Mar 30, 2021 • 16M

March 30, 2021: UVA President Ryan kicks off Tom Tom equity conference; update on regional housing projects; date set for Crescent Halls kick-off

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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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In today’s Substack-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit the Code for Charlottesville website to learn more, including details on three projects that are underway.  

On today’s show: 

  • Housing updates from Regional Housing Partnership 

  • UVA President Jim Ryan kicks off the Tom Tom Foundation’s Race and Equity Conference

  • The City of Charlottesville is advertising for a slew of management positions 

  • Crescent Halls renovation moving forward with a date scheduled for a virtual kickoff 

  • A brief look at the pandemic

Today marks the beginning of the Tom Tom Foundation’s Race and Equity Conference which is a pay-what-you-can virtual event that seeks to explore “the intersection of workplace and community.”

The title of the multi-day series is From the Classroom to the Boardroom and is intended to address income disparities. The conference website cites the latest report on family self-sufficiency from Ridge Schuyler of the Network2Work program at Piedmont Virginina Community College.  (Orange Dot Report 4.0, January 20, 2021)

“In our hometown, Charlottesville, Virginia, 35% of Black families do not currently earn enough money to meet their basic needs, compared to 14% of white families,” reads the conference website. “Targeted interventions can help address this racial inequity where its impact is most often felt—in our classrooms, boardrooms, and on the pathways in between.” 

University of Virginia President Jim Ryan kicked off the event this morning.

“As we focus on re-building community, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, innovation and collaboration remain critically important, especially around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Ryan said.

Ryan said efforts to improve the overall community are underway and that the Classroom to Boardroom conference would provide highlights.

“Throughout this week you’ll hear from local and national leaders on their experiences and perspectives,” Ryan said.

One of those national leaders is Symone Sanders, who served as press secretary to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign before becoming spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris. Symone Sanders was the keynote conversation this morning. She was asked to speak about some of the challenges and barriers she has experienced as a Black woman.

“I think we can all identify with the ‘isms’ and Donna Brazile, a good mentor of mine, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee and a former CNN political commentator, Donna Brazile was a political commentator before people had jobs as political commentators!” Sanders said. “She said something to me that I will never forget and will share it with you now because I think it is the best encapsulation of the answer to your question. She said racism, sexism, ageism are not going anywhere tomorrow. We have to work to eradicate it. We have to call it out.”

The event continues this afternoon with two more panel discussions. At 1 p.m. the topic is “Ascension: Joining Together to Rewrite the Code” and will be a discussion of the social fabric required for art and community to grow featuring Sahara Clemons, William Jones, and Lisa Woolfork moderated by Sarad Davenport. At 3 p.m. the topic is The Transformative Value of Diversity and Inclusion and is moderated by Mary Coleman, the executive director of the City of Promise. 

Visit the Tom Tom Foundation’s site to learn more and register for the pay-as-you-can event which runs through April 8. (website)


A groundbreaking date has been announced for the renovation of Crescent Halls. The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority will hold a virtual renovation kickoff celebration at 4 p.m. on April 14 at 4 p.m. 

“The ‘skeleton’ of the building will be preserved, but all of the residential units, building systems, underground infrastructure, common areas, exterior spaces, parking areas, etc. will be as-new,” reads a description of the renovations on the CRHA website. 

For more information on the project, read a four-page design overview produced by the Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR). Last October, City Council approved a performance agreement that will be used by the CRHA’s redevelopment nonprofit to govern how $3 million in city funds will be used both for Crescent Halls and the first phase of South First Street. Groundbreaking for the latter took place on March 7. (watch groundbreaking) (read previous story)

The CRHA will hold a work session tonight at 5 p.m. at which they are expected to adopt a budget for FY22. Following that, the CRHA’s safety committee will meet. (Zoom registration

Image of the what the “Frontside” of a renovated Crescent Halls will look like

Do you or someone you know want the chance to be Charlottesville’s next Director of Neighborhood Development Services? The city is taking applications through April 2 for the position, for which a vacancy was created when Alex Ikefuna was demoted to deputy director in February 2020. (Daily Progress article)

‘The ideal candidate must have experience and knowledge with all aspects of Planning and Development operations and a proven track record in managing a complex organization while demonstrating the ability to work with many stakeholders in a highly engaged community,” reads the application for the job, which has a salary range between $100,000 and $150,000. 

The NDS director is not the only position that is open:

“Recent retirements, natural attrition and newly created positions of several key leadership posts have positioned the City to be able to make a major organizational culture change in serving our community and meeting the contemporary needs of our governmental staff,” reads a line posted within each of the above applications. 

A blurb from the application brochure outlines the duties of the NDS director

You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement. In this subscriber-supported public service announcement, the days of live music at clubs are in our future, but if you feel safe and want to check out people playing together in a safe environment, the Charlottesville Jazz Society has a running list of events coming up on their website. The Charlottesville Jazz Society is dedicated to the promotion, preservation and perpetuation of all jazz. Check them out in the link in the newsletter.  

The Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership met earlier this month and got updates on various initiatives underway.  One of them involves helping outlying communities write policies for ensuring the existence of housing affordable to people with lower incomes. Christine Jacobs is the interim director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. 

“We are creating a draft Comprehensive Plan chapter for each of the jurisdictions within the planning district commission,” Jacobs said. “The City of Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson.” 

Jacobs said there will also be a chapter in the regional plan that offers strategies on how the localities can work together to increase the overall supply of housing.

“We now have a draft of all six of the locality chapters,” Jacobs said. “We have been working directly with staff specifically in Albemarle and Charlottesville since they have been doing so much work on their end with their affordable housing plans.” 

Jacobs said the regional plan will also include a map which shows the areas in each locality where zoning exists for multifamily buildings and other dense residential uses. A draft of the regional plan will come to the RHP’s executive committee in May and will come to the full RHP board in June. The plans will be presented to localities in the summer and will go to the TJPDC Board in August. 

Albemarle’s Housing Plan next goes to the Albemarle Planning Commission in May. Charlottesville’s City Council endorsed an affordable housing plan earlier this month. 

“Basically we’re taking their very large plans and condensing it into our chapter so that they are a part of this entire regional plan,” Jacobs said. 

Supervisor Diantha McKeel asked where the University of Virginia’s housing plans fit into the region. On March 10, 2020, UVA announced a ten year plan to build up to 1,500 units on land currently owned by UVA or its real estate foundation. Colette Sheehy, senior vice president for operations and government relations at UVA, gave an update.

“We did a solicitation and we have hired a consultant to help us, her name is Gina Merrett,” Sheehy said. 

Merrett is with Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures

“This is not a consultant who will build affordable housing for us,” Sheehy said. “This is a consultant to guide the University through the process to get to the point where we would do a [request for proposals] to the developer community to build affordable housing.”

Sheehy said UVA’s main contribution will come in the form of land and that a community engagement process is being developed now. 

During the meeting, members of the RHP were asked to give a “value proposition” for the body. Jacobs went first with her thoughts.

“I think by having a regional body that’s looking at this issue comprehensively, how it relates to transit and transportation, how it relates to equity and health, I think we put ourselves in a position to be considered to administer the Emergency Rent and Mortgage relief program,” Jacobs said. The TJPDC administered over $1.6 million in relief in the second half of calendar year 2020.

The TJPDC administered the program for its first six months

Architect Greg Powe went next.

“This is a regional crisis,” Powe said. “It affects all of us. This is the only group I’m aware of that brings together all of us that are impacted by and can positively resolve the problem. I think there’s incredible value to have the private sector interfacing with the municipalities and with the nonprofits interacting with the institutions.” 

Chris Henry of the Stony Point Development Group followed.

“We’re one community and this group represents that community and how we come together to solve that problem so I think that’s the fundamental essence of the Regional Housing Partnership,” Henry said. 

RHP Chair Keith Smith of Fluvanna County said he has been discussing the possibility of bringing Augusta County and Waynesboro into the group. The TJPDC has worked with the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission on planning for a transit route now known as the Afton Express. 

Charlottesville City Councilor Lloyd Snook played off of that theme.

“A value of doing this Regional Housing Partnership through the TJPDC also ties in with the Regional Transit Partnership,” Snook said. “I’ve always said these days, affordable housing for the Charlottesville market is in Waynesboro or Buckingham County. It’s not in Charlottesville. It’s really not in Albemarle very much.”

City Councilor Michael Payne agreed.

“There’s really only been one project since I’ve been on Council where Council hasn’t approved greater density than what’s allowed by-right so I definitely agree that something is going to need to happen regionally because the supply-side solutions, if only Charlottesville is doing supply-side solutions, it’s going to have a much smaller impact than regionally,” Payne said. 

Before we go today, a brief update on the pandemic. The number of new cases reported each day by the Virginia Department of Health remains steady, even as the number of vaccinations each day continues to increase. Today there are another 1,432 new cases and the percent positive rate is at 5.8 percent. Last week that metric was 5.6 percent. 

Over 1.3 million Virginians are now fully vaccinated, or 15.5 percent of the total population. The seven-day average for doses administered per day is 61,681 a day. 

Yesterday the Blue Ridge Health District announced it would receive 1,500 first doses and 1,000 second doses of Moderna, 2,340 Pfizer first doses, and 4,000 Johnson and Johnson doses. That does not include allocations that now go directly to the UVA Hospital. 

The announcement also stated the health district is not yet able to expand to Phase 1C.

“Unfortunately, our supply of COVID-19 vaccines remains limited this week, despite our numerous requests for an increase in supply,” reads the announcement. “We are unable to meet the demand for the number of people in our District who currently qualify for a vaccine.”

Take a look at the Blue Ridge Health District’s Facebook page to learn more