Today we have a 404, as in the 404th edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. Hopefully this online-only information content is what you’re expecting, whether it’s your first time reading or listening or if you’re a regular by now. I’m your host Sean Tubbs, always scouring the internet to bring you more on what’s happening. Thanks for reading or listening!
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On today’s show:
In six days, you’ll have a choice of when to take a daily train to Roanoke or the District of Columbia
The University of Virginia to establish a “sustainable lab” at Morven Farm
Governor Youngkin appoints four to the UVA Board of Visitors
The Board of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority gets an update on finances
And the New Hill Development Corporation gets a state grant to help launch a commercial kitchen to incubate new businesses
First shout–out: JMRL to kick off the Summer Reading Challenge
In today’s first subscriber-supported public service announcement, the Summer Reading Challenge put forth by Jefferson Madison Regional Library continues! You and members of your family can earn points for prizes in a variety of ways, such as reading for 30 minutes a day, reading with a friend, creating something yourself, or visiting the library! You can also get two points just by telling someone about the Summer Reading Challenge, so I guess I just added two more! Visit JMRL.org to learn more about this all ages opportunity to dive into oceans of possibilities!
Second daily train between Roanoke and DC to start July 11
A deal between the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority and Norfolk Southern closed on June 30, which means additional passenger rail service will begin next Monday. According to a release, the state entity will now own 28 miles of track between Christiansburg and Salem that will allow for the expansion of passenger rail to the New River Valley in a few years.
“We have reached an agreement that expands access for passengers and preserves an important link in the supply chain for businesses that rely on freight rail to ship base materials and finished products,” said Norfolk Southern Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Mike McClellan. “The partnership of our government leaders was critical to making this plan a reality and we appreciate their commitment to the people and economy of Virginia’s Blue Ridge.”
The first daily service on the Northeast Regional began in 2009 and ridership was triple what had been forecast. This train was extended to Roanoke in 2017 and this year has seen a return to pre-pandemic boarding levels.
The second train will begin on July 11, according to the release. It will stop in Alexandria, Manassas, Culpeper, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, and Roanoke.
“Amtrak will now offer morning and afternoon options in both directions between Roanoke, Washington, D.C., and to the Northeast,” said Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods.
To learn more and to book tickets, check out Amtrak’s press release.
A study is underway to determine if Bedford would be a viable stop.
UVA estate at Morven to become Sustainability Lab
A nearly 3,000 acre farm gifted to the University of Virginia in 2001 will now officially be used by the institution as a “Sustainability Lab.” UVA Today reported last week that the Morven Farm property now owned by the University of Virginia Foundation will be used as a place to study environmental resilience and sustainability.
Morven is currently used for meeting space and is the home of the Morven Kitchen Garden, which has been run by a student group for several years. According to the article, that use will continue and space can still be rented out by educational groups and for nonprofit events.
At a bureaucratic level, authority over Morven will remain within the Provost’s office, but will now be transitioned to the Academic Outreach division from Global Affairs. Acting director of programs Rebecca Deeds will become the full time director.
“Morven’s remarkable cultural landscape will contribute to a rich program that will address social, economic and environmental sustainability challenges facing society,” Deeds is quoted in the story. “We are excited to activate it as a living laboratory while we pursue new practices and programs that support and elevate UVA sustainability goals, and engage students, faculty and community members.”
Morven is located on the other side of Carter’s Mountain in between Trump Winery and Highland.
Four new members appointed to UVA’s Board of Visitors
Governor Glenn Youngkin has made his first appointments to the University of Virginia with terms that took effect this past Friday. They are:
Bert Ellis of Hilton Head South Carolina is CEO and Chairman of Ellis Capital, Chairman and CEO of Ellis Communication, and president of Titan Broadcast Management
Stephen Long of Richmond is president of Commonwealth Spine and Pain Specialists
Amanda Pillion is an audiologist with Abingdon Hearing Care and Abingdon ENT Associates, and a member of the Town Council in Abingdon, Virginia
Doug Wetmore of Glen Allen is senior vice president of Centauri Health Solutions
The Board of Visitors next meets at a retreat on August 21 and August 22, followed by a regular meeting on September 15 and September 16. Both events are in Charlottesville.
Previous meetings can be viewed on YouTube. I’m hoping to dig back into the June meeting for a future segment here on Charlottesville Community Engagement. Intrigued? Drop me a line via email and I’ll give you a preview.
Today’s second shout-out: Frances Brand and Cvillepedia 101
In today’s house-fueled public service announcement, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society wants you to know about an upcoming exhibit at the Center at Belvedere featuring portraits of several historical figures active in the Charlottesville area in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Frances Brand was a folk artist who painted nearly 150 portraits of what she considered “firsts” including first Black Charlottesville Mayor Charles Barbour and Nancy O’Brien, the first woman to be Charlottesville Mayor. Brand’s work will be on display from July 5 to August 31 in the first public exhibit since 2004.
And, if you’d like to help conduct community research into who some of the portraits are, cvillepedia is looking for volunteers! I will be leading four Cvillepedia 101 training sessions at the Center every Monday beginning July 11 at 2 p.m. Sign up at the Center’s website.
Charlottesville public housing board gets update on finances
We’re still just days into Virginia’s fiscal year, but the fiscal year of the city’s public housing agency is now entering its second quarter. The finance director of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority
“Overall against budget we are on target,” said Mary Lou Hoffman, CRHA’s finance director.
At the end of the fiscal year, one issue was a backlog of unpaid rent by tenants. CRHA staff continue to find sources of revenue to cover arrears though state rent relief programs and reaching out to local resources. .
“Around March, we were at $229,000 but we’re currently at $126,000,” said John Sales, CHRA’s executive director. “And so they’re constantly talking about the tenant accounts which is a big focus that we have to have. It was one of the areas that the [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] dinged us on years ago for our accounts being so high compared to the amount we are collecting.”
Sales said one issue has been getting into contact with residents to get them set up with rent relief payment arrangements.
HUD classifies CRHA as a “troubled” agency due to a pattern of issues over the years. Sales said getting the finances correct alone will not change that status.
“The only issue that we have so far in our audits is the physical conditions and so we’re working to address those issues,” Sales said. “We had our physical audit in March and all of the emergency work orders were addressed.”
Another issue is tenant damage, which can also affect the HUD status in the audits. Sales said a maintenance plan will address this category.
Redevelopment is underway and two sites have been transferred to a new ownership structure in which the CRHA owns the ground and a Limited Liability Company has been set up to own the buildings for a certain period of time. An entity controlled by CRHA known as the Community Development Corporation Commission controls the LLCs. This allows the projects to be financed through Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) as well as other sources.
“Technically, they are still our responsibility,” Sales said “We own the land. We own the management agreement. We have several loans attached to each development that will eventually either get paid back or get forgiven when we get the property back, get ownership of the property back in 16 years.”
HUD oversight of the public housing projects will continue, but it will be different because there are different kinds of subsidized units.
“We’ll have public housing units so one office will be inspecting them, and then another office will get inspections from LIHTC and gert inspections from HUD,” Sales said.
The LIHTC units would be inspected by Virginia Housing, which issues the credits in the Commonwealth.
Late this month, Virginia Housing’s Board of Commissioners approved low income housing tax credits for this year. Staff recommendations had been not to recommend credits for the first phase of redevelopment for Phase 1 of Sixth Street SE and additional credits for a second phase at South First Street.
There are three vacancies on the CRHA Board of Commissioners and Charlottesville is taking applications through August 5. The terms of Commissioners Maddy Green and Laura Goldblatt expired at the end of June, and Green is not seeking reappointment after filling an unexpired term. Council will make the final appointments.
New Hill Development Corporation gets $189K state grant for commercial kitchen incubator
A Charlottesville nonprofit created to increase wealth building opportunities for Black community members has been awarded a state grant to develop a place for culinary entrepreneurs to grow businesses.
“The New Hill Development Corporation will stabilize and grow food and beverage manufacturing activity in the region by opening an 11,500-square-foot shared commercial kitchen incubator in order to provide food entrepreneurs with a cost-effective space to produce, package, store and distribute tradable manufactured products,” reads a press release for the latest Growing Opportunities grants from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.
The BEACON’s Kitchen project is the only recipient in this area. According to the release, the project will create 90 new jobs, 28 new businesses, and at least 30 new tradeable food products. New Hill is offering a Food Business Boot Camp on August 3 and August 4. (learn more)
The New Hill Development Corporation was created in 2018 and received $500,000 from City Council late that year to create a small area plan for the Starr Hill neighborhood, the site of the razed Vinegar Hill neighborhood. The plan envisioned what a redeveloped City Yard might look like, but was converted into a “vision plan” by the city’s Neighborhood Development Services Department.
Other GO Virginia grant recipients in June include:
Accelerating Advanced Manufacturing Workforce - $530,000 for Laurel Ridge Community College “to build a strong workforce pipeline for Region 8 manufacturers by offering an advanced manufacturing sector-focused career pathway training program.”
Technology Academies for Fauquier and Rappahannock Counties - $402,075 for school systems in those two localities to “develop college-level courses in robotics and drones to high school students and adult learners through a workforce development program.”
Talent Supply Connector - $391,528 for Virginia Career Works Piedmont Region to create “a Career Pathway Guide for employers and developing a region-wide database of relevant training offerings” in an area that includes Greene, Louisa, and Nelson counties.
Workforce and Entrepreneurship Initiatives in a Regional Makerspace - $324,000 for a company called Vector Space to “facilitate the implementation of expanded programming and equipment centered around workforce development and entrepreneurship for underserved populations” in Bedford and Campbell counties as well as the city of Lynchburg.
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This is episode 404 of this program and it took me about six hours to produce. That’s because there are fewer segments in this one. I am hoping to get this on a regular schedule, but that’s going to take more personnel. For now, I hope to get each one out as soon as I can. All of this is supported by readers and listeners through either a paid subscription to this newsletter or through Patreon support for Town Crier Productions.
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For more information on all of this, please visit the archive site Information Charlottesville to learn more, including how you too can get a shout-out! Thank you for reading, and please share with those you think might want to learn a few thing or two about what’s happening.