidera formerly created the Data Quality Campaign in 2005 to advocate for the usage of metrics to guide education policy. In a statement released this morning, Youngkin said Guidera will help him implement his vision for public education. 

“Aimee is deeply respected for her distinguished career advocating for innovation and choice, data-driven reform, and high standards, and will apply these principles in order to implement the Day One Game Plan,” he wrote. “Most importantly, she understands that parents matter, and the best interests of students must come first.” 

Guidera stepped down from the Data Quality Campaign in 2017 and now runs her own consulting firm called Guidera Strategy. Her time at the campaign provides some insight into her philosophy on education. Here are a few examples. 

Aimee Rogstad Guidera (courtesy of the Youngkin transition team)
Transportation updates

To conclude today, let’s go back to the December 7, 2021 meeting of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Board to get some updates. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation is working on a new way of planning for the state’s future connectivity needs. Project Pipeline builds off of the Smart Scale funding process which seeks to pay for projects that will accomplish specific goals. Several preliminary corridor studies are underway across Virginia, including two in Albemarle. Chuck Proctor is a transportation planner in VDOT’s Culpeper District.

“One of them is for Pantops and it goes from Hansen Road to the interchange at I-64, and the other is the Shadwell intersection at Route 22 and Route 250 and also North Milton Road and 250,” Proctor said. 

Community engagement for both studies is expected to take place around this time with a public meeting sometime in January. Both are areas identified to have a Potential for Safety Improvement. The website for the Pantop study notes a lack of pedestrian connectivity in the area, and the website for the Shadwell study notes a prevalence for rear end collisions due to long back-ups. 

Those studies would yield projects for a future beyond the current looming deadline for the fifth round of Smart Scale funding. Albemarle and Charlottesville will have the chance to submit four projects. The MPO Policy Board will select four, and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will select another four.

To learn more about Project Pipeline, visit the VDOT website on this initiative

One potential application for the MPO is a pedestrian and cyclist bridge over the Rivanna River to connect Charlottesville and the Pantops section of Albemarle County. A stakeholder group has met twice in the past month to discuss that application. Sandy Shackleford is the director of transportation and planning at the TJPDC. 

“We’ll plan to again in the spring or maybe February or March plan to do a full meeting where we go through all of the projects for the MPO area as well as the PDC,” Shackleford said. 

The other three applications for the MPO under consideration are bike and pedestrian improvements on Avon Street Extended, multimodal improvements 5th Street, and a roundabout at the intersection of District Avenue and Hydraulic Road at Stonefield. 

Supervisor Ann Mallek said there may be support for the latter project.

“I just learned this week that UVA has moved a lot of their IT department out to Hydraulic Road and they were very interested in safe crossings to Stonefield at lunch,” Mallek said. 

Staunton-Cville bus ridership

The Afton Express commuter route between Staunton and Charlottesville is now in its third month of operations, according to Sara Pennington, the TJPDC program manager for Rideshare. 

“In those three months there have been more than 1,500 passenger trips taken and that is across the four morning and the four evening runs and the service does run Monday through Friday,” Pennington said, adding that ridership has grown steadily since launching with November outperforming September despite the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s still about 40 rides a day, and the goal from the planning study is to get to 80 riders a day. 

Speaking of Smart Scale, a new park-and-ride lot in Waynesboro funded through the process has just been completed.  (VDOT information)

“But they also put in a shelter for the Afton Express so those kinds of things went hand in hand,” Pennington said. 

Pennington said Afton Express will soon launch a new text-alert system for its service that would let riders know about potential delays and other service changes. 

Charlottesville Area Transit is working on a pilot project to improve bus stops. Garland Williams is the agency’s director. 

“We’re going to use Belmont Park as kind of that test,” Williams said. “There is a shelter there but it isn’t [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant.  It basically sits on the street. We’re going to remove that and put in a shelter so that everyone can see when we’re starting to do capital projects along transit, what it looks like and what we have to do to make it compliant.” 

Sean Nelson, the district engineer for VDOT’s Culpeper District, updated the MPO on the status of a project awarded Smart Scale funds in Round 4. 

“The only thing I can give an update on is the U.S. 29 and Hydraulic design-build package that we’re putting together,” Nelson said. “That is slated for a public hearing in March or April of 2022 with a [request for proposal] to be released at the end July 2022, anticipated award in December 2022, with a project completion in the winter of 2024.” 

This project will include a pedestrian bridge over U.S. 29 as well as a roundabout at the intersection of Hydraulic Road and Hillsdale Drive Extended. Learn more in the Smart Scale application.

This is a blurb from the Hydraulic Small Area Plan from 2017 which calls for the kind of project that VDOT funded earlier this year. Not all plans sit on shelves!