Making space: City Council approves land purchase for downtown parking lot
Late Monday evening, City Council voted unanimously to purchase Albemarle County’s portion of the 701 E. Market St. lot, where it plans to build a new, 300-car parking garage.
The $1.28 million purchase—half of the land’s appraised value—is part of an agreement between the city and county to keep the county courts downtown and construct a new General District Court. The Albemarle Board of Supervisors threatened to move its courts to the county if council did not create more parking spaces for county employees.
Stretching from Seventh to Ninth streets, the proposed structure would include roughly 12,000 square feet of retail space, and 90 parking spaces would be set aside for county use.
The city estimates the structure will cost $8.5 million. Almost $5 million is included in the proposed capital improvement budget for fiscal year 2021.
To build the garage, the city plans to combine the land with another property it owns at 801 E. Market St., currently home to Guadalajara restaurant and Lucky 7 convenience store—the only 24-hour food spot downtown.
At Monday’s meeting, several community members urged council to rethink its plans.
Estimating that the costs of construction would be approximately $51,000 per parking space, Rory Stolzenberg said the garage would be “a poor use of this city’s scarce funds” and that the 300-space structure is not necessary to fulfill the city’s agreement with the county. He also noted that the garage would result in the tearing down of two local businesses, including “one of the most affordable places to eat downtown.”
Josh Carpe echoed Stolzenberg’s concerns, asking council to look for other ways to manage the parking demand downtown before “we build parking we don’t need.” He also criticized the city’s capital improvement budget for cutting funding for affordable housing in order to pay for the garage, and encouraged council to give the Planning Commission and incoming councilors a chance to weigh in on the proposal.
The conversation surrounding the garage is expected to continue into next month, when the new councilors will be sworn in.
Quote of the Week
“That tree just ain’t a hit. You could have gotten an artificial tree that looks better than that tree. The tree ain’t gotta look like the state of the city!” —Tanesha Hudson, county resident, on the Downtown Mall Christmas tree
Over the weekend, an anonymous commenter spray painted “This is racist” across the base of Charlottesville’s much-maligned Robert E. Lee statue. Someone hoping to cover up that recontextualization then hung a tarp over the paint. Undeterred, the vandal returned, and spray painted “Still racist” across the tarp.
Sticking to their guns
Louisa County is the latest to join more than a dozen Virginia counties in declaring itself a gun rights “sanctuary.” The growing movement comes on the heels of the November 5 election, which secured a Democratic majority in both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time since 1995. Anticipating imminent gun-control legislation, the self-proclaimed sanctuaries have passed informal, extra-legal resolutions expressing intent to honor gun rights.
Stepping it up
UVA announced that it plans to partner with the College of William & Mary, in a joint goal to be carbon neutral by 2030. This is a significantly more ambitious benchmark than was set by the city and county, which are aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. The partnership will help both schools meet their pledge through information sharing and the creation of a new climate research institute.
In Dinwiddie, residents are in high dudgeon about the smell of a local hemp farm, reports the Petersburg Progress-Index. The smell has permeated clothes and air-conditioning units, leaving residents feeling skunked. The plant is legal to grow and doesn’t contain THC, but it looks and smells just like marijuana.