March 6, 2021: UVA panel endorses plans for new hotel, athletic complex; Hamilton enters 57th House race

  
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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:

  • A brief update on the pandemic 

  • Charlottesville is seeking feedback on how to prepare for economic recovery

  • UVa Board of Visitors committee endorses plans for new hotel, conference center, and athletic complex

  • A challenger emerges in the 57th House of Delegates race 


This upcoming Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the state of emergency declared by Governor Ralph Northam to deal with the COVID pandemic. After a surge related to the winter holidays, Virginia now has a seven-day average of 1,460 new cases reported each day, or around what that metric was the week before Thanksgiving. The seven-day average on February 5 was 3,365. 

During a press briefing yesterday, Dr. Costi Sifri of the University of Virginia said community members should still be vigilant. 

“We have had a pretty steep and steady decline over the last four to six weeks, but that’s stopped now,” Dr. Sifri said. 

Dr. Sifri said one possibility may be the new COVID variants that are out there. He said declines in new case loads are likely not linked to vaccinations. Nearly 2.2 million doses have been administered in Virginia, and over 782,000 are fully vaccinated. The seven-day average for number of doses is at 53,183 a day as of this morning. This week, the Blue Ridge Health District received 2,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson version of the vaccine, which only requires one shot. 

“It’s just going to offer so much more flexibility,” Dr. Sifri said. “It’s the vaccine that hopefully once we have large amounts that we’ll be able to see is easily used in places like doctors’ offices, things that would not be as easily done with a deep-frozen messenger RNA, MRNA vaccine.” 

Still, Dr. Sifri said caution is still required to avoid a fourth surge of COVID. 

“We don’t have a substantial amount of immunity,” Dr. Sifri said. “We’re not near herd immunity yet but we are making progress and we really do have to continue to practice the things that we know prevent the transmission of COVID.” 

Social distancing. Masks. Washing hands. Continuing to watch the numbers. 

“The spring, and into the summer looks a little bit different,” Sifri said. “Probably a lot different than it looks right now.” 

This past Wednesday, UVA President Jim Ryan announced in an email that the university’s Final Exercises graduation ceremony would not occur as usual. However, the administration is exploring the possibility of smaller events for graduates without guests, or postponing until later this year. 

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On Monday, Charlottesville City Schools will open up the doors for at least some students to return to class for the first time in a year. Children in kindergarten through 6th grade whose parents have agreed to proceed with in-person instruction. Certain students in 7th grade through 12th grade who have been identified for being at risk have also been invited back. The Charlottesville School Board voted Thursday to offer in-person instruction to students at Buford and Charlottesville High School beginning on April 12. For more information, visit the city schools’ website


How can the local economy begin to rebound? The Charlottesville Office of Economic Development will hold two facilitated stakeholder meetings later this month to plan for recovery.

“The City Council has indicated that economic recovery of local businesses from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is a top near-term priority,” reads an email from the office. “OED is now seeking broad participation from City business owners that will help inform a series of immediate action items that the City can pursue to assist with recovery.”

If you own a business in Charlottesville and want to participate on either March 17 or March 18, visit the office’s website.

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Delegate Sally Hudson has a challenger in the 57th House race in this year’s General Assembly election. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Republican Philip Hamilton is running. According to his website, he’s a 33-year-old resident of Charlottesville who graduated from George Mason University with a bachelor of science and from the University of Phoenix with a Master’s in Administration of Justice and Security. 


The Buildings and Grounds Committee of the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors met yesterday and approved the schematic design for a new hotel and conference center, as well as an athletics complex. The $130.5 million hotel project will be located near the new School of Data Science within the emerging Ivy Corridor. (meeting packet)

“A mixed-use hospitality, convening, and social destination in this central location will provide a catalyst to achieve these strategic goals set by the President’s Emmet Ivy Task Force,” reads the staff report. 

Those goals include supporting the Democracy Initiative, an initiative of the College of Arts and Sciences and other institutions.

The University and its real estate foundation have been purchasing land along Ivy Road for many years to assemble enough space, including the Cavalier Inn. That structure was demolished in the summer of 2018 and the place where it stood will remain undeveloped according to a 2020 site plan. 

The hotel will have 215 rooms and 28,000 square feet of space for conferences. It will wrap around the existing parking garage. 

The $95 million athletic complex will include a new Football Operations Center and an Olympic Sports Center intended to support more than two dozen varsity sports. 

“Given the proximity to Central Grounds, North Grounds, the Ivy Corridor, and various athletic event venues, the Athletics Complex provides a unique opportunity to bring student athletes, other UVA students, coaches, staff, faculty, and the broader community together,” reads that staff report. 

The Buildings and Grounds Committee also discussed amendments to the UVA major capital plan including about a $1 billion reduction in projects from the 2020 plan due to various deferrals.

Projects currently under construction include renovations at Alderman Library, a Student and Wellness Center, and the Inn at Darden. Other funded projects in the planning stages include a second upper-class residence hall on Brandon Avenue, the Contemplative Sciences Center, and the renovation of the Physics building. 

Construction projects currently on hold include a parking garage to serve an expanded Fontaine Research Center, an academic building for the Batten School, and renovations at Old Cabell Hall. 

The Buildings and Grounds Committee also got an update on sustainability highlights at UVA. This includes work toward a project called “Climate Justice Mapping” by the UVA Equity Center and UVA Sustainability. 

“The primary goal of the Climate Justice Mapping project is to build platforms for the collaborative identification, collection, and dissemination of information about the disproportionate harm of adverse environmental impacts on communities of color through a series of accessible  interactive climate justice maps and graphics,” reads that staff report. 

Other community programs include the UVA Sustainable Food Collaborative. Check the whole packet for details

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Thanks for reading! I neglected to say in the podcast today that music in the program is provided thanks to a grant from the Valley Research Center, an institution so secretive, it doesn’t even exist!