What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago, the housing bubble had burst, the hottest area in real estate was foreclosures, and the Downtown Mall was littered with vacancies. Today, the county development scene is “white hot,” according to Albemarle Director of Community Development Mark Graham, and in the city, Director of Economic Development Chris Engel says the commercial market is “healthy and robust.”
Still, developer Keith Woodard’s washing his hands of his downtown West2nd project has roiled the landscape. City Councilor and architect Kathy Galvin offers a more nuanced description of development in the city in the wake of the West2nd implosion: “Confused: from bad to really good.”
The good news for the Charlottesville area is that people still want to live here. “We’re seeing the continuing trend of people who want to be close to urban centers,” says Nest Realty’s Jim Duncan. And he’s not just talking downtown Charlottesville. People are flocking to Crozet, U.S. 29 North, Pantops, and the 5th Street Station area anchored by Wegmans—the county’s designated growth areas.
“If you live and work on 29 North, there’s no reason to go to Charlottesville,” he says.
More than 150 projects that involve moving more than an acre of dirt are underway in Albemarle, according to Graham, and Crozet alone has eight active construction sites, he says.
Last year, 851 residential units, which include apartments, were permitted. This year, he says, by August the county had issued permits for 900 units.
And unlike the boom in 2005 through 2008, Graham says most building is taking place in the designated development areas. “Before, we saw a lot of McMansions being built in the rural areas.”
Since the 5th Street Station build out, “commercial development has cooled a bit,” says Graham, and 85 percent of what’s being built in the county is residential. “A ton of apartments are being built.”
In the city, Galvin provides a brief history of development this century. In 2003, neighborhood development focused on “expediting development reviews instead of long-range planning.”
During the redevelopment of West Main in 2012—and the construction of the behemoth Flats—“that’s when many of us realized our zoning was out of sync with our vision,” says Galvin in an email. “The public wants new rules of the game that give us more affordable housing, better buildings, and healthy, attractive places. Turn around times for development review must improve, but we have to get these rules right.”
Engel points to the 450,000 square feet of office space that will be available in the next few years in a city that hasn’t seen Class A offices built in the past 10 years. With 39,500 jobs and unemployment low, “We’ve become a regional job center,” he says.
Where those workers will live is another matter. Affordable housing continues to be an issue while luxury condos and rowhouses continue to be built.
The city would like to see more affordable and workforce housing, says Engel.
And there are a few. Galvin lists affordable housing projects that provide “healthy, well-connected neighborhoods” for residents with walkable streets and close-by essential resident services and amenities, like childcare, parks, and community spaces: Friendship Court’s resident-driven master plan for redevelopment without displacement; Sunrise Park on Carlton and Southwood in the county; Burnett Commons III; and Dairy Central on Preston.
Realtor Bob Kahn doesn’t see the “robust year” in commercial real estate slowing, despite interest rates ticking up.
The black eye in city development, he says, is Woodard’s “unfortunate cancellation” of West2nd after a Board of Architectural Review rejection that proved to be the “last straw” in Woodard’s five-year quest to break ground on a city parking lot that houses the City Market.
With West2nd’s demise, the city loses the affordable housing units Woodard planned to build on Harris Street, as well as nearly $1 million in real estate taxes, says Kahn. “The city really did a disservice to our community with that. There are no winners.”
He believes it will take years to get another project built on that lot with all the stakeholders involved and city “mismanagement of entitlements” pertaining to height, rezonings, and special use permits.
“It certainly doesn’t send a positive message about the economic vitality of downtown and will certainly hamper development on that lot with all those stakeholders,” says Kahn.
Engel’s perspective is not so dire. “We’ll see,” he says. “Stay tuned.”
With the City Market, residential, retail, and office components, “those types of projects are very complex” and make lenders nervous, he says.
Woodard did everything the city asked for in 2013, but it took five years instead of five months to approve, says Galvin. “In those five years, construction and financing costs rose, and Woodard needed another floor to pay for the increase. This project had to provide structured parking, housing, office space, and a plaza for the market all on a two-acre site, and build affordable housing off site.”
The good news for development in the city, says Galvin: “Most investors will not have that daunting a program or buy land from a public entity whose stewards are subject to staggered, four-year election cycles.”—Lisa Provence
With additional reporting by Samantha Baars, Bill Chapman, and Mary Jane Gore
Old mill, new purpose
- Brian Roy, Woolen Mills, LLC
- About 5 acres
- 120,000 square feet
- Mixed office and commercial use
- Approximately $18-20 million
Brian Roy has been nursing his vision of a completely restored mill—the Woolen Mill—for four years. He put in time solving problems with sellers, such as a flood plain difficulty, before his company, Woolen Mills, LLC, purchased the property. His dream is nearing fruition with the recently signed contracts with local tech giant WillowTree, which jumped ship from Charlottesville to Albemarle, to complete the office and commercial space.
“We held an event for WillowTree employees, and began to work on a plan,” Roy says. “It’s been a work in progress to shape the space that would fit their needs the best. It’s great to have the opportunity to preserve this property.” Better yet, the county and the state are sweetening the pot with over $2 million in incentives to partner with Roy and WillowTree—and its 200 current jobs and 200 projected positions.
The builders, Branch and Associates, want to get started as soon as possible. Branch estimates it will be a 15- to 18-month project that could be completed roughly by the end of 2019 to March 2020, hinging on the start date.
“We’re very excited about this job of restoring a historic building,” says Michael Collins, project manager at the Branch Richmond office.
In early September, the design was about 70 percent complete, Collins says, and he hopes to be clearing space around the site by November.
The space will also house a restaurant, brew pub, and coffee shop, all affiliated with local coffee shop Grit, says Roy.
When asked about any concerns at the site, Roy immediately says, “The windows.” Ten thousand will need to be replaced with modern double-panes for efficiency, but in the original frames, for authenticity.
Rehabbing the rehab center
- UVA Health System
- 195,000 square feet
- Outpatient care
The site of the former Kluge Children’s Rehab Center on Ivy Road is so discreet that some passersby haven’t noticed that the building John Kluge pledged $500,000 to get his name on, according to UVA Health System spokesman Eric Swensen, has been demolished and a new comprehensive facility that consolidates UVA’s outpatient orthopedic care is set to rise from the ashes.
The new Musculoskeletal Center—sounds like naming rights are available here—broke ground September 10. It will hold six outpatient operating rooms and allow surgical patients to recover for up to 23 hours before they’re shipped home. It will also house imaging services—MRIs, X-rays, CT scans, ultrasound, and fluoroscopy—as well as comprehensive physical and occupational therapy services. Surrounding fields and walking trails will boost that wellness-environment feeling.
The $105-million center is expected to open to patients in February 2022.
Banking on office space
- James Barton
- 25,000 square feet
- 38 offices, event spaces and board room
Perhaps no one is more excited about the unveiling of Vault Virginia than C-VILLE Weekly staffers, who have endured construction overhead for the past year. What seemed to be unending jackhammering in the former Bank of America building has produced an array of office spaces on the Downtown Mall that are part of the latest trend of collaborative workplaces.
The 1916-built structure already houses Sun Tribe Solar, and by the time this issue hits stands, construction mercifully will be complete. “We’re fully ready to occupy,” says James Barton, who hatched the Vault as well as Studio IX.
The new spaces include the marble and stone from former financial tenants, a theme that’s incorporated into a deluxe women’s bathroom with marble countertops and its own soundtrack.
One of the perks of membership, says Barton, is access to conference rooms and event spaces. And those renting the former board room can offer a private meal overlooking the bank’s grand hall that’s now Prime 109, home of the $99 steak.
Barton isn’t worried about the sudden influx of shared office space, especially Jaffray Woodriff’s 140,000-square-foot tech incubator, now dubbed CODE—Center of Developing Entrepreneurs—that will be built on the site of the Main Street Arena.
Creating the Vault hasn’t been without its struggles, and builder CMS filed a $316,000 complaint over an unpaid bill, but Barton and CMS attorney Rachel Horvath say that’s been settled.
“We had great investors come in early and great investors along the way to take this iconic building and give it a purpose for this community,” says Barton.
The influx of office space will make downtown Charlottesville really attractive to businesses that attract top talent and “show Charlottesville has the style and infrastructure,” says Barton.
“This should be the envy of cities trying to create this type of dynamic,” he says, that of a “vibrant, integrated community.”
Center of Developing Entrepreneurs
- CSH Development
- 0.99 acres on the Downtown Mall
- 170,000 square feet
- Office, retail
Local angel investor Jaffray Woodriff wanted to build a spot for entrepreneurs and innovators to come together to bounce ideas off one another and scale their startups. And while many in the community wished he’d wanted to build it elsewhere, he bought the buildings that housed the beloved Main Street Arena, the Ante Room, and Escafé to redevelop it and make his vision a reality.
CODE will allocate 23.5 percent of its square footage for tech/venture space, and 26 percent goes toward a common area for events and presentations. An unnamed anchor-tenant will use 35 percent of the space, with the remaining saved for smaller offices and other retail.
The folks at Brands Hatch LLC, which is owned and controlled by Woodriff, are keeping it green: Look for high efficiency heating and cooling systems and rooftop terraces. Construction is scheduled to be complete by the summer of 2020.
Apex of development
- Riverbend Development
- 1.28 acres
- 130,000 square feet
- Office and retail
Wind farm developers Apex Clean Energy have a different kind of development in the works: an office building planned in conjunction with Coran Capshaw’s Riverbend Development and Phil Wendel’s ACAC fitness club.
Filling in the semi-improved large parking lot on the north side of ACAC’s downtown location, the building will also house rental office space for other companies, and some ground-floor retail.
Architect for the project is the 1990s-era “Green Dean” of the UVA School of Architecture, Bill McDonough, who now specializes in sustainable corporate HQs around the globe.
Yes, they promise, club members will have access to the parking deck once complete. But during construction? Valet parking is one option being considered.
Behind the Glass Building
- Insite Properties
- About .67 acres
- 120,000 square feet
- Office space
Developer Jay Blanton of North Carolina-based Insite Properties probably gets this question a lot: “Where exactly is that office building you’re planning downtown?”
And casual observers should be forgiven because this by-right 120,000- square-foot structure did not need to go through any public entitlement meetings. There were really no vocal neighbors to speak of, and the exact site is hard to describe.
The nine-story building will replace the back half of the Glass Building where Bluegrass Grill has long been a tenant, but the grill and other food-related-tenants along Second Street will still be in place.
One prominent tenant (with 17,000 of 110,000 square feet leased) will be white-shoe law firm McGuireWoods, which will vacate what has become known as the McGuireWoods Building in the Court Square area north of the mall.
Expect to see cranes on the skyline soon, says Blanton, who plans to break ground in October and finish by early 2020.
Tarleton didn’t camp here
- James B. Murray, Tarleton Oak LLC
- 2.75 acres
- 86,000 square feet office space
- 56 apartments
A longstanding gas station and food mart on East High Street get the boot in this deal from venture capitalist/UVA Vice Rector Jim Murray.
Construction is scheduled to begin on the two-phase downtown project this year. A five-story office building and approximately 300-space parking garage will be built first, with a two-story residential building including nearly 60 apartments coming later atop the parking structure.
This project, called Tarleton Oak, will take the place of the current service station with the same moniker, which is named after the space’s first tenant—a humongous oak tree long gone to the mulch pile. Local myth put Colonel Banastre Tarleton camping there after his failed raid to capture Thomas Jefferson, but a historical marker now points to a spot down East Jefferson Street.
Live, work, eat
- Stony Point Design/Build
- 4.35 acres
- 300,000 square feet
- Office, residential, and food hall space
The planned multi-phase renovation and expansion of the old Monticello Dairy building at the nexus of Preston and Grady avenues and 10th Street NW is underway, and the battery shop, catering operation, and brewery tenants already have decamped for other sites around town.
Phase 1 of the project promises a complete overhaul of the 37,000-square-foot original dairy space into Dairy Market, a 20-stall food hall (think Chelsea Market in NYC or Atlanta’s Krog Street Market) with around 7,000 square feet of open seating. Developer Chris Henry of Stony Point Design/Build traveled as far as Copenhagen to research best practices for what he hopes will be “the region’s social and culinary centerpiece.”
Behind the dairy, 63,000 square feet of office space on multiple floors will be added. Expect all this to open in January 2020.
Phase 2 is the residential component, featuring 175 apartment units that are a mix of both market-rate (read: expensive) and affordable units aimed at households earning less than 80 percent of the area median income. City planning regulations require five such units as part of the approval here, but the developers plan 20 (or more if certain grants are approved).
Asked how he plans to decide who gets to live in the affordable units, Henry says he doesn’t know yet, as there is little or no precedent for such units ever being built in the city. Most developers opt instead to make cash payments into the city’s affordable housing fund. This residential phase, along with 500 onsite parking spaces, should be complete by 2021.
925 East Market Street
- Guy Blundon, CMB Development
- About .25 acres
- 20,000 square feet
of office space
- 52 luxury apartments
Originally a preschool, the property at 925 East Market Street inspired Guy Blundon and business partner Keith Woodard to launch new plans for the property.
They envision five stories, and the first level will contain office space, Blundon says.
“It’s downtown, near the Pavilion and the Downtown Mall,” he says. “There are beautiful views from all of the upper floors, in every direction.”
Another amenity will be a covered parking space. “You could live and work in the same building,” he says.
The city has passed a resolution allowing 10th Street to be narrowed to allow for sidewalk and landscape buffers, and specified that the building be open to the public in the commercial use areas, with handicapped entrances on 10th and Market streets.
Construction should begin soon. “I have been focusing on other projects, mainly in Richmond,” says Blundon, and up until recently, business partner Woodard had been busy with the ill-fated West2nd.
- Southern Development
- 7 acres
- 25 single family homes
- Starting at $400,000
Site work just started off once quiet Hartman’s Mill Road in a historic African American neighborhood.
At about a mile south of the Downtown Mall, Southern Development vice president Charlie Armstrong calls the houses at Paynes Mill “a rare find” because most of them back up to private wooded areas.
The U-shaped community offers houses with three to five bedrooms, two-and-a-half to four-and-a-half bathrooms, and 2,147 to 3,764 square feet. Lots range from an eighth of an acre to a half-acre, and the first home is scheduled to be completed this spring.
Straddling the urban ring
- Milestone Partners
- 35 acres in the city and county
- 210-unit mix of single family, townhomes, and cottages
- 8 Habitat for Humanity homes plus affordable accessory dwellings
- Low $400,000s to north of $700,000
Nest Realty’s Jim Duncan touts the hometown aspects of Lochlyn Hill off East Rio Road, which encompasses both the city and county and borders Pen Park, Meadowcreek Golf Course, and connects with the Rivanna Trails system. Milestone Partners’ Frank Stoner and L.J. Lopez redeveloped the historic Jefferson School, and are working on turning the Barnes Lumber site in downtown Crozet into a town center. Nest is doing the marketing, and all the builders are local, says Duncan.
He notes its location in the popular Greenbrier district, and its diversity of architectural styles. “It’s not just white houses along the street,” he says.
Crozet for rent
The Summit at Old Trail
- Denico, part of Denstock
- 11.51 acres
- 90 apartments
- 29 affordable 1-bedroom units
- From $1,100 to $1,600 per month
Development firm Denico conducted a market study in western Albemarle and saw a gap in the marketplace for apartments in that part of the county.
“Given the growth, zoning, and access to [Interstate] 64, we felt that building apartments in Old Trail was a good opportunity, says Robert F. Stockhausen Jr., a co-principal at parent company Denstock. “It is a nice alternative for families and others to have.”
While the firm had originally looked in other locations, Old Trail won out with its location and amenities: golf, walking trails, stores, restaurants, the Village Center, views of the mountains, parking behind units, and nearby I-64 access.
The one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments in Summit at Old Trail will feature stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, a private theater, clubroom, a business center, and rooftop sky lounge, says Stockhausen, as well as an amenity that sounds super swanky: valet trash service.
Bald eagles included
- Southern Classic
- 120 acres
- 2- to 6-acre lots plus 60-acre preservation tract
- $400,000 to $450,000 lots
Fairhill off U.S. 250 in Crozet is not a cookie-cutter development. With mountain views from “about every” one of the 13 lots for sale, and half of those near Lickinghole Creek Basin, the custom homes—once built—will be in the $1.2 million to $1.5 million range, according to Southern Classic owner David Mitchell.
“You get the best of both worlds,” he says. “It feels like rural living and it’s five minutes from Crozet.” Roads have been built and paving will take place in September.
Fairhill’s first publicity came more than a year ago, when an anonymous source tipped off the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department—and C-VILLE Weekly—that a pair of bald eagles had made a nest for their two eaglets along the Lickinghole Creek Basin, a popular site for birders and waterfowl.
A storm in February destroyed the nest, says Mitchell, and within a month, the eagles built it back. His permit requires him to keep an eye on the eagles for an hour every two weeks, and it has some restrictions about when work can take place, but those “are not the worst thing in the world,” he says.
Glenmore’s new neighbor
- Ryan Homes
- 95 acres
- 290 units
- Starting in upper $300s
Nestled next to Glenmore, Rivanna Village will be a community of nearly 300 villas, townhouses, and single-family homes—and they’re all maintenance-free, so you’ll never have to mow your own lawn.
So far, 27 villas have been approved, and the remaining 263 units are still in the proposal process.
The one-level homes are specifically designed with the bedrooms, a laundry room, kitchen, and family room on the ground floor, and the proposed neighborhood will have its own trails, dog park, sports courts, and picnic shelters.
Ryan Homes reps didn’t respond to multiple requests for information, but according to their website, the ranch-style homes are “intimate, but spacious” and “built to last.” So that’s good.
- Stony Point Design/Build
- Retail and residential
- 8 acres
- 93 units
Four years in the making, Riverside Village on Route 20 north—Stony Point Road—was the coming-out party for development firm Stony Point Design/Build, run by Chris Henry (son-in-law of local baby-formula magnate Paul Manning).
This “village” along the river just south of Darden Towe Park features a little bit of everything: residential condos, detached homes, and side-by-side attached homes.
Under construction now are The Shops at Riverside Village, where Henry promises wood-fired pizza, craft beer, and a cycling studio. Rental apartments, four of which will be affordable, will occupy the second story above the commercial spaces.
Henry, who originally had 18 acres, but deeded 10 to the county to expand the size of Darden Towe, points to the site’s mix of uses, river access, and residential density as examples of Stony Point’s commitment to “urban planning, placemaking, and walkability,” something his firm is already focusing on at other sites around the county and in the city at Dairy Central.
All tired up
Scottsville Tire Factory
McDowellEspinosa Architect, with the University of Virginia
- 61.47 acres
- 185,721 gross square feet
- Pricing as of July 2017:
- Plant and 41.31-acre lot (along James River): $1,169,600
- 19.97-acre parcel: $795,000
The tire factory at 800 Bird St. in Scottsville has been empty since early 2010, when Hyosung shuttered its plant there, and the Town of Scottsville is trying to drum up interest in repurposing the nearly 186,000-square-foot space.
Town Administrator Matt Lawless has partnered with architect Seth McDowell and UVA’s Andrew Johnston to imagine what might happen to the site now owned by land magnate Charles Hurt.
While the factory site is for sale as two lots, it does not have a buyer. The town surveyed residents to think ahead 20 years and invited ideas for uses for the old factory building. Among these were residences, health and fitness programs, a go-cart track, and swimming pools. Some of those ideas will make their way into early renderings.
McDowell, who is working with up to three UVA students on the project, says comment and feedback on what town leaders call “a key asset for the town” will begin with a September 27 town meeting.
The marketing survey showed that 75 apartments may be needed in the coming 20 years, and plant plans may include all 75 units, 40 or even 20 units in the space. It’s a question of whether it is possible to rezone for residential purposes in the industrial area.
“There’s not one set vision,” says McDowell.
Whatever happened to…
Developers of Belmont Point on Quarry Road were excavating away for 26 single family homes starting in the upper $300,000s when they got stuck between a rock and a hard place. Literally.
In June, neighbors got wind that Hurt Construction had hired a company to blast through bedrock, some of which was within 300 feet of neighboring homes.
“There’s no chance the city is going to allow the blast,” says Andrew Baldwin with Core Real Estate and Development, who was developing the site. The subterranean rock affects six lots that will require chipping or homes on slabs without basements.
That decision, says Baldwin, will be made by owner Charles Hurt’s Stonehenge Park LLC and Southern Development. But Southern Development’s Charlie Armstrong says he isn’t buying lots until they’re ready for building. And Hurt did not return a phone call from C-VILLE.
One of the few apartment projects in the downtown area that has affordable units is at 1011 E. Jefferson St., but the project has whipped the Little High Neighborhood Association into a lawsuit-filing frenzy because City Council denied the 17 plaintiffs their three-minute right to petition their government when the special use permit was considered during a July 5, 2017, hearing, according to the pro se suit. And one of the plaintiffs suing council is former councilor Bob Fenwick.
The suit, filed one year later, has run into its first hurdle, according to the response from the city. “We missed the deadline,” says Fenwick. “You have to appeal within 21 days.”
He adds, “That might be a big mountain. We figured this would probably be a learning experience.”
Meanwhile, Great Eastern Management’s David Mitchell (who also owns Southern Classic) says the special use permit and the preliminary site plan for the 126-unit building have been approved and the company has submitted a final site plan. But there’s still more work to be done before the current medical offices on the 1.5-acre site come down.
“We have to find a place for the doctors to move and move the doctors before demolition can begin,” says Mitchell.
Dewberry stays dark
Charlottesville’s reigning eyesore, the Landmark, is approaching its ninth birthday. In the ensuing near-decade since construction stalled on the former Halsey Minor/Lee Danielson project, Waynesboro-born John Dewberry bought the property in 2012 and has continued to keep it in its skeletal form.
In December, City Council quashed plans to give Dewberry a $1 million tax break over 10 years, but Dewberry Capital allegedly is moving forward. In March, the Board of Architectural Review approved additional height and massing. Since then, who knows? Dewberry and his VP Lockie Brown did not return multiple calls.
Rising from the ashes
The owners of the Excel Inn & Suites that burned May 4, 2017, are working on a reincarnation that bears no resemblance to the 1951-built Gallery Court Motor Hotel that hosted Martin Luther King Jr., but which shares a similar name.
The Planning Commission voted 5-2 on September 11 to approve Vipul and Manisha Patel’s special use permit to build a seven-story Gallery Court Hotel replacement on Emmet Street, where the original flamed out. The new hotel will have 72 rooms, including a rooftop snack bar and ground-level cafe.
Brookhill—located between Polo Grounds Road and Forest Lakes—could be the successful pedestrian friendly urban model of which the county has long dreamed. Its town center sounds like a mini-Downtown Mall with an amphitheater—hello Fridays After 5—a movie theater and restaurants, according to Riverbend Development’s Alan Taylor last year.
Added to the mix this year: A deluxe ice park that’s guaranteed to be a hit with displaced skaters from the soon-to-be demolished Main Street Arena.
Last fall, the county’s Architectural Review Board approved an initial site plan, and Brookhill’s first phase includes four apartment buildings. We’d like to tell you more about when those will be available to lease, but Taylor did not return multiple requests for information.
Correction September 25: The original version misidentified the location of Apex headquarters, which will be in the parking lot on the north side of ACAC.
Clarification September 26 on the Little High Neighborhood Association lawsuit.