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June 28, 2012

City and county seek common goals for joint planning

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler & Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 28, 2012

Planning staff and officials in the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County will spend this summer identifying joint goals to include in their respective comprehensive plan updates.

Earlier this year, officials identified seven shared priorities: historic preservation, entrance corridors, environment, housing, economy, transportation and land use. In separate meetings Tuesday, each planning commission began identifying specific opportunities for the first three of those topics.

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Summer Frederick, Project Manager, TJPDC

Summer Frederick, a project manager with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, spoke to the Albemarle Planning Commission after giving a similar briefing in the city.

“What we are looking for is for you to discuss these topics and come up with … specific opportunities to work with the city to come up with joint goals,” said Frederick.

The TJPDC is working with the city, county and the University of Virginia as part of a three-year $1 million federal grant awarded in 2010 for what is known as the Livable Communities Planning Project. One goal is to facilitate the comprehensive plan updates that guide local government planning decisions.

Albemarle Commissioner Bruce Dotson noted the results of a community survey from a previous comprehensive plan update.

“The thing that I remember from that … was how many residents of the city said that what they liked about the area were things that are located in the county, and vice versa, how many county residents liked things located in the city,” Dotson said. “The ultimate success in preserving the rural area is when urban people value it, and vice versa.”

Continue reading "City and county seek common goals for joint planning" »

April 11, 2012

Architect calls for preservation and reuse of historic buildings

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Environmental protection through stewardship of historical buildings was the message of Jean Carroon’s presentation to the James River Green Building Council on Tuesday.

“Stewardship is the heart of the environmental movement,” Carroon said. “The only way we can really take care of nature is by taking care of what is all around us and believing in the power of preservation.”

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Jean Carroon, Goody Clancy

Carroon, an architect and author, leads the preservation and renovation practice of Goody Clancy, a Boston-based architecture, planning and preservation firm. She has completed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified renovations on historic buildings for Champlain College, Harvard University and the National Park Service.

“Every time we extend the service life of a building, we avoid the environmental impacts of creating something new,” Carroon said. “We avoid the environmental impacts of our throwaway culture.”

“[The JRGBC] wanted the public to be aware that it is possible to do historic restoration in a green manner,” said Ned Ormsby, sponsorship chair of the JRGBC and project coordinator for Lithic Construction. “They are not exclusive.”

Ormsby also commented on why adaptive reuse is especially relevant to the Charlottesville-Albemarle region.

“There is a large volume of historic buildings in Charlottesville and it is important that they are recognized for their value as historic structures, and that they be rehabbed instead of torn down,” Ormsby said. “There is a lot of work going on in historic restoration in this area.”

Continue reading "Architect calls for preservation and reuse of historic buildings" »

March 30, 2012

Community gets engaged on West Main's past, present and future

 

On Thursday night at Charlottesville Tomorrow's monthly News n' Brews, about 70 community members packed into Zinc to talk about the evolution of the West Main Street area.

Curious about who owns property there?  So were we...

Here's how we captured the conversation...


August 10, 2011

Planning commission grants design approval for Martha Jefferson reuse

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Charlottesville Planning Commission has endorsed a conceptual design for the redevelopment of the old Martha Jefferson Hospital on Locust Avenue to accommodate a new tenant.  

“I like what I see in terms of redevelopment of the design of the building,” said commissioner Kurt Keesecker.

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A rendering of the new entrance to be built by Octagon Partners for the new CFA facility

Octagon Partners is renovating the complex for eventual occupation by the CFA Institute, which will relocate from the University of Virginia’s Fontaine Research Park.

The CFA is a global association for investment professionals with more than 350 employees in the region. The company will spend $24.5 million to renovate the building.

The new 138,000-square-foot facility will double the CFA’s existing space, which is currently spread throughout several locations in the county.

Under the plans, a large portion of the existing building as well as the parking deck will be torn down. The existing emergency room entrance will also be demolished.

The historic Patterson Wing will not be altered, and the Rucker Wing will be incorporated into the new design. A new front entrance will be built as part of the redesign.

The commission reviewed the redevelopment design in its capacity as the Entrance Corridor Review board.  

Ellen Wagner, the president of the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association, said she wanted the Board of Architectural Review to have jurisdiction over design approval rather than the planning commission.

“We’re concerned in this case that the renderings do not represent the size and scale of the [renovations],” Wagner said. “We all want the best possible development which has the potential to be a beautiful contribution to the city.”

Wagner said the neighborhood welcomes the arrival of CFA, but feels there should be special attention paid to the impact the renovations will have on the community.

During the discussion, commissioner Michael Osteen said he did not have enough information to make a decision.

“We have a great document to start a preliminary discussion, but it is inadequate for a certificate of appropriateness,” Osteen said. At one point, it appeared the commission was going to vote on a motion to deny the certificate of appropriateness.  

However, J.P. Williamson of Octagon Partners said he wanted to be able to move forward with the redevelopment for his client.

“We are changing the land use from a hospital to a Class A office building. That is a use allowed by the zoning, and we want to move forward. I don’t want to get bogged down into the details forever,” Williamson said.

 

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The commission voted 4-0 to grant a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition of the parking deck, as well as the general layout of the redeveloped building.

However, Williamson will need to return to the Planning Commission for approval of a detailed landscape plan and a lighting plan, as well as detailed images of how material in the different sections of the building will fit together.

Williamson said the total space in the building will be around 150,000 square feet, but future tenants for the remainder of the building have not yet been identified.

Renovations will begin soon after Martha Jefferson transfers to its new location on Pantops in Albemarle County later this month.

New commissioner Natasha Sienitsky recused herself from the discussion because of a personal relationship with the applicant. Commissioners Dan Rosensweig and John Santoski were absent.

The commission also endorsed the design of the new city fire station that will be built on Fontaine Avenue. The commission previously approved a design in October 2009, but the fire department decided to purchase an adjoining property to make room for underground parking for 32 cars.

The final site plan for the fire station is still under review by city staff. Mike Mollica in the city’s facilities development office said he hoped the project could be advertised for construction bids next week.

In other news, Genevieve Keller has been elected chair of the city Planning Commission.

Keller is an architectural historian and preservation planner who was first appointed to the commission in October 2007. She has been vice chair since September 2009.

 Dan Rosensweig was elected as vice chair.

August 09, 2011

Tax credits secured for Woolen Mills senior housing

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A $1.9 million low-income housing tax credit will provide major support to an affordable housing development for seniors. 
The Jefferson Area Board for Aging is combining a historic home in the city’s Woolen Mills neighborhood with new apartments to create 27 one- and two-bedroom homes. Timberlake Place will also feature a community garden and permanent green space.

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Timberlake-Branham House at 1512 East Market Street

Chris Murray, JABA’s director of business development, said 22 units will be apartments, four will be retrofitted in the existing Mary Williams Community Center and a single market-rate unit will be in the historic Timberlake-Branham home. The Mary Williams Community Center is a 1996 addition to the home.

“We should be able to complete all the legal work by mid-November and then we will start construction in mid-January,” Murray said. “Construction should take ten to twelve months, and we hope to open by mid-2013.”

JABA says tenants must be age 55 and older with low-to-moderate incomes. For income-restricted units, JABA is targeting 40 to 50 percent of area median income. Twenty-percent of the development is intended for workforce housing.

“People who are turning 55 still have a lot of work life,” explained Murray.

20110808-TimberlakePlace2 Murray said Timberlake Place was a $4.26 million project. The tax credits issued by the Virginia Housing Development Authority will provide about $1.6 million in net revenues for JABA. The Charlottesville Housing Fund is investing an additional $500,000 in the development.

“It’s an exciting project and we are very proud to support it,” said Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris. “It’s one more example of why I and others pushed to increase the size of the housing fund. Before I got on [the city] council we were allocating just a couple hundred thousand dollars a year, now we have substantially increased the size of that fund and it has been used to leverage other sources of funding.”

Norris complimented JABA for the way it worked with the Woolen Mills neighborhood, given the historic nature of the home, originally built in 1886, and some contentious zoning history. In 2007, the neighborhood unsuccessfully appealed a zoning determination that reaffirmed that land around the home lost its “individually protected property” status in the city’s 2003 comprehensive rezoning.

“I think Chris Murray and JABA showed how to do development the right way in the city of Charlottesville,” said Norris. “They took a piece of property that was very contentious in its history…and successfully navigated the neighborhood concerns and worked very closely with them to come up with a project that the neighborhood could support.”

Murray said both sides had to compromise and ended up very satisfied.

“The Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association was very interested in having seniors in their community, but the issue was scale — how to keep it livable while at the same time providing the services seniors need,” Murray added. “They were very cooperative.”

Murray said the neighbors were particularly interested in the community garden and a half-acre designated as an undisturbed wooded area.

“We will have a community garden on site available to both the seniors and the neighbors in the community,” said Murray. “By clustering the buildings we are saving .5 acre of land, and it will remain undisturbed in perpetuity. The Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association would like a conservation easement and we will cooperate with them to make that happen.”

Representatives of the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association were unavailable for comment on Monday.

[Also see our April 2010 coverage when project was before city planning commission]
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Timberlake Place rendering by The Gaines Group, PLC 

August 06, 2011

UVa plans pocket park at site of old restaurant, gas station; Buddy’s played role in civil rights movement

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, August 6, 2011

The University of Virginia will create a small park at the corner of Emmet Street and University Avenue. In the process, it will tear down a gas station and a small brick building built as Buddy’s restaurant, a Charlottesville institution for two decades, famous both for its hamburgers and for sit-ins during the civil rights movement.

20110804-104Emmett David J. Neuman, architect for the University of Virginia, said the university would buy the gas station across from the Cavalier Inn and combine it with the adjacent parcel it already owns at 104 Emmet St. The park would be about 0.41 acres and sit alongside Carr’s Hill turf field.

“The ground lease expires at the end of this month,” Neuman said about the gas station. “The university is not going to renew that lease … and it will acquire the property from the [UVa] Foundation.”

“We’re going to ask the foundation to work through the city’s process and demolish both of those buildings and declare it open space,” Neuman said. “It will become a permanent landscape area.”

“It’s not in a historic district nor individually protected so they could demolish it with just a building permit,” said Mary Joy Scala, the city’s preservation and design planner.

Neuman informed the Planning and Coordination Council’s technical advisory committee — a planning body representing the university, the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County — at its meeting Thursday that the park project also created an opportunity to widen and improve a stretch of University Avenue.

20110804-Chevron2 “At the moment, we are going to do what we have funds to do inside the curb line,” Neuman said. “But if the city can participate, we can together move the curb line about six or seven feet, which would offer [an opportunity] to widen the lanes and provide a bike lane in that intersection heading west [onto Ivy Road].”

Neuman described the site as “the most prominent gateway” between the university and the city. Existing parking spaces will be eliminated, the large trees preserved and an underground stream will be day lighted.

Neuman said the buildings would be taken down in September or October. The most recent use of the Buddy’s restaurant building was as offices of the Institute for Environmental Negotiation.

Buddy Glover opened a hamburger stand near 104 Emmet St. in the late 1930s. A Charlottesville institution until 1967, Buddy’s street sign declared it to be “The Biggest Little Place in Town.”

Steven G. Meeks, president of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, has Buddy’s cash register in a second floor storage room still adorned with a small sign reminding all that the restaurant was “just a nice place to eat.”

Meeks said Glover served in World War II, and upon his return had local architect Thomas Craven design a new brick restaurant building that matched the character of the surrounding university.

The restaurant contributed to the community’s civil rights history, as it was the scene of important sit-ins and demonstrations in May 1963.

One protester who was beaten outside the restaurant was UVa professor of history emeritus Paul M. Gaston. Gaston writes in his 2010 autobiography that on the fourth day of demonstrations, when violence erupted, he had just been the first white person promoted to be captain of the protest group.

“Buddy’s sit-in was a major turning point in Charlottesville’s history,” Gaston wrote. “We had been negotiating for years with local restaurants, motels, hotels and theaters, with almost no success. Our sit-in movement accomplished what negotiation did not.”

Gaston’s autobiography describes Glover as “genial” and notes that The Daily Progress editor at the time called Glover “one of the finest and most spirited citizens of this community.”

Gaston notes that on occasion Glover had permitted blacks to eat at the restaurant. That is not a memory shared by another local civil rights leader, Eugene Williams.

“I have no knowledge of a single black being served in that restaurant,” Williams said in an interview.

Williams and Gaston both agree the building is significant.

“It ought to at least have a marker for that history,” Williams said. “We need to mark these historical places of segregation, there’s no question about it.”

Glover never desegregated Buddy’s. When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964, Gaston wrote, Glover posted a closing notice later that same evening — “Passage of the Civil Rights Bill forced us to take this unfortunate action.”

“Buddy closed his restaurant because he was a firm believer in the rights of private property,” Gaston said in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow. “Buddy remained true to his principles.”

Glover managed a catering business from the restaurant building until 1971. In 1976 he became director of the Dietary Department at Martha Jefferson Hospital, a position he held until retiring in the early 1980s.

20110804-chevron

April 17, 2011

Jim Justice: The West Virginia business leader behind the land deal near Ash Lawn-Highland and Monticello

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, April 17, 2011

Donald Trump isn’t the only outside business tycoon looking to bring a Midas touch to the rural countryside surrounding Charlottesville.

While Trump scooped up the Kluge Estate Winery & Vineyard earlier this month after its foreclosure, a West Virginia businessman who acquired 4,500 acres in Albemarle County south of Ash Lawn-Highland and Monticello late last year is speaking publicly for the first time about his purchase.

Justice_Jim
James C. Justice II - Photo courtesy of subject

James C. Justice II, CEO of a family-run West Virginia company known for its coal mining, farming and timber operations, purchased 55 parcels of timber land from MeadWestvaco Corp. for $23.75 million in a deal that closed last December. [See location map]

Like Trump, Justice has a penchant for turn-around projects. Justice bought The Greenbrier resort in 2009 when it was facing bankruptcy. Under his leadership, he has added an underground casino and secured a six-year deal with the PGA Tour to hold the Greenbrier Classic on the resort’s Old White golf course.

“He is very focused on building the hotel here, and he has entered a number of interesting marketing relationships,” said Duane Zobrist II, CEO of Greenbrier Outfitters, a contract company that has provided outdoor activities for Greenbrier guests over the past 17 years.

“He has this historic property with rich history; he wants to turn it profitable, and still keep the essence of the property,” Zobrist said. “People said there was no way to create a casino that fits in, yet it ties into the hotel beautifully, and he has updated it in a very responsible way.”

However, Justice’s December acquisition of 4,500 acres at a price greater than its assessed value had some local real estate experts scratching their heads. It was too high a price, they said, for a rural housing development, and the land no longer had short-term value for timber operations.

20110415-westvaco-sign MeadWestvaco said the property was “no longer strategic for the company’s needs.” It had advertised the property as the Presidential Estates, given its proximity to the homes of James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson. The advertised price was $38.5 million and the land, zoned for rural use, had an assessed value of $21.5 million when it sold to Justice for $2.25 million over the assessment.

“In all honesty, I don’t have a grand master plan here as to what I am going to do with the property,” Justice said in an interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow. “It surely has the development possibilities, from a lot of different angles including home sites or whatever, but it also has such an incredible historical value.”

“Just like anything, you buy a big piece of property like that and everyone thinks you have an immediate plan and you are going to build 18 racetracks, 17 golf courses and 15 Wal-Marts there,” Justice said. “The real truth is that it was an attractive buy in a part of the world that I dearly love.”

Justice said his connections to Charlottesville date back to the 1970s when he was a patient of Dr. Frank McCue, an orthopedic surgeon for the University of Virginia athletic program from 1961 to 2003. Justice played golf in college while attending the University of Tennessee and then Marshall University.

Justice said McCue operated on him a couple of times and that the “university icon” is a great personal friend. McCue also grew up in West Virginia and he and Justice both attended Greenbrier Military Academy.

“He is a genuinely good person, and in Greenbrier County, what everyone is proud of is The Greenbrier hotel,” McCue said. “He has done a lot for the people he is involved with and I am tremendously impressed with him as a human being.”

McCue said that Justice’s love of athletics and Marshall University led him to fly athletes to Charlottesville on his private plane to receive care at UVa. Justice even took an interest in his physician’s longhorn cattle.

“Two years ago when it was so dry, he called me up and asked me if I needed some hay,” McCue said. “I said, ‘They are starving to death,’ and he sent two trailers of hay from Monroe County. Then he called back later to see how my cows were doing.”

While juggling his corporate responsibilities, Justice is also head coach of the Greenbrier East High School girls basketball team. Greenbrier Outfitters’ Zobrist said his daughter Hampton played on the team last year.

“He told the girls he does three things really well,” Zobrist said, retelling the coach’s talk. “He said, ‘I can coach basketball, I can shoot a shotgun and I can close a deal.’”

Hampton Zobrist’s grandfather is Duane Zobrist, chairman of the Albemarle County Planning Commission. The senior Zobrist says he has met Justice several times and that he hopes conservation will be part of Justice’s plans in Albemarle.

“I think on that property, a great idea would be a preservation development where they retain the farming, like the Bundoran development [in North Garden],” Zobrist said. “I know they have done some major conservation projects in West Virginia, and I know him to be a good steward of the land.”

20110415-westvaco-long

Lonnie Murray is chairman of the Albemarle County Natural Heritage Committee, which advises the Board of Supervisors on land use decisions. He also is serving on the advisory committee planning Biscuit Run State Park.

“We haven’t developed a lot of feasible economic approaches for a piece of land like that where people can walk away with a profit without massive destruction,” Murray said. “Something will have to happen that justifies his return on investment, whereas, had a conservation agency purchased it, they wouldn’t be looking for an economic return.”

“With a new state park in the backyard, it seems like something we may see more of throughout the county as people look to develop timeshares and resorts next to the park,” Murray added.

20110415-monticello-garden2 Leslie Greene Bowman, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello, said the view to the south from the president’s home has remained much as Jefferson would have seen it.

“We think it is incredibly significant that we still have these views, and it’s partly why we were given World Heritage site status by UNESCO,” Bowman said in an interview inside Jefferson’s garden pavilion. “It’s also really significant to the 450,000 people a year who come to this site.”

Justice said he wants to be a good neighbor and he is aware of Monticello’s concerns about its viewshed.

“I will be someone that will be very open-minded to look at all the possibilities of what can be done with the property that will be good for all concerned,” Justice said. “From the conservation aspect, from the viewshed aspect, from the historical aspect, from the economic aspect, I will be completely open to alternatives that anyone can put on the table that would make good sense [where we can] try and meet all those criteria.”

“I am delighted that [Mr. Justice] is very open to working with us and talking to his neighbors,” Bowman said. “I very much look forward to welcoming him to Monticello and talking through what some of the options are that can be a win-win for all of us.”

After visiting the site, the bottom line for this businessman was that it was “a wonderful piece of property in the right part of the world.”

“I am a true lover of nature and being able to hunt and fish, I grew up that way all my life, and I do as many conservation things as I can possibly do, while at the same time doing good economic things that bring jobs to a community,” Justice said. “I have, more than you will ever know, a love and respect for the Charlottesville area.”

20110415-monticello-garden

December 05, 2010

West Virginia company buys 4,500 acres in Albemarle near Ash Lawn-Highland and Monticello

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, December 5, 2010

The family that owns The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia has acquired 4,500 acres in Albemarle County south of Ash Lawn-Highland and Monticello.

The James C. Justice Cos. purchased 55 parcels from MeadWestvaco Corp. for $23.75 million in a deal that closed last week.

20101205-MeadWestvaco James C. Justice II is CEO of the family-run West Virginia company known for its coal mining, farming and timber operations. Justice bought The Greenbrier in 2009 when it was facing bankruptcy. Justice company representatives did not respond to a request to comment on their intentions for the property in Albemarle.

James H. Hill, a MeadWestvaco vice president, confirmed the sale and said the property was no longer needed for the company’s timber operations.

“Several years ago, MeadWestvaco launched a rural land sales program,” Hill said in an e-mail. “These properties have been managed for decades to the highest standards … ideal for investors or outdoor enthusiasts. This 4,500-acre tract has been managed for fiber supply and is no longer strategic for the company’s needs.”

MeadWestvaco’s land sales website advertised the property as the “Presidential Estates” given its location near the homes of U.S. Presidents James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson. The advertised price was $38.5 million and the land, zoned for rural use, has an assessed value of $21.5 million. It sold to the Justice Cos. for $2.25 million over the tax assessment.

Rex Linville, the Piedmont Environmental Council’s land conservation officer for Albemarle County, said he thought the land had the potential for about 450 residential units.

“That’s a best-case scenario, not accounting for critical slopes and road access,” Linville said. “That said, I don’t know what they intend to do. We would like an opportunity to work with an owner like this on preservation of the property, and we hope that’s the new owner’s intent.”

‘Historically significant’

Leslie Greene Bowman, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello, said in a prepared statement that “the land to the south of Monticello is historically significant, since it remains largely as Jefferson saw it.”

“We are committed to working with our community partners to ensure protection of the viewshed from Monticello,” Bowman added. “We welcome our new neighbors and look forward to working together to protect Jefferson’s views for future generations.”

Christopher Owens, a historic preservationist from Spotsylvania, has been working since 2004 to complete a mapping project of land once owned by President Monroe.

“Monroe’s home, Ash Lawn-Highland, is a 535-acre remnant of what was a 3,500-acre estate,” Owens said. “The MeadWestvaco tract has 700 acres of Monroe’s original Highland estate.”

“Ecologically and historically, it is really an historic piece of property,” Owens said. “The use has remained unchanged throughout civilized history. Owners have always used this land for timber. In fact, Monroe had a sawmill on the property and it is likely that his old grist mill was there too.”

Bigger than Biscuit Run

At 4,500 acres, the MeadWestvaco parcels combined are 3 1/2 times the size of the Biscuit Run development that the state bought last year for a future state park. The commonwealth paid $9.8 million for the 1,200 acres, plus an unspecified amount of Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credits.

Bill Kittrell, director of conservation programs at The Nature Conservancy, said the MeadWestvaco land had been identified as an attractive site for a park prior to the state’s acquisition of Biscuit Run. His organization got involved soon after MeadWestvaco put it on the market in 2006.

“We were involved in trying to find a way to protect the MeadWestvaco property either through state ownership or conservation easements with private ownership,” Kittrell said. “I think whatever timber liquidity there was, they have already extracted what was of any value. Given its location near Monticello, the value is less in timber and more in other forms of development, like residential and estate land.”

In 2008, The Nature Conservancy had local Charlottesville-based Nelson, Byrd, Woltz Landscape Architects prepare a master plan for a public park and nature preserve. At that time, Biscuit Run was poised to become Albemarle’s largest residential development in history, having already been approved for up to 3,100 homes.

The conceptual master plan for “Jefferson Monroe Park” was shared with state officials and potential investors. Ridge Schuyler, a former member of the local Nature Conservancy staff, said he toured the property when the park concept was being developed.

“It has beautiful bones,” Schuyler said. “It’s a nice, rolling piece of property with spectacular views back towards Monticello and the Southwest Mountains. In its post timbered state, it’s not the most attractive, but you could see the potential.”

“I don’t know how much value it has as timber property,” Schuyler added. “MeadWestvaco sold it because it wasn’t close to their sawmills, and it hasn’t moved any closer.”

Hopes for the future

Owens observed that a unique opportunity exists with the University of Virginia’s ownership of the adjacent Morven Farm.

“My goal was to at least get [Monroe’s] 700 acres back somehow,” Owens said. “One could easily create an almost 12,000-acre park unifying the land with Morven, Ash Lawn-Highland and Monticello. It’s a very historic landscape. Mr. Justice could still harvest timber and do that.”

The PEC’s Linville questioned such a high price being paid for a long-term timber investment.

“I called contacts in the timber business, and they said that the price didn’t make sense from a timber investment perspective, you wouldn’t recoup your investment on timber alone,” Linville said. “It’s also equally unlikely someone would pay that price from a residential development angle. Since neither scenario really makes sense in today’s market, my hope is it’s a conservation transaction.”

Besides The Greenbrier, the Justice family has owned or developed other large recreational properties. According to Marshall University’s website, where Jim Justice received his undergraduate and MBA degrees, the family developed the Stoney Brook Plantation, a 15,000-acre hunting and fishing preserve in West Virginia’s Monroe County.

September 16, 2010

City planners recommend Martha Jefferson historic district

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Charlottesville Planning Commission has recommended approval of new protections for the Martha Jefferson neighborhood.

If the historic conservation overlay district is approved by the City Council, the Board of Architectural Review would be granted the authority to determine whether buildings within its boundaries could be demolished.

“It would add regulations to the underlying zoning, but it would not change the underlying zoning,” said Mary Joy Scala, the city’s historic preservation planner.

Download Download staff report for conservation district

20100610-Map
Click to enlarge

The endorsement came despite concerns from two commissioners who feared the change could limit the city’s ability to redevelop the Martha Jefferson Hospital property when it becomes vacant next year. The BAR would review the design of new construction within the district.

“Martha Jefferson is moving,” Commissioner Dan Rosensweig said. “I think for us to restrict and further overlay what could happen there is probably going to restrict the ability of Martha Jefferson to sell the hospital and the ability of someone in the future to do something creative.”

The hospital has been looking for one firm to redevelop the property since announcing plans to move operations to Pantops Mountain in Albemarle County. Last year, the hospital announced it had signed a contract with Crosland Development, but the firm withdrew in April.

To find a new development partner, the hospital issued a request for proposals. Interviews were conducted with three firms.

“Currently, we are in negotiations with one of the firms,” said Jennifer McDaniel, a spokeswoman for the hospital. “Our vision for the site continues to be around the idea of mixed development, including processional office space, residential options and retail.”

Citing confidentiality agreements, McDaniel said she could not elaborate further. However, the topic came up during Tuesday’s public hearing on the historic conservation overlay district.

As part of the district, any “contributing structure” to the historic character of the neighborhood would be subject to BAR approval before demolition. Both the Rucker and Patterson wings of the hospital were described as “contributing structures” in the neighborhood’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

During her presentation before the commission, the city’s Scala said she didn’t think the overlay district would be a problem for the redevelopment of the hospital property.

“If they come in and redevelop the hospital, the only question would be would they want to keep the two contributing properties,” Scala said. In fact, she said, the protections would allow for the eventual developer to apply for preservation tax credits.

“The timing of this decision seems to occur at a point where we have one of the largest redevelopment opportunities in downtown’s history,” Commissioner Kurt Keesecker said. “We would be entering into a design review process that’s untested and unprecedented.”

However, Commissioner Genevieve Keller supported approving the district with the boundaries intact. She pointed out that Martha Jefferson officials had not objected to inclusion in the district as it went through the planning process.

“I would dare say if they had concerns, they would be here,” Keller said. “I see [the overlay district] as a way to manage change and to offer guidance.”

Mike Harvey, the president of the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development, said he had heard an acquisition of the site may be in the works, but he was not familiar with the details. He said he would prefer a commercial use rather than a residential one.

“I would like to see getting an employer in there to replace those jobs for downtown,” Harvey said. “Nothing against residential development, but downtown is losing a significant number of jobs. Those people live, eat, work and shop there.”

The commission’s vote was 4-2 in favor of recommending the council adopt the overlay district. The City Council is expected to take up the matter at its first meeting in October.

August 13, 2010

Commission approves Jefferson School rezoning

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
[email protected]

When the former Jefferson School opens next year as a community center, there will not be a hotel, a laundry or an auto-repair shop in the site’s future. That’s because the developer has agreed to waive the right to those potential uses as part of the rezoning process.

“It was the will of the Planning Commission that hotel use is inappropriate at the site,” said L.J. Lopez of Stonehaus, the firm working with the Jefferson School Partnership on the former all-black school’s transformation.

The partnership and Stonehaus are seeking rezoning from B-1 to B-2, which does allow for restaurants. A rezoning is required because the Jefferson Area Board for Aging has signed a letter of intent to operate some services in the new building, including a cafe.

The item was deferred from the Charlottesville Planning Commission’s July meeting when representatives of Stonehaus were not willing to give up the right to use the property for certain types of businesses allowed in B-2 zoning. Lopez was willing to do so at the commission’s meeting Tuesday.

Staff also recommended that the City Council initiate a process in which the building might be listed as an “individually protected property.” Such a designation would require the property owner to go before the Board of Architectural Review to request permission for demolition or exterior changes.

Lopez said the status isn’t necessary because the partnership is applying for tax credits related to the school’s status as a historic resource. A condition of the credits is that the property must be unchanged for a period of time.

One commissioner thought that was insufficient.

“I would be more comfortable [with individually protected property status] because if it’s just under the tax credits, it could potentially be demolished after five years,” Commissioner John Santoski said.

However, Lopez said the partnership would not stand in the council’s way.

“While we think [individually protected property status] may be overkill, we’re happy to work with staff towards working towards that goal,” Lopez said.

Commissioner Dan Rosensweig said he was not sure if the step was necessary.

“I’d like to have more dialogue with the property owner to get a sense of their intent,” Rosensweig said.

The commission voted 3-0 to recommend approval. Commissioners Genevieve Keller and Kurt Keesecker recused themselves from the vote as they are both involved with the project. Commissioner Michael Osteen was not present.

The item will next go before the City Council for a public hearing. Ordinarily the council holds a joint public hearing with the Planning Commission but a quorum of councilors was not available.

Other tenants at the redeveloped school will include Piedmont Virginia Community College, the Piedmont Family YMCA and the Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville-Albemarle. If the council approves the rezoning, construction on the $17 million project could begin this fall.

Download Download proffer letter for Jefferson School rezoning