It’s amazing to us that a little less than 13 years ago, we sent a reporter to investigate a pending facelift in Belmont and he came back writing about the neighborhood’s “P.R. problem.” Sheesh, where did that go? These days, the place has an image too hip for its own good. At least that’s what it seems like when residents start yelling about yet another damn restaurant near the intersection of Monticello Road and Hinton Avenue, the same juncture where our reporter formerly discovered that “signs of life are few.” $55,200 houses? A dearth of white-collar residents? Not anymore, honey.
Nine years after that Belmont story, in December 2005, we brought you a different kind of development news: 18,725 new houses in the pipeline for Charlottesville and Albemarle. When it comes to growth, it’s just as we noted then: “The word alone is enough to start an argument. We need more! We need less! Hardly anyone seems to think things are just right as they are.”
Then again, as the intervening years have made clear, the real estate market always has the last laugh.
Paging through the archives
“It’s mid-morning in Charlottesville’s Belmont neighborhood, and signs of life are few at the intersection of Monticello Road and Hinton Avenue, an area nicknamed ‘Downtown Belmont.’ The buzz of an air drill can be heard in a nearby garage, while a few cars move down the narrow road lined with somewhat rickety mini-marts and frame houses…
“Still, Belmont’s disrepair has a gritty charm—a charm that many residents want to preserve, albeit with less grit. This year, City officials are spending more than $300,000 for a Belmont facelift…
“‘I’m excited about these improvements,” says architect Joe Celentano, a Belmont resident for 10 years and owner of a stucco and wood frame house on Belmont Avenue for the last two. ‘Belmont has a lot to offer in the sense of a neighborhood.’
“Celentano, a member of a City task force to improve Belmont, is just the type of person City officials want more of in the stucco-fied neighborhood.
“They want white-collar folks with families who see opportunity in rickety old houses; folks who enjoy a front-porch culture, where neighbors visit each other; and folks who don’t mind when the smell from Moore’s Creek Sewage Treatment plant wafts up every so often from the valley…
“Better yet, cool housing is affordable in Belmont for low- to mid-income folk: the median value of a house —mostly proud but repair-hungry frame houses dating from the 1890s and onward—is $55,200, compared to an average of $84,000 for the entire City, according to a local study.”—Jonathan Fox, October 29, 1996
“Recently Charlottesville has seen 477 new residential units go up, with places like Coran Capshaw’s Walker Square Apartments on W. Main Street, or Frank Stoner’s Belmont Lofts setting the tone for the thousands of new units that are on the way. Much of the city’s new commercial space will be combined with residential space, a trend known as ‘mixed-use’ development. Part of the City’s plan is for suburban refugees and Wahoos to be able to walk instead of driving their cars.
“In Albemarle, C-VILLE’s development forecast points to the designated growth areas: Pantops, Crozet and Route 29N will continue exploding with new apartment buildings, subdivisions and big-box shopping centers…
“The brew is percolating, so to speak, with recent news of one of the area’s biggest land deals ever. Last month the Breeden family sold its 1,353-acre farm, known as Forest Lodge [or Biscuit Run], for more than $46 million. Developer Hunter Craig, rumored to be backed by the giant Toll Brothers homebuilding company, purchased the parcel and could put nearly 5,000 homes just south of Charlottesville.”—John Borgmeyer and Nell Boeschenstein, December 6, 2005