October 16, 2020: An update on public housing redevelopment in Charlottesville

  
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There are another 1,183 new cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth today as reported by the Virginia Department of Health. The seven-day average for positive tests has increased to 4.8 percent, up from 4.7 percent on Thursday. 

The Blue Ridge Health District added another 40 cases with 14 new cases in Albemarle and 18 in Charlottesville. Another death was reported from Charlottesville bringing the total to date to 32 in the city and 75 in the entire Blue Ridge Health District. The seven-day average for positive PCR tests remains at 3.2 percent today. However, that increases to 3.5 percent when you factor in all the kinds of tests. 

The University of Virginia reports 105 active cases as of Thursday, with 78 of those students. There have been 1,019 cases among UVA personnel since August 17. Ten percent of quarantine rooms are in use as are six percent of isolation rooms. 

The Blue Ridge Health District is within the Virginia Department of Health’s Northwest Region. According to the agency’s pandemic metrics page, the region has seen an increase in the number of cases over the past 16 days though percent positivity has been decreasing for 37 days, as are the number of outbreaks and the number of affected health care workers. The VDH deems the region as being “at moderate community transmission.” 

Virginia’s Central Region is at “substantial community transmission” according to the metrics page. 

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The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Board of Directors was briefed last night on the status of long-planned public housing redevelopment projects. 

“We want to add to our community’s inventory of affordable housing,” said Dave Norris, the CRHA’s redevelopment director. “We haven’t finalized what that number is going to be yet but we are confident in saying over the course of this redevelopment effort we’re going to add hundreds and hundred of new units of affordable housing to the city’s stock.” 

Norris said the CRHA gets one annual subsidy from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development but he said it does not cover the annual cost. 

“It’s never sufficient and it hasn’t provided and it doesn’t provide the funding we need to maintain our housing stock and operate the agency it really should be operated,” Norris said. “Through redevelopment we are incorporating new streams of financing that will put us in more of a sustainable position.” 

Norris said ground is soon to break on the $19 million renovation of Crescent Halls, which will see 105 rebuilt units. The work will see two floors under construction at any given time. 

“The skeleton of the building is in decent shape so we’re not having to knock down the building,” Norris said. 

The other imminent project is a two-phase redevelopment of South First Street with the first step being 62 new units and a community center constructed on a current ball field. When that is completed in 2022, existing residents of South First Street can be relocated into the new building, and 113 units will be built where the existing structure. A third phase at South First Street might also happen, as well as a renaming. 

“I think that’s going to be part of the upcoming resident planner conversations as we flesh out the plans for phase 2,” Norris said. 

Financing for the projects comes through the federal and state Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, $5 million from the Dave Matthews Band, $10 million from Red Light Management, and $15 million in capital improvement program funds from the city of Charlottesville. 

“All told we’ve now secured commitments if not actual funding for over $70 million in the last year and a half for our redevelopment efforts,” Norris said. 

Norris said construction will begin a month after the financing deals are completely close. City Council will consider a funding agreement at their meeting on Monday. 

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Albemarle County has unveiled the latest update of its development dashboards, which track the number of residential units and other buildings that are working their way from proposal to occupancy. The website states there are currently 53 active construction projects in Albemarle and that another 11 projects are under review. Visitors to the site can filter results based on where they live. (dashboard)

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The Virginia Department of Health has lifted a harmful algae advisory that had been in place in parts of Lake Anna. The Middle Pamunkey Branch of Lake Anna had been under an advisory for some time but samples taken in mid-September and earlier this month indicate safe levels. Some species of algae contain hazardous toxins that are harmful if accidentally swallowed. (press release)

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Time is running out to apply for the second round of Albemarle County’s Community Lift Grants, which is intended for nonprofits. Groups can apply for up to $50,000 toward lost revenues and would-be applicants are asked to fill out an inquiry form by Monday. 

On Monday, Charlottesville will open up the second round of grants to city businesses. This round will offer up to $825,000. Grants of up to $10,000 are available. Both programs are funded through the federal CARES Act. 

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Tonight, Live Arts will debut another program as part of its Forge Ahead season. However, the theater company is moving away from Facebook Live in favor of the YouTube platform. Live Arts will hold another Coffeehouse performance tonight this time with Four County Players. Musical performances by Shannon Montague, Doug Schneider, and Kristen Bell. Dance performance by Mariko Schaper Doktor and Perry Medlin. The Coffeehouse will be hosted by Edward Warwick White and Linda Zuby. 

In addition, Live Arts is also selling tickets to virtual performances this weekend of the play Lost Home, Win Home by playwright Shelby Marie Edwards. The show “follows the individual perspective of a Black Charlottesville native as she recounts the events leading up to the Unite the Right/Neo-Nazi rally that occurred on August 12, 2017.”