Jun 10, 2022 • 15M

June 10, 2022: UVA seeks developers for two of three future mixed-income communities; CRHA projects may not receive tax credits this year

Plus: Louisa voters may have a referendum this year on $16.M bond issue for new athletic fields

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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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Today the year turns 161 days old, but don’t get too used to that number, for it will be replaced quite soon with another, and another, and so on. But 2022 is still not yet at the halfway point, and you’ve got three weeks left until that not-quite-august occasion on July 1. The occasion right now is this installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, and this person writing is Sean Tubbs.  

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On today’s program:

  • The University of Virginia is asking developers to send in qualifications to build two mixed-use communities as part of an affordable housing initiative

  • Two redevelopment projects being undertaken by the city’s public housing agency may not get financing through low-income housing tax credits this year

  • Charlottesville City Council officially kills the West Main Streetscape 

  • Louisa County Supervisors discuss a referendum for a sports complex and whether it should include turf fields on existing athletic fields

  • And Charlottesville will only one outdoor pool at a time for the time being 

First shout–out: JMRL to kick off the Summer Reading Challenge

In today’s first subscriber-supported public service announcement, the Jefferson Madison Regional Library wants you to read as much as you can this summer, and for encouragement and incentives, they’re holding another Summer Reading Challenge. There’s an Ocean of Possibilities this year and the Central Library will kick off the challenge this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Central Library. It will be a party with music, food, and fun! The Friends of the Library will pop up a mini-book sale and a Books on Bikes parade! You can learn more about the Summer Challenge and how you or your family members can win awards and receive prizes. Visit jmrl.org to learn more about the kickoff event, this Saturday! 

University of Virginia issues first request for qualifications for affordable housing developer

The University of Virginia is moving forward with an initiative to use property owned by its real estate foundation to create units that will be reserved for people whose incomes are below the area median income. 

The UVA Foundation issued a request this morning for qualifications from firms to develop two separate projects, including a two-acre site on Wertland Street. The other is a 12-acre site on Mimosa Drive known currently as Piedmont. 

“UVA/UVAF intends to enter into a ground lease with one or more development team(s) best suited to satisfy UVA/UVAF’s requirements and desired features,” reads the request for proposals. 

The two locations for what UVA hopes will be mixed-use communities (view the RFQ)

UVA announced a goal of building between 1,000 and 1,500 affordable housing units in March 2020, but momentum was stalled by the pandemic. These two sites as well as the North Fork Research Park were identified in December after initial work for the project was conducted by the firm Northern Urban Real Estate Ventures. A similar request for qualifications for a firm for North Fork will be made at a later date. 

Under the arrangement, the UVA Foundation would continue to own both sites and the developer would own the structures and other improvements. 

“UVA/UVAF seeks to maximize the amount of affordable and workforce housing at each site and as such, will provide the land as a part of the Project,” the request continues. “UVA/UVAF will not otherwise contribute funding to the Project.” 

The developer will be responsible for preparing the plans and getting all of the necessary approvals, including archaeological studies. They’ll also have to have experience getting financing through Virginia Housing. 

Other development requirements include:

  • Deliver a moderate to high-density mixed income housing community

  • Offer a maximum number of affordable housing units, with an emphasis on creating mixed-income communities that include, but are not limited to, units in the 30 percent to 60 percent area median income range

  • Coordinate with UVA/UVAF and local jurisdictions on the utilities and infrastructure that will serve the development, and coordinate on the design aesthetic that interacts with the surrounding community.

  • Demolish the existing improvements as needed to accommodate the Project, with the exception of historic structures (applicable only at Piedmont).

City officially cancels West Main Streetscape project

Charlottesville City Council has voted to officially cancel the $55 million West Main Streetscape project as well as other projects in an effort to get the city’s transportation house in order. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation will now administer a project to extend a turn lane at Route 250 and Hydraulic Road. A project to coordinate traffic signals on Emmet Street has also been canceled, as has a Smart Scale funded project at the intersection of Preston and Grady. 

The details were discussed at a work session with the Planning Commission on May 24. (read my story)

“While this is called cancellation of those projects, that’s in regards to the funding with VDOT, so as discussed, especially some of the safety projects, these are not going away forever, they’re just going away as Smart Scale projects,” said City Engineer Jack Dawson. 

The West Main Streetscape began with a $350,000 study authorized by Council in February 2013 which also led to a rezoning for the street. Over the years, Council authorized more and more funding as a local match for VDOT funds to build the project which was to be split into four phases.  The project lost support as a plan to renovate and expand Buford Middle School became a priority for the current City Council. 

Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook said the project has been on life support for at least a year. 

“In a sense, this is almost a formality for us to recognize that which has already been made clear to us and decisions we have made ourselves over the last few years,” Snook said. “This is just finally pulling the plug on it.” 

The Commonwealth Transportation Board next meets on June 21 and may take up the official resolution to defund the project.

Initiation of the study in February 2013 predated the construction of the Flats at West Village (left) and the Standard (right). (Credit: Sean Tubbs)

Virginia Housing does not recommend funding for two CRHA projects

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority has appeared to have fallen short in its attempt to get financing for two planned redevelopment projects in a current funding cycle. 

Virginia Housing, the entity that authorizes low-income housing tax credits in Virginia, has issued its final rankings for this year pending approval by their Board of Commissioners later this month.  

Credits for 47 units in the Sixth Street Phase One project have not been recommended to be funded through what’s known as the Housing Authority pool. An application for additional credits for 113 units for the second phase of the redevelopment of South First Street also did not rank high enough to move forward. Virginia Housing granted credits for the second phase in 2020 and this second application was to fill in a funding gap caused by higher construction costs. 

South First Street Phase One is currently under construction and is expected to be occupied earlier this year. That 62-unit project did receive low-income housing tax credits in 2021. 

The only application recommended for funding from the Housing Authority pool this year is for new construction of 68 units in Norfolk by a company called Brinshore. In that project, 47 of the units would be supported through the credits. 

CRHA executive director John Sales said is hopeful the Virginia Housing Board of Commissioners will reconsider the rankings at their next meeting in Richmond coming up later this month on June 21 and June 22.

“The Board in the past has fully funded Public Housing redevelopment efforts,” Sales said. “We are hoping the Board does the same thing this year when making final allocations.”

Sales said if Sixth Street’s request is not funded, CRHA will pursue another financing opportunity later this year or reapply in 2023. He said the South Street Phase Two project will move forward if another source can be found to fill in the funding gap.   

You can download the full list of rankings from the Virginia Housing website.

Lifeguard shortage causes Charlottesville to limit outdoor pool hours

With summer just getting under way, the Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Department has made the decision to restrict hours at both Onesty Pool and Washington Pool so that only one of them will be open each day. 

“The Department is actively recruiting lifeguards and if the staffing levels increase and are able to operate both pools concurrently, we will update the operating hours,” reads a press release that was sent out this morning. 

For now, Onesty will be open Thursday through Saturday between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Washington Park Pool will be open those hours from Sunday to Wednesday. The indoor Smith Aquatic Center is now open every day after being closed for a couple of years. Outdoor spray grounds are also open. 

Visit the city’s website for more information

Second shout-out: The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign 

It’s getting close to the end of springtime, and one Patreon subscriber wants you to know the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign is a grassroots initiative of motivated citizens, volunteers, partner organizations, and local governments who want to promote the use of native plants. 

Did you know that National Pollinator Week is June 20th-26th this year? There are many ways to celebrate and learn more about our native pollinators, and here's a great one to start with:

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is hosting an in-person/virtual Pollinator Power Symposium on June 23rd, and there is an excellent line up of speakers scheduled for the day! 

There are plenty of resources on the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page, so sign up to be notified of lectures, plant sales, and more! 

Louisa County may seek a referendum for a sports complex

Discussion of a sports complex with new athletic fields in Albemarle County stalled at the end of the budget cycle, but Louisa County is considering a referendum on the issuance of $16.5 million in bonds for that purpose. 

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors discusses a draft petition for the referendum at their meeting this past Monday. For a referendum to get on the ballot, a Circuit Court judge has to sign an order by August 18. 

“This is for a bond issue of up to $16.5 million and it lists four baseball fields, four rectangular fields for sports, concessions, lighting, parking and related facilities, a field house at the high school football field and renovation of existing sports facilities,” said Louisa County Attorney Helen Phillips. 

Phillips said the language in the ballot question has to be in plain English and not in legalese.

A draft petition to the Circuit Court requesting the bond referendum

Supervisors discussed the proper wording, and whether the suggested wording was too broad. 

There is a possibility of two different ballot questions. One would be for the complex, and one would be for the field house and other renovations. 

“In the discussions we’ve had about going to referendum, I don’t recall anything other than just going to referendum to see if people would get behind building a sports complex,” said Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow. 

Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes said he sees the need for a complex that would expand the county’s offerings, but that the existing school fields also need to be addressed. 

“What we don’t have in this county is synthetic surfaces for girls’ softball where they could play in the rain,” Barnes said. “These fields would allow, number one, not having to water them, not having to fertilize them, not having to cut them. They would be maintenance free fields.” 

Barnes said this could help the county increase revenue from lodging taxes. 

Supervisor Toni Williams of the Jackson District said the ballot question as suggested appeared to assume that the county has already decided to proceed with the project. 

“It appears that the cake is baked in this that the decision has been made to build them,” Williams said. “Maybe the real special election should ask, first of all, do you want these facilities in the county, and if you want them, do you authorize the Board to pay for them by bond?” 

Supervisors gave direction to divide the referendum into separate questions. Final language will be discussed and approved at future meetings. The location for a future sports complex has also not yet been selected. 

For more information on this and anything else happening in Louisa County, visit Engage Louisa by Tammy Purcell.

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