Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
March 3, 2023: UVA panel endorses design concept for new Biotechnology Institute, expanded Center for Politics; Albemarle to move forward with planning for a car-free Free Bridge Lane

March 3, 2023: UVA panel endorses design concept for new Biotechnology Institute, expanded Center for Politics; Albemarle to move forward with planning for a car-free Free Bridge Lane

Plus: Albemarle Supervisors reflect on the passage of former colleague Ken Boyd

This is the ninth Friday of 2023 leaving 43 left to go. What will happen on each of those days, as well as the other days that happen between? Perhaps there is too much to write down each day  and no way to capture it all. Perhaps the effort should be made anyway. After all, this is Charlottesville Community Engagement and I’m the host and producer, Sean Tubbs. 

On today’s string-of-beads: 

  • A committee of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors approve concepts for the new Biotechnology Institute at Fontaine Research Park

  • Three members of the Board memorialize the late Ken Boyd 

  • The UVA Sustainability Committee hands out leadership awards 

  • Locally-produced podcast Stitch Please is up for a national podcast award

  • Albemarle Supervisors agree to proceed with a test of a car-free Free Bridge Lane

You can pay if you want. You can also choose to get it for free. Either way, signing up is going to bring you a lot of information.

First shout-out: The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign 

Since the very beginning of this newsletter, one Patreon supporter who has been there since July 2020 has used his shout-out to draw your attention to the work of the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign. The campaign is a coalition of grassroots partners including motivated citizens and volunteers, partner organizations, and local governments who want to promote the use of native plants. We’re now close to the beginning of spring and this is the time to learn about what you need to plan to attract pollinators who’ll keep native species going. To learn more, visit to download Piedmont Native Plants: A Guide for Landscapes and Gardens

UVa Buildings and Grounds Committee reviews new buildings at Fontaine Research Center

The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors is meeting this week for one of their quarterly meetings. Members of the Buildings and Grounds Committee were shown design concepts for several future developments. 

“The first three concept site design guidelines coming to you for your approval are at Fontaine Park and in support of the Manning Institute for Biotechnology,” said Alice Raucher, the University of Virginia Architect. 

Paul and Dianne Manning donated $100 million to UVA for the institute, which will be built on what is now a surface parking lot at Fontaine and next to existing buildings used for biotechnology research. This is part of a master plan adopted by the Board of Visitors in September 2018. 

“The current parking upon which the building will be built will be replaced by new structured parking and the green lawn above the below-grade vivarium helps to form one of the research neighborhoods that was part of the master plan,” Raucher said. 

The new parking garage will be along Fontaine Avenue and will also support other UVA facilities elsewhere in the community with an easily accessible transit stop. 

“This will also enable the parking garage to be used as an intercept location for commuters to the medical center,” Raucher said. 

An overview of the Fontaine Research Park with conceptual locations for the three new buildings planned 

Raucher also sought approval for a new Central Energy Plant which will help UVA meet sustainability goals. 

“The energy plant will be served by geothermal wells which will be drilled underneath surface parking areas and roadways,” Raucher said.

Raucher will come back to the Buildings and Grounds Committee with a schematic plan for the three new buildings in September. 

Yesterday’s newsletter focused on the approval of 525 units on Old Ivy Road on land not controlled by the University of Virginia.

The Buildings and Grounds Committee also learned of a concept design for the expansion of the Center for Politics, which operates out of the historic Montesano building nestled within the Ivy Gardens apartment complex. 

The design would also incorporate a new road that will connect with Leonard Sandridge Drive as part of the overall redevelopment plans for Ivy Gardens. 

“Currently the access to Montesano is via Crestwood Drive which comes off of Old Ivy Road which is a shared road that’s really owned by University Village,” Raucher said. “There is a commitment that when we build this that we would build a new road that connects Montesano to Leonard Sandridge Drive.” 

The Ivy Gardens master plan also features a future central green that would feature the Center for Politics at one end and the Miller Center at another. 

A reminder that UVA does not have to submit any of its plans for review by either Albemarle County or Charlottesville. There is a three-party agreement from 1986 that is intended to govern planning issues. (read the document)

Location maps for the renovation and expansion of Montesano (Credit: University of Virginia Architect)

In other business, they agreed to approve the demolition of a shed at Zehmer that has been used for communications equipment as well as some townhomes at the College of Wise that have been unoccupied since 2013.

The Buildings and Grounds Committee also signed off on new names for several future buildings and amenities. 

  • The new hotel at Darden will be officially named the “Frank M. Sands Sr. and Marjorie R. Sands Hotel at the Darden and Conference Center for Lifelong Learning.” The hotel will be marketed as the Forum Hotel and will be run by Klimpton Hotels and Restaurants. 

  • Several places at the new hotel will be named for the Altec/Styslinger Foundation including a bar and lobby, a bar terrace, a second terrace, and a rooftop terrace. 

  • The new arboretum at Darden will have a bridge that was to have been named after a pair of donors. Now they would like it to be named The Connection Bridge. 

  • Another structural walkway that will span the central pond in the arboretum will be named the Carl Mason Franklin footbridge. 

More from the UVA Board of Visitors in a future installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement. 

Know someone who might want to know this stuff? Share it!


Supervisors discuss the legacy of Ken Boyd 

In late February, this newsletter reported the death of Kenneth C. Boyd, a three-term representative for the Rivanna District on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. Boyd was elected in 2003 after having been a member of the School Board for the four years prior. He left the Board at the end of 2015. 

Sometimes that number seems like a lifetime ago, as much has changed in this community, the country, and the world since then. At their meeting on March 1, 2023, the current members of the Board of Supervisors who knew Nohad some recollections. 

Supervisor Ned Gallaway said he first got involved with local politics in 2009 when he had an unsuccessful run for the School Board. 

“As I began to engage I remember all of the players that were there at the time,” Gallaway said. “I eventually became elected to the School Board in 2011 and I have to say that all my interactions with Ken Boyd, even though from a political standpoint on every different ends of the spectrum, he always treated with respect.” 

Supervisor Diantha McKeel served four terms on the School Board before her election to the Board of Supervisors in 2013. She served with Boyd during his term.

“One topic that I think Ken would really be happy about right now if he was in this community is our work around economic development,” Boyd said. “Because at that time when I was serving with him, we didn’t have an office of economic development, we didn’t have a focus on economic development. He was frustrated about that often.” 

Supervisor Ann Mallek also had recollections of Boyd. 

“He and I did not always agree,” Mallek said. “I think that would be fair. But he also was very careful to explain exactly what the reasons where why he felt a certain way.” 

Mallek recalled her first year on the Board in 2008 and going through the large budget document. She said Boyd was chair at the time and answered all of her questions about the process. 

“He was always very thoughtful and very helpful and I would say that the 2010 to 2014 Board was very collegial even though we did not agree,” Mallek said. “There was no bitterness and no semblance of any kind of irritation. Plenty of debate, and that’s good.” 

A memorial service to his life will be held in Southport, North Carolina on March 18. 

Boyd often compared elements of the government process to be like the film Groundhog Day. Once, former Supervisor Brad Sheffield gave Boyd a stuffed groundhog in response. 

Natural Heritage Committee chair, Cultivate Charlottesville honored with UVA Sustainability Award

A University of Virginia committee that promotes environmental issues has honored the chair of Albemarle County’s Natural Heritage Committee. The UVA Sustainability Committee has given a 2022 Sustainability Leadership Award to Christine Hirsh-Putnam for her work in the community. Albemarle Supervisor Jim Andrews recognized the recognition on Wednesday. 

“She is described as a super citizen, she co-chairs the county’s Solid Waste Alternatives Advisory Committee and leads its outreach, communications, and education subcommittee,” Andrews said. “As this announcement reads, Christine is a subtle genius in inspiring sustainable habits in Albemarle County. She now only sows the seeds of inspiration on these committees but always waters them day after day with her time and energy.”

Cultivate Charlottesville also won the community award.

“Criteria for winners included demonstrating innovation and passion in work related to civic engagement, stewardship of the built and natural environment, discovery through teaching or research, and/or sound governance practices and collaboration,” reads the website for the award. 

The Civic Engagement Subcommittee of the Sustainability Committee also handed out other leadership awards: 

  • UVA students: Environmental Justice Collective

  • Faculty: Matthew Meyer, M.D., Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology, School of Medicine, and UVA Health Anesthesiologist

  • Staff: Institute for Engagement and Negotiation

Visit the UVA Sustainability committee’s web page to learn more. 

Sponsored message: Buy Local 

Charlottesville Community Engagement’s continued existence means that many of you support local information. Want to support some local businesses as well? The Buy Local campaign is in full swing, and both the Albemarle and Charlottesville Offices of Economic Development want people to consider spending locally as they shop throughout the year.

The Buy Local campaign highlights small businesses within Charlottesville and Albemarle County through a multi-channel, multimedia promotional and educational campaign designed to reinforce how important supporting area small businesses is to the local economy. 

Locally-owned, independent businesses with a brick-and-mortar presence in the City or County interested in being featured in the campaign should visit or contact 

For more information on the Buy Local campaign, visit or follow us on Facebook and Instagram @BuyLocalCvilleAlbemarle or on Twitter @BuyLocalCville.

Local podcast up for national award

A weekly podcast made in Charlottesville has been nominated for the Best DIY Podcast of 2023 by the Podcast Academy. Stitch Please is produced by Lisa Woolfork, the founder of Black Women Stitch.

“Launched in 2019, the Stitch Please podcast explores the intersection of sewing, crafting, and Black culture; providing a platform for Black women, girls, and femmes to share their experiences and creativity in sewing,” reads a press release sent out by the Charlottesville Anti-Racist Media Liaisons. 

Stitch Please comes out weekly and has over 150 episodes that has had over 425,000 downloads. The show features sewing tips, history, and interviews with Black fiber artists, designers, quilters, and sewists. 

“It makes me really proud to see a DIY podcast that centers around our community being recognized for excellence,” Woolfork said. “This nomination affirms the power of Black women’s voices. Stitch Please is creating a story and documenting the history of Black creativity, one stitch at a time.”

The AMBIE awards will be streamed live on March 7 from 9 to 10:30 p.m. east-coast time on the Amazon Music channel on Twitch

Visit Black Women Stitch to access the podcast.

Albemarle Supervisors agree to test out a car-free Free Bridge Lane 

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has endorsed a plan to convert a roadway along the Rivanna River into a car-free zone called for in the Pantops Master Plan. 

“Free Bridge Lane is a low-volume, unstriped local street that extends for approximately for half a mile from Darden-Towe Park at the northern end to U.S. 250 at the Southern end,” said Jessica Hersh-Ballering, a transportation planner with Albemarle County. 

On Wednesday, Supervisors agreed to proceed with a pilot plan to halt vehicular traffic on the road in favor of a promenade. That idea comes out of a desire from the Pantops Community Advisory Committee, a group that helped shepherd the plan. 

Poet Sarah Robinson is a former member of the Pantops Community Advisory Committee who is pleased that Albemarle County is implementing the project. 

“When I was walking by the river when I first built in Riverside Village, this vision came to me of a place that could be poetry in motion,” Robinson said. “A promenade if you will where cars no longer were by the river. Where pedestrians and strollers and bikers and birdwatchers could envision seeing the river, enjoying the beauty of the river.” 

The promenade is one of two design concepts for how to transform Free Bridge Lane. The other is converting it to a one-way street, but staff is recommending a pilot project to test out the promenade.

“We have about 15 feet for the promenade and this promenade space would be shared by bicyclists and pedestrians,” Hersh-Ballering said. “There’s a lot of space leftover for amenities on either side as well as a bio-retention area which gets at that stormwater management component that was identified in the Pantops Master Plan.” 

If the pilot becomes permanent, there would be parking lots at either end. If this was to become a reality, Albemarle County would need to take ownership of the roadway from the Virginia Department of Transportation.  Staff wants to proceed with the promenade. 

“We’d like to direct the consulting team to develop a final concept design and cost estimate for a Free Bridge Lane promenade,” Hersh-Ballering said. 

The pilot project would make the minimum necessary improvements to close the road to vehicular traffic.  There’s no cost estimate yet for what that might cost and Hersh-Ballering said Supervisors would need to formally approve the pilot once it is developed. 

Dick Ruffin is the chair of the Pantops CAC and he asked Supervisors to imagine Free Bridge Lane in the summer of 2033 if they decided to proceed. 

“Ten years hence,” Ruffin said. “The promenade is alive and active and full of people young and old. Public art and other amenities go along that stretch from Darden-Towe to Riverbend. Through the efforts of the new Pantop Trails Crew, invasive species have been largely eliminated, mostly mitigated in that stretch. The Old Mill Trail is now open all the way to North Milton.”

Ruffin’s vision also includes a small pedestrian bridge across the river allowing people to walk to a restaurant on the west side of the River in Charlottesville. Different trails from all across Pantops lead to this area. 

“More important, the Rivanna River has become a focal point for this community,” Ruffin said. 

Ruffin said Supervisors’ decision to proceed with the promenade will help that vision come to fruition. 

The idea has the support of Rivanna District Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley.

“I think this is something that we can give back to the community, a beautiful, beautiful promenade space for everyone,” LaPisto-Kirtley said. 

Hersh-Ballering said staff cannot just move the project forward without a cost estimate which will be generated as part of the pilot design. 

The final words of #505

Another day, another podcast. When will the next one be out? At this point, I am not sure. Possibly Monday? There’s a lot of work to do at Town Crier Productions, including the Week Ahead, real estate research, and a weekly story for C-Ville Weekly! It’s a busy life and I’m grateful to have the support of so many to keep it going. 

Want to join them? Sign up for a paid subscription through Substack at either the $5 a month, $50 a year, or $200 a year level. Questions about what that gets you? Drop me a line and I’ll be happy to say. For now, I have to get on to mentioning that Ting supports this work. They’ll match your first payment. 

And maybe you want faster Internet? 

If you sign up for Ting at this link and enter the promo code COMMUNITY, you’ll get:

  • Free installation

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If you would like to know what’s up with the feed if there is not a new edition, I always post those updates in the Substack Chat. You’ll have to download an app, but it’s a great way to read all of your favorite Substack publications? Don’t have any? Download the app and you’ll be sure to find something new to read. 

Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
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.