UVA plans walkway, city smiles

UVA plans walkway, city smiles

It was a quick decision, in that it was a decision at all, one that took no more than 10 minutes at the September 4 City Council meeting. The city granted UVA air rights and easements for a pedestrian walkway to be built over Jefferson Park Avenue (JPA) as a part of the University’s South Lawn project. A big reason that University projects tend to, in the words of Mayor David Brown, "sail through" City Council has to do with a parking garage that years back raised the city’s hackles.

In 2002, UVA began construction on a parking garage on Ivy Road, a project that, put nicely, resulted in a big disagreement between the University and city. "They did that without really engaging with the neighborhood," says Brown. "I think they resolved in the wake of that to genuinely, earnestly and openly engage the neighborhoods and the city as they move forward with projects."

The city happily handed over air rights to UVA last week for the South Lawn’s grassy pedestrian bridge over Jefferson Park Avenue.

Five years later, the South Lawn project is moving along smoothly through Council. The air rights and easements granted by the city will allow UVA to begin building the walkway next summer. According to UVA spokesperson Carol Wood, construction should take about six months.

The South Lawn project, which began this year and is slated for completion in 2010, has not been without controversy. In 2005, 36 faculty members from the architecture school and art department signed an open letter to UVA, taking issue with the conservative design of the $105 million project. That opposition stands in stark contrast to the city’s approval.

"One of the reasons this is sailing through has to do with the University  genuinely listening to what residents have to say," says Brown. "If you go back and look at some of the earlier versions, it was very different. There were some real concerns about it. If you look at the designs now, the [walkway] is very narrow, very light. This is an example of the University doing it right."

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