Fodder to begin this newsletter and podcast often comes from a website that lists what may or may not be actual holidays. There are several listed for today, and worth noting, to demonstrate just how much there is to know about in this section of space, time, and rhyme.
October 12 is Farmers Day. October 12 is also Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity. October 12 is also Emergency Nurses Day. It’s also International Top Spinning Day, though October 12 may also be a dream. Whatever the day’s theme, this is the edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement for this 285th day of the year. I’m Sean Tubbs, hoping this year that National Stop Bullying Day finally comes true.
On today’s show:
Charlottesville’s Economic Development Authority agrees to rent a space in York Place for a public restroom for the Downtown Mall
Charlottesville is looking for a new person to run the city’s Police Civilian Oversight Board
Ground is broken on the University of Virginia’s new hotel and conference center on Emmet Street
The opening and closing films of the 35th annual Virginia Film Festival are announced and tickets go on sale next week
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First shout-out: eBike Demo Day coming up on October 16
Are you interested in a climate-friendly, family-friendly way to replace short car rides? Have you heard about eBikes? Wondering what kind might be right for you? Join Livable Cville on Sunday, October 16 from 2–4pm at Meade Park in Charlottesville for a fun afternoon with lots of eBikes owners you can talk to and several types of eBikes you can take for short test rides. Everyone is invited to Bike Demo Day. To learn more, please visit livablecville.org.
City leasing part of York Place for public bathroom
The Downtown Mall is 46 years old and remains a destination for locals and out-of-towners alike. One thing has been constant for most of that time.
“There [has] not been in the history of the Mall any truly accessible public restrooms that are proximate to where people are when they’re on the Mall,” said Chris Engel, the city’s economic development director. “Prior to COVID the transit center which is at the east end of the mall and it had some public facilities on the lower level.”
Engel said those restrooms will eventually come back but plans are underway for a new location as he announced to the Economic Development Authority’s Board of at their meeting on October 11.
“What we’re talking about today is a lease with a private entity that owns York Place which is the walking arcade if you will,” Engel said.
Engel said the EDA will enter into a one-year lease to provide two rest rooms for public use. There will be signs pointing people to them.
“This will hopefully alleviate a long-term kind of issue with Downtown Mall merchants, visitors, etcetera, not having access to a publicly available bathroom,” Engel said.
York Place will maintain the facility for $5,000 a month and will be open as long as York Place is open.
“He maintains them and cleans them, stocks them as needed, and otherwise keeps an eye on them,” Engel said.
If the paperwork is signed, the space will be ready for public use on November 1.
One member of the EDA Board of Directors had some concerns about being personally named in a potential lawsuit.
“I would want to hear from CEDA’s attorney about this to make sure that if something terrible happens and you’re the named tenant here as a group, what is the worst case scenario here,” said Addison Barnhardt.
Barnhardt said he was also concerned that people will vandalize or destroy the bathrooms and the city will have to repair them.
“I think we should try it, I’m not against it,” Barnhardt said. “But I do see some concerns here.”
Engel said there are clauses in the lease to allow the city to end the pilot if necessary. The EDA voted to enter into the agreement at the meeting.
Director of Charlottesville Police Oversight Board leaving city
Another high-profile vacancy has opened in Charlottesville City Government. Hansel Aguilar has resigned as executive director of the Police Civilian Oversight Board effective October 21. He was appointed to the position last September.
During his tenure, City Council adopted an updated ordinance that gave a new name to what had been the Police Civilian Review Board, a name that reflected additional powers for the body.
“The ordinance granted the board more supervision of the Police Department by providing the ability to receive, investigate and issue findings on complaints made by civilians toward the Police Department,” reads a press release.
The office for the Police Civilian Oversight Board has a budget of $362,677 in the current fiscal year.
Aguilar will become the Director of Police Accountability in Berkeley, California. He had worked for the Office of Police Complaints but was terminated by Washington D.C. in 2019. He appealed his firing and was initially awarded a reversal but the case was appealed to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The case is still pending according to a status report filed on September 21 in the United States Court of the District of Columbia.
A search will begin for a new executive director.
Ground-breaking held for new University of Virginia hotel
The University of Virginia’s transformation of Ivy Road into a high-profile corridor off of Charlottesville’s tax rolls continues as work has begun on the construction of a new hotel and conference center. UVA Today reports that shovels overturned dirt on October 6 for the project which has a $130.5 million budget.
“This will be a crossroads for the University – and the University’s front door,” UVA President Jim Ryan is quoted in the story. “The hotel and conference center will play an important role as a place where people can gather and stay - prospective students and their parents; data scientists, faculty from the Law School can meet there with members of the Medical School faculty. This will be a bridge that makes the community stronger, bring worlds together in ways that are predictable and unpredictable.”
The structure is the second to get underway in the Emmet-Ivy Corridor that the University of Virginia Foundation has slowly been purchasing over many years to consolidate properties for major development. The other is the School of Data Sciences, which is also under construction. A future structure will house the Karsh Institute of Democracy.
Construction of the 214-room hotel is expected to be complete in the spring of 2025.
Second shout-out is for LEAP’s new Thermalize Virginia program
In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out: Have you been thinking of converting your fossil-fuel appliances and furnaces into something that will help the community reduce its greenhouse gas emissions? Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, has launched a new program to guide you through the steps toward electrifying your home. Thermalize Virginia will help you understand electrification and connect you with vetted contractors to get the work done and help you find any rebates or discounts. Visit thermalizeva.org to learn more and to sign up!
Virginia Film Festival’s 35th annual program is announced
The falling of the leaves is the sign of many things, but the onslaught of autumn also marks the coming of the next Virginia Film Festival.
“I think of the Virginia Film Festival as a film festival for audiences,” said Steven J. Kung, writer/director and VAFF Advisory Board Member, in a promotional video that ran before the program for the 35th Virginia Film Festival was launched. “There are plenty of acquisition film festivals where you just hobnob and it’s sort of like [Los Angeles] goes to camp.”
“It’s amazing to think that we made that video that you saw in 2019 and really didn’t have much of an opportunity to show it since we were virtually in 2020 so it was kind of trot it out and remember what we once were and what we hope to be coming back to this year,” said Jody Kielbasa, vice provost for the arts and director of the Virginia Film Festival.
Tickets go on sale next Tuesday, and the full program will be released tomorrow. Kielbasa was on hand for a preview yesterday. The opening film stars former James Bond actor Daniel Craig in his second portrayal of a new character.
“It was particular fun for me as a former actor to see him flex his muscles and become Benoit Blanc and so we’re thrilled to be able to announce that our opening night film this year is Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” Kielbasa said.
Kielbasa went through many other highlights, such as the November 3 showing of a film called Devotion.
“Now this is a new film that focuses on the first African American naval pilot, Jessie L. Brown, who was killed in the Korean War,” Kielbasa said. “We’re excited to welcome Jonathan Majors with our break-through star award.”
Majors will take part in a question and answer period after the film. He’s also appeared in The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Lovecraft Country and plays Kang the Conquerer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“On Friday night, we’re screening Stay Awake,” Kielbasa said. “This film appeared at festivals around the world. It was a dual award winner at the Berlin Film Festival, it opened the San Francisco International, and the filmmaker, Jamie Sisley, is a local. Born in Virginia and now lives in Charlottesville. We actually screened his very first film at the Virginia Film Festival about four or five years ago and he returns with this new narrative film.”
This year, Ilya Tovbis has joined the festival as its senior programmer, having spent the past ten years as the director of the Washington Jewish Film and Music Festival.
“One of the things that we are thrilled to return to this year is so many conversations with artists, tributees, honorees, awards of all sorts, and one of the films that is very close to my hear that we’ll be showing is The Inspection,” Tovis said. “This is closing the New York Film Festival in just a couple of days. It’s Elegance Bratton’s fictionalized but true tale of his life as an African-American gay marine and the hardships that he went through there.”
The closing film in the 35th Annual Virginia Film Festival is Empire of Light, the debut solo script from director Sam Mendes.
For more from the festival and to get ready to buy tickets, visit virginiafilmfestival.org.
Housekeeping notes for #442
We’re at the end of another installment of the newsletter, and there is so much still to get to. Even though many items are timely, there’s a lot from recent meetings I still hope to get through in order to let myself and the rest of you know what happened! We live in a complex community and civilization, and the idea of each installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement is to try to shed some light on just some of the moving pieces.
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