Out of character
Martha Jefferson residents decry incoming apartment building
The place was an architect’s dream. Greg Jackson, an architect by trade, and his family were living in Belmont four years ago when they stumbled upon the abandoned house on Little High Street in the Martha Jefferson neighborhood. As they walked carefully through the house, rain dripping down from the ceiling, Jackson saw the home’s potential. He studied the area—including zoning regulations—and was certain he’d found the perfect place for his family.
That’s why Jackson and other neighborhood residents have been so vocal about a 126-unit development of one- and two-bedroom apartments, called East Jefferson Place, to be built on 1.46 acres on 10th, 11th and East Jefferson streets. The developers, Jefferson Medical Building Limited Partnership, went before City Council in July 2017 asking for a special-use permit to build a project at four times the allowed density (21 units per acre allowed; the project calls for 87 units per acre) for the area’s B-1 zoning. (B-1 is defined as a business district for service-type businesses and offices generally open during daytime hours, with minimal traffic impact.) The residents not only decry the project’s size—10 feet above the maximum allowed height of 45 feet with five stories on 10th Street and four stories built on a berm on 11th Street, along with a parking structure underneath—but the city’s development approval process.
In October 2016, the City Planning Commission recommended denial of the special-use permit for the residential project, then proposed at four stories. The developers appealed, and the project, which was redesigned to add an extra fifth story, went before City Council on July 5, 2017—three days before the KKK rally and the day after the Fourth of July. Kate Bennis, president of the Little High Neighborhood Association, says she felt the timing of the hearing was less than ideal because many neighbors were out of town. In terms of neighborhood importance, Bennis points to the fact that the neighborhood association was dormant before the project was first proposed in 2016.
“This galvanized us,” Jackson says.
Jackson watched the development proposal process closely and broke down the developer’s plans and technical language for neighborhood residents in each phase, and at planning meetings residents asked for changes they felt would foster more interaction between the new renters and longtime residents, such as mixed-use components and park space.
“I met with a developer who’s doing something by-right who said, ‘We’re doing a little café because we want people to be here, along with outdoor seating and walkways with trees’—none of that is being included in any of these conversations,” Bennis says.
She feels like the city’s development approval process favors a developer’s interest over neighborhood interests and points to the fact that City Council approved the SUP by a 3-2 vote, with the stipulation that the developer put in affordable housing units (four units—3 percent of the total) only to have the developer later say it intended to put those units in another development in its portfolio. Bennis says residents were also initially upset that the number of affordable units wasn’t higher. She says she “tells anyone who will listen” about Cambridge, Massachusetts, which requires that each new development include 20 percent affordable units.
“Our neighborhood is very welcoming,” Bennis says. “That would have been a selling point for us, if they had increased the number of affordable units.”
Bennis says she’s heard from other neighborhood association presidents who are concerned with developments that are changing the landscape of their neighborhoods, but points to projects like Dairy Central in the 10th and Page neighborhood, whose developer, Stony Point, has not only held meetings with neighborhood residents but incorporated some of their suggestions in the design.
“Because the process is flawed, we end up with things like this [East Jefferson Place] that are going to be out of proportion, not harmonious with the rest of the neighborhood and offer no interaction between the people who live here and this new space,” Bennis says.—JL
10th & PAGE
A new 10th & Page development aims to address residents’ concerns
Its central location near downtown, the university and nearby amenties has attracted a younger, whiter crowd to the historically African-American 10th & Page neighborhood.
“Oh, lord,” says Vezena Howard, president of the neighborhood association. “It’s not like it used to be.”
The 59-year-old, who still lives in her childhood home, has witnessed the way 10th & Page has evolved over the years—how older residents have passed away, and their families have sold their houses instead of repairing them and passing them on to the next generation, how new homes have been built that longtime residents can’t afford and how newer folks have put up fences in a neighborhood that used to be without barriers.
“There’s been a lot of changes and a lot of new people in the neighborhood,” she says. “Back then, everybody would speak to everybody and everybody knew everybody, but now you see faces and you’re like, ‘Who is that?’”
On the fourth Wednesday of every month, you can find Howard heading up a neighborhood association meeting at the City Of Promise office. But she might soon have a new place to talk shop.
Dairy Central—a Stony Point Design Build adaptive reuse of the historic, mixed-use Monticello Dairy building on Grady Avenue—is set for reconstruction in four phases, with the first potentially offering an office space for Howard’s monthly meetings. The second phase is the most controversial within the neighborhood, and comprises a number of fancy schmancy resi-
In a neighborhood with a history of new developments displacing its residents, the 10th & Page folks want to make sure at least a couple of them are affordable.
“If someone in the neighborhood was going to sell their house and move into one, would they be able to afford it?” asks Howard. But she and other residents have echoed their appreciation for Stony Point President Chris Henry, who has attended neighborhood meetings, recorded resident concerns and continues to look for solutions to their worries.
“It’s been really beneficial for the project to hear from the folks who will be closest to it,” says Henry.
Though Howard and other residents say they were first skeptical of the project in a neighborhood where gentrification is already running its course, she says the majority of feedback is now positive, and Stony Point has committed to building 20 affordable housing units—four times the city’s requirement of five.
The project could also offer construction jobs for residents and an affordable daycare option, as well as a community room, she says. And so far, it hasn’t affected the character of 10th & Page.
“In some of these areas, they’re just building up and building up and it’s not like a neighborhood anymore,” she says. “Right now, we’re still a quiet neighborhood.”
James Bryant, another nearly lifelong resident who points out new residents’ tendency to fence in their properties, says he doesn’t think the neighborhood’s change in racial makeup is an issue.
“I don’t consider it to be problematic,” says the 64-year-old, so long as all the older residents, specifically retirees like himself on fixed incomes, don’t get priced out. “This is happening all over the city, it’s not just 10th & Page. People are free to move wherever they want.”
But on the right street at the right time, 10th & Page feels just like it used to.
Says Howard, “The [older residents] that are here still know each other. It just feels like home.”—SB
Garnett Mellen led her neighborhood to lobby for improvements to the streets and nearby Rivanna Trail. Photo: Amy Jackson
Walking the walk
Garnett Mellen knows where the sidewalk ends–or, at least, she used to. Several years ago, Mellen, a two-term past president of the Locust Grove Neighborhood Association, snapped a photo of her husband and daughter on their walk to Burnley-Moran Elementary School on a day when they pointed to where the sidewalk abruptly ended. And that sparked one of Mellen’s main initiatives as association president two decades ago: walkability.
The neighborhood successfully lobbied for 10 pieces of broken sidewalk to be replaced, along with installing steps down to the Rivanna Trail at AutoZone. Over the years, neighbors have participated in trail-maintenance days on the Rivanna Trail as a community-building activity.
Mellen and her husband, Dave Hirschman, moved into the Locust Grove neighborhood about 25 years ago from a home they were renting in Woolen Mills. They had looked into cohousing, hoping to join a community that was being planned in Charlottesville. Since it was years away from completion, they set out to make their new neighborhood feel more like cohousing—a close-knit community—which Mellen says was fostered by twice-yearly potlucks, block parties and other social gatherings. She calls the neighborhood “pleasant, with lots of amenities and down-to-earth people.”
Mellen says the current neighborhood association leaders are focused on bringing together the large neighborhood (about 1,500 households) around ongoing issues such as traffic and land use for new developments. But she maintains that activities like caroling at Christmastime are just as important as speaking up at City Council.
“How are you going to fight the issues if you don’t have people liking each other?” she asks.—JL
Photo: Skyclad AP
Little Mountain: 1.0?
A Virginia Tech alum built it to look down on the University of Virginia. It once belonged to Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) and its view of Charlottesville was the inspiration for Hooville (’Hooville, more like). It’s a replica of Monticello.
There are plenty of misconceptions about the Lewis Mountain House, the Colonial Revival home from which the Lewis Mountain neighborhood gets its name, but its real story is much less fantastic: The granite home was designed by famed architect Eugene Bradbury in 1909 for a Union Army officer, then later sold to a family by the name of Campbell (not the soup) in 1950 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
Certainly the misconceptions about the Lewis Mountain house have a lot to do with its location; it’s up a gravel road that winds the mountain two and a half times before reaching the top, while still visible from the university. This has caused no small amount of confusion—is it Monticello?—for students and tourists. But real residents know the truth: It’s just another Charlottesville estate. …Or is it?—CW
Get off our lawn!
Too much change spells trouble for Rose Hill
Lifelong resident Raymond Mason calls Rose Hill the best neighborhood in the city, except for one thing: all the white people moving in.
“In my circle, the word ‘diversity’ is code for invasion,” says Mason. “The price of homes becomes unaffordable when white people move in.”
Nancy Carpenter is head of the Rose Hill Neighborhood Association and has lived there for three years. She laughs when told about Mason’s assessment, and says she agrees. “I know I’m part of the problem,” she says.
Carpenter has taken the trouble to learn about the neighborhood’s rich history. In 2016, the historic African-American neighborhood celebrated its 100th anniversary of being annexed by the city.
In the Jim Crow era, the city’s only park available for black families was Booker T. Washington Park, built on a former dump on land donated by Paul Goodloe McIntire, of Lee and Jackson parks fame.
And when white Southerners wanted to show that separate but equal wasn’t so bad, they built schools like Jackson P. Burley High School, whose 1956 Burley Bears football team was undefeated.
During the 1950s and ’60s, the neighborhood was redlined, says Carpenter, making it difficult for the black doctors, nurses and teachers who lived on streets like Charlton Avenue to get mortgages.
She also notes that there was a hotel on Albemarle Street where Duke Ellington stayed when there weren’t any other options for black travelers.
“There’s a lot of intense history here that mirrors the conversations we’re hearing today on redlining and segregation,” she says. “If I’m moving into a historic black neighborhood, it’s important to know and respect where I’m moving into. Raymond is absolutely right.”
Rose Hill’s proximity to downtown, UVA and the bypass make it “the best location in the city,” says Mason.
However, it’s that choice location—and lower housing costs—that make it so appealing to the white people Mason feels are invading his turf. “White people are very disrespectful when they come into my neighborhood,” he says.
Like many neighborhoods, development is an issue, and Carpenter worries about “development that’s not strategic.”
In 2016, many in Rose Hill objected to a three-story structure on Booker Street that developer Richard Spurzem wanted to make into three apartments. City Council denied his rezoning request on a street with smaller, single-family residences, and today the building sits empty and boarded up.
“It’s our mini version of the Dewberry,” says Carpenter. She urges the city to come up with a master plan “before we have high rises on Harris Street or Rose Hill Drive.”
For Carpenter, too, it’s still the best neighborhood in town because of its “community, history and potential.”
“To me, it represents what a city neighborhood should be,” she says, with amenities like a pharmacy, hardware store and grocery nearby—”the things that make for a rich life in an urban setting.”—LP
West Main Street, a 1995 film about the history and impact of the thoroughfare, features Ridge Street residents and neighbors (like former Barrett Early Learning Center director Cindy Stratton, pictured in a still from the film).
Preservation is the key word on Ridge Street. Of the old, the present and the future.
Though smaller than nearby Fifeville and Belmont, the Ridge Street neighborhood has some of the most eclectic, disparaging and interesting histories of Charlottesville along its streets. The Fifth Street and Ridge corridors, leading up to Elliott Avenue, frame the southern neighborhood with homes for some of the wealthiest in the area. Though many of the historic properties have since been lost to development projects, original deeds to a handful of the homes indicate they are as old as the late 1800s, with a few bearing a foundation of brick imported from France.
In the early 1900s, streets surrounded by Ridge were home to most of the city’s black families through segregation. The city’s white families lived north of the railroad, especially around the Vinegar Hill area. With limited housing and property rights for black families, a growing disparity between the wealthy white families and statistically poorer black families grew wider.
Current neighborhood association president Ann Hohenberger speaks to the issues the residents are facing today, many as a result of the discriminatory restrictions of the past. “The conditions of public housing is discouraging and often disgusting,” she says. “There is mold, laundry or other electronics often don’t function, walls are thin, windows broken,” she says. “There is an incredible need to update and overhaul these areas and really assist the residents recovering from decades of needing public support, but not getting it.”
Public initiatives and charities have focused on affordable housing in the city, due to recent outcry at City Council meetings. Cville Gives, a philanthropic networking group, saw several charities pitch affordable housing options and efforts during a fundraising event in April. Charitable response reflects the community’s growing awareness and effort to support its various housing needs.
That’s what’s at the heart of the Ridge Street neighborhood, it seems—the ability to unite behind a cause.
Take, for instance, Virginia’s oldest childcare facility, the Barrett Early Learning Center, which was almost shuttered a few years ago. “The community rallied together to keep it open,” says Hohenberger. And now the neighborhood is focusing on saving another aspect of its heritage.
As development encroaches, efforts to save Hartman’s Mill, an early industrial flour mill that utilized Moore’s Creek, have ramped up thanks to local activists and historians, including Pete Armetta. In 2016, the efforts paid off, and a placard, trail and preserved area were acknowledged, but saving the park ultimately remains up in the air.
“With some organization and focus is an exciting and meaningful neighborhood initiative waiting to happen,” says Armetta.—NJ
Woolen Mills’ historic designation still a dividing line for some residents
Known in the past as The Place, Woolen Mills is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Charlottesville. It includes homes that ring parks and longtime roads, a riverside trail flanked by wild lawns and trees and a pleasant hillside where people sleep eternally.
The older mill neighborhood gave way to more light industrial spaces as well as nearby wastewater treatment and composting. Over time, some residents gathered to preserve the charm of their original neighborhood, where a progressive mill owner, Henry Clay Marchant, built parks and housing for workers.
By 2007, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources chose Woolen Mills as the place to conduct a survey needed to begin the nomination process for a historic district designation.
Since the distinction, granted last September, the neighborhood is healing somewhat from a rift over the designation. Some community members wanted to preserve rights to alter or build on their property without added architectural review, while some wanted to have a recourse to review building and renovation plans in the historic sector.
People here are most concerned with two things, says John Frazee, Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association chair: for one, personal property rights (“A number of people in the neighborhood talk about balancing their personal property rights with the overall need to preserve the neighborhood,” Frazee says). And second, a desire to see the neighborhood grow in a way that makes sense for residents, in terms of housing, renovation and any redevelopment that may take place.
Frazee says that the historic designation is still actively discussed in the neighborhood, which he characterizes as “scrappy.” To date, Frazee says he hasn’t heard that the designation has affected anyone negatively. “It is a protection focused on new construction,” he says. “It is a question of scaling.”
“There was a lot of annoyance and chatter by some in the neighborhood when the scale of a house being built on Chesapeake became clearly larger than some may have expected,” says resident Lem Oppenheimer. “It was in a spot that was not covered by the HCD guidelines, and to some it seemed to show the problems with the scattershot nature of what got included (in the designated area) and what didn’t,” a few houses apart. He says he kind of likes the house, “though I’m not living in the shadow of it.”
Oppenheimer, who opposed the designation, says he has “never seen the neighborhood more angry or divided.” There’s a movement to recall the current WMNA board by some, he and Frazee note.
Many have ideas for today’s Woolen Mills. Bill Emory, who supported the historic designation and retired from the neighborhood association in late 2016 during a time of contentious interactions, is for conserving not only historic architecture but also the environs. He says waterways and roadways are public spaces of little regard. He would like a “street tree plan.”
One plan underway, a collaboration between developer Brian Roy and neighborhood residents, is the old mill factory along the Rivanna, approved to become residential and office-use property.
Oppenheimer also has an idea: sidewalks.—MJG
Will brake for chicken
Pizza joints, coffee shops, places that serve food in bowls—Charlottesville has no issues sustaining multiple versions of the same foodstuffs. Nowhere is that clearer than along the .8-mile stretch of Emmet Street where four—four!—fried chicken spots reside. Zaxby’s, KFC, Popeye’s and Raising Cane’s comprise the Chicken Strip and, together, make for The Meadows’ most popular attraction (unless you count the traffic on Hydraulic).
The foam finger-shaped neighborhood straddling 29 North is disproportionately commercial, with Barracks Road North Wing at its south end and extending past Seminole Square Shopping Center to the U.S. Post Office at its north. To the west, up Angus Road (and just past the KFC), are single- and multi-family homes originally part of Albemarle County until a rezoning. We know what they’re having for dinner.—CW
Photo: Skyclad AP
Basketball courts, jungle gyms, spray grounds—you won’t find much evidence of human intervention at Greenbrier Park. Those 28 acres along Meadow Creek in the Greenbrier neighborhood are just as intended: Nature for nature’s sake.
“I love the general wildness of the park,” says neighborhood resident Ladi Carr.
In addition to its walking and hiking paths, the park, which was deeded to the city in 1965, also offers a charming footbridge, sycamore groves, a meadow and a natural marsh believed to be one of only two in the Virginia Piedmont region. And while there are no play structures, Carr says there are plenty of ways for children to take advantage of the area.
“The creek is a great feature,” she says. “Kids can play there during the hot days, send little boats down, explore…” It’s the simple things.
Photo: Tristan Williams
Home of the Cardinals
“It’s the most exciting sport in America that nobody knows about,” Tom Vandever says of his team, the Charlottesville Cardinals, currently ranked 13th nationally as they head to the Sweet 16 of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association tournament. A Sunday morning practice at Carver Recreation Center, housed in Starr Hill’s Jefferson School City Center, will show you why he’s so bullish.
Organized in 1979, the Cardinal team members range in age from 22 to 65, though they have had players as young as 19 and as senior as 82. The team has always been co-recreational, with two women currently on the squad. Year-round practices on the Starr Hill court keep this community-based program in contention for those national tournaments.
But this year’s berth in Louisville’s NWBA mid-April tournament was not the Cardinals’ only public appearance: Frequent outreach programs to local scouting groups and school gymnasiums bring the sport to young people. With exhibition games this spring as far away as Maryland, the Cardinals took their show on the road to share their passion. One player even travels weekly to Richmond to coach.
“We welcome people to come to our games,” said Vandever. “Maybe look in on a practice at Carver to appreciate the skills and dedication that go into making the Cardinals such an exciting team. Or come support us in our big tournament, the first week in December.”
Although nationally ranked wheelchair basketball is just one of the many athletic opportunities that find their home at the Jefferson School and Carver Recreation centers, the team has won the hearts of its hardcore fans.
Says Vandever, “When you go away, you’ll remember the athletes, and not the chairs.” —BB
More to offer
The Jefferson School City Center (“The Soul of the City”) and Carver Recreation offer more than 600 classes, ranging from Zumba, spinning, roller skating, arts and crafts, yoga, gymnastics and volleyball at the Starr Hill facility.
Venable strikes a balance between teachers and students
The Venable neighborhood—made up of high slopes, historical landmarks and an abundance of pedestrian culture—is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Charlottesville. Highly venerated by the University of Virginia community, it’s a favorite among students, professors and historians in the region.
“University Circle has some of the most diverse and oldest homes in the city,” says former neighborhood association leader Erica Van Brimer Goldfarb. “It is believed to be the original designation for professors and administration, deans, authors at UVA to live in,” she says.
“It is rumored that Wayside Place, one of the highest points in Charlottesville, was to be the original designation for the Rotunda,” says another former neighborhood association leader, Bobbie Bruner. “But, nothing could be higher than Monticello, hence the ultimate choice for its location,” says Goldfarb. Other historic sites in Venable include Beta Bridge, the stone gates at Grady Avenue, Georgia O’Keeffe’s former home, the Prism and Lambeth Colonnade.
Today, soaring living costs and rental culture threatens the preservation of the neighborhood.
In order to combat the increase in commercial construction, current neighborhood association leader Rachel Lloyd has worked for the last several years to label several sections of Venable as “historic,” limiting the development allowances. For now, that’s staved off businesses and corporate plazas, but resulted in landlords renting out bedrooms in historic properties or crowding skinny high-rises with apartments.
The proximity to Grounds and hot spots such as the Corner continue to make Venable a viable housing location for students, who are among the highest percentage of renters in the area.
“High turnover and the amount of students inside some of the homes wears out the architecture and foundation much faster than a long-term residential family would,” says Goldfarb. “Preserving history through these homes has been a concern.” She and Bruner believe a lot of the architecture, much of which was designed by Eugene Bradbury, is in need of maintenance and professional upkeep, which becomes limited with tenant and landlord contracts constantly rolling, such as the fraternity and sorority “rows” that line streets deep in Venable.
“A decade ago, there was a push to involve the university and students to be part of the neighborhood association and join us for discussions,” says Goldfarb. It was a tug of war, but recently, those involved in Greek culture have taken strides toward participating. “Many are now self-policing, and help in taking care of the homes, and start neighborhood initiatives,” says Bruner. Both believe these open dialogues with long-term residents and the students have helped make Venable “one of the safest places in Charlottesville,” says Bruner.
Yet, with UVA’s ever-increasing admission costs comes an increase in students seeking housing—and an increase in traffic. Public transportation is limited, especially through Rugby, compared to other main streets in the city. “Bike lanes start to vanish, buses are infrequent and traffic along the Corner and Rugby Road is turning into a problem,” says Goldfarb. Construction along Barracks and Emmet has contributed to the congestion. “There are also infrastructure issues with the sidewalks, especially along Grady, Gordon and Rugby,” says Bruner.
One recent victory was the saving of Lambeth Colonnade and field by a group of students that did not want the women’s athletic teams to be housed there—they used a Title IX argument to win the case against the city. “The students argued the women should be allowed to live in and practice at or near the same facilities as the male teams, not be separated from the rest of athletic culture, as they would have been at Lambeth,” says Goldfarb. The win allows the historic field to remain, though development nearby, at the Cavalier Inn and the former Excel Inn, will take place over the coming years.
“We have such a diverse neighborhood, of architecture and residents. We are active in the community to keep it as open to all as possible, and preserve it for more to come,” says Bruner.—NJ
Rugby Hills resident Diane McDougall has made herself into the neighborhood’s unofficial welcome wagon, bringing cookies and other baked goods to folks moving into the area. Photo: Amy Jackson
If there’s an official welcome wagon in the Rugby Hills neighborhood, then Diane McDougall is in the driver’s seat. When she lived in rental houses, no one ever stopped by to say hello, so when she bought her house on a quiet street in 1998, she made it a point to start meeting her neighbors—especially when a new face appeared on the block.
And she doesn’t show up empty-handed: She brings either a batch of cookies, Scottish shortbread (a family recipe) or a loaf of homemade bread.
One neighbor was so surprised to see her standing on her porch, cookies in hand, she remarked, “It’s just like in the movies!”
McDougall’s goal is to not only make new people feel welcome but connect people living side-by-side; to foster relationships in which neighbors can borrow flour or curry powder, or watch each other’s homes when they’re away. She includes her contact information with each greeting (her email list is 50 strong), and has hosted a summer block party since 1999.
“I just think we have great people, and I bet you that’s the case in every neighborhood, but if you don’t get to know each other, you don’t know it,” she says.—JL
Carmelita Wood and other Fifeville residents called for a Cherry Avenue Small Area Plan as part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan Update. Photo: Eze Amos
The only constant is change
In 1822, one of Thomas Jefferson’s builders constructed Oak Lawn, the manor home at Cherry Avenue and Ninth Street, and smaller homes of workers eventually began to pop up around it. The combination of historic, newly built or renovated Reconstruction-era homes with modern townhouses clustered on a square are changing the Fifeville neighborhood’s look from modest to moneyed. And residents are becoming increasingly concerned about the repercussions of so much development.
Carmelita Wood, president of the Fifeville Neighborhood Association, and others called for a formal Cherry Avenue Small Area Plan as part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan Update, which identified several areas where planning and design issues or investment opportunities “may warrant additional study.”
The Cherry Avenue plan, approved in summer 2016, arose in part because of neighborhood commuter traffic and speed issues, says Wood. Other reasons included
a proposed large development (currently under construction), the potential for more development along Cherry Avenue and a document outlining a vision for the
Two years ago, a Fifeville neighborhood survey showed residents want businesses that build community and convenience, Wood says. “For example, they wanted walkable grocery stores and laundromats, and housing that is more affordable.” Cherry Avenue’s Community Think Tank and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission are working to achieve the residents’ wishes.
By June, the Small Area Plan project will complete its report on zoning for new businesses. By October, there should be a community presentation, with a city presentation to follow in December 2018, of the draft small area plan. By 2019, the final plan should be adopted and the TJPDC will begin to monitor its implementation.
Wood explains that, to address more immediate concerns, the neighborhood may try food trucks to sell prepared food or fruits and vegetables in an area devoid of grocers. A dilapidated house at 808 Cherry Ave. may soon become a convenience store with six residential units above it. There is talk of a new walking path linking the Prospect and Orangedale sectors with Tonsler Park.
Says Wood, “We are going to keep trying new things and learn what really works for residents.”—MJG
Is Belmont still the city’s most popular neighborhood?
Joan Schatzman bought her first house in Belmont 42 years ago, before it became the expensive, desirable neighborhood it is today.
The biggest change she’s seen: “It went from white separatist working-class families,” she says, to being integrated. “No black would dare walk in Belmont in 1978.”
After all, it was a Belmont shed where the Ku Klux Klan robes now housed in the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society were discovered.
Schatzman bought four houses on Douglas Avenue before the cost to live there spiraled, “because the children of old white people didn’t want to live in crappy Belmont in 1992,” she says.
“Now I’m seeing tons and tons of young families riding bikes up the street or strolling,” she says. And the neighborhood includes International Rescue Committee families, she adds.
Erin Hannegan, vice president of the Belmont Carlton Neighborhood Association, says, “I feel like it’s racially diverse, but maybe not as much as other parts of Charlottesville.”
The association did a survey last year, and found that 44 percent of the residents who responded live alone, 36 percent were in two-person homes and 20 percent were families with children. She also thinks Belmont’s demographics might skew younger than other neighborhoods, and she sees that on the neighborhood board.
Development is a perennial neighborhood issue, and Belmont has some major projects, like Coran Capshaw’s Belmont Apartments (see p.15) and the Belmont Bridge, on the horizon. But according to the survey, “Walkability was number one,” says Hannegan.
Traffic is another concern, and “it’s getting worse,” she says. “People like to walk and bike, and at some places, traffic makes it hard to do that.”
The best thing about living in Belmont, besides its proximity to downtown, says Hannegan, is “knowing my neighbor.” The scale of lots there promotes close neighborly interactions, she says.
Hannegan also likes “the fact we have a pocket of amenities”—businesses and restaurants, small corner stores and small parks throughout the neighborhood.
The housing styles are eclectic, she says, with a number of historic structures in north Belmont, along with contemporary housing and the workforce housing that was built in the 1940s.
Belmont’s popularity has made the cost of houses “out of sight,” says Schatzman. “My property taxes skyrocketed.”
That could be why the neighborhood has so many AirBnBs. “I was shocked at how many there are,” she says. “My street has four that I know of. It’s a really good way to earn some money out of your house.”
The neighborhood includes Carlton, and at a total of 406 acres, Hannegan says it may be the biggest in the city.
It also has what’s likely the biggest party: the Belmont Bash. The neighborhood association re-established the Belmont Park party a few years ago. “Last year attendance was in the thousands,” says Hannegan. “It got great reviews and had something for everyone.”—LP