Category Archives: architecture
This is a tale about the 22 houses on the left. The 1300 block of Chesapeake Street.
The lots are long and skinny, they are zoned R1s, they are intended for residential use.
The houses’ average age is 75 years old, half of them were built by the end of World War II, the other half were finished at the end of the Korean War.
The homes were built by blue-collar people.
To this day, not one of them features a garage or a swimming pool.
Nine of the houses are rented, thirteen are owner occupied
The houses don’t tend to flip, the average last date of sale was twenty-two years ago.
Over the years I’ve made the acquaintance of a handful of the residents while walking by.
I’ve met a librarian, a plumber, a teacher, a postal worker, a United States Marine
a boat captain, students, an X-ray tech, a museum worker and an IT person.
These houses average 1100 square feet finished living area.
The average lot the houses sit on is 0.18 acres, that is five dwelling units per acre (DUA).
Their average assessment is 290 thousand dollars.
The 22 homes, are stable, they are occupied, they are the refuge of families who moved to the neighborhood and planned to stay.
I believe that painting this block with a medium intensity residential (MIR) land use designation is not acceptable planning.
The MIR designation is unfair to the residents
The designation will target their houses for demolition, it is an economic bulldozer.
The Woolen Mills neighborhood requested a small area plan from the City in 1988.
If the City had provided a framework for public and private investment decisions to the Woolen Mills by means of a small area planning process decades ago the current action could make sense.
But there has been no small area plan.
I encourage Council to get scientific, to use the tools of Archimedes and Galileo, math and maps.
Pick some baselines to trigger small area plans in neighborhoods with significant proposed up-zoning.
For example, if a rezoning will potentially displace 50% of the area’s existing residents, perform a Small Area Plan.
If a rezoning will increase DUA by more than 10X, perform a Small Area Plan.
Effective city planning is done by having comprehensive neighborhood plans that share the benefits and burdens required to keep the City humming along in an equitable, healthy fashion.
The 2021 Comprehensive Plan is intended to guide the coordinated harmonious development of the territory within the City to promote the health, safety, order, convenience, prosperity and general welfare of the city’s inhabitants.
City Council will decide on the fate of these 22 houses in the next few weeks when they vote on the Future Land Use Map, a part of the not yet approved Comprehensive Plan. Currently, the map shows these humble houses being “redesignated” to a much more intense use known as “medium intensity residential”.
About the medium intensity residential (MIR) the urban planners say:
Medium Intensity Residential: Increase opportunities for housing development including affordable housing, along neighborhoods corridors, near community amenities, employment centers, and in neighborhoods that are traditionally less affordable.
In the case of the 22. These houses, on the spectrum of CHO housing, are affordable. To me, they don’t seem to fit the planners’ criteria. These houses are on a neighborhood street not a “corridor”. The houses aren’t near employment centers.
The MIR designation will potentially result in the demolition of these residences.
What could replace one of these houses once it was demolished? The planners say:
Form + Use:
Allow up to 12 residential units (depending on site characteristics and context, to be further defined in the zoning ordinance; many areas may be limited based on lot size and other factors)
Allow structures up to 4 stories (depending on site characteristics and context, to be further defined in the zoning ordinance; many areas may be limited based on lot size and other factors)
All the neighborhoods in beige are similarly threatened.
(I would encourage all concerned to write to City Councilors and to participate at the Council meeting on this subject November 15, 2021. Details of how to participate are available here) https://cvilleplanstogether.com/
Medium-Intensity Residential: Maximum-Intensity Pain
Medium-Intensity Residential needs to be scaled back in both scope and intensity. It is too much to ask people who bought in R-1 neighborhoods (over 60% of the parcels designated for Medium-Intensity Residential) to accept 12-unit (and possibly larger) buildings and 4+ stories, and it is not necessary for making our housing market more flexible, given other changes under the FLUM. The areas designated – changing up the last minute — do not make sense. MIR areas actually have a lower average Walkscore than General Residential. They lack critical infrastructure and some are so far below required density to support commercial amenities that their ultimate arrival is highly uncertain. There is no precedent for buildings above 3.5 stories in most of these areas. High-Intensity residential, on the other hand, shows clear differences — high walkability, transit access, existing infrastructure and height. With MIR, we could end up with a “worst-of-all-worlds” situation of having a scattering of MFH buildings isolated from amenities. And folks living in MIR feel targeted, because there is no compelling explanation of why their blocks should face a much more extreme transformation than nearly identical blocks nearby. If you need the MIR category to exist, scale it back to a few areas already adjacent to amenities, existing density and infrastructure.–CFRP
The Comprehensive Plan can go forward without a finalized land use map. Move head with the CP, move ahead with the many non-map aspects of the Affordable Housing Plan. But the map ought to be done in conjunction with plot-by-plot zoning. This is how planning usually works.–CFRP
Urban Renewal 2.0
From the fog of COVID, a draft land use map has emerged. The planning document looks to be a blue print for urban renewal and the starting gun for the teardown of affordable housing in the Woolen Mills Neighborhood.
People have lived in houses lining the south edge of Market Street between Meade Avenue and Franklin Street for 135 years. You do not know their names. They are not rich or famous. They call this area their home.
Since its first comprehensive Plan in 1958 the City has represented the bifurcated planning laid across the backyards of these Market Street residential properties in a series of zoning and land use maps.
For 60 years these maps have recognized two elements. The maps show proposed manufacturing, industry, and business in the southern 70% of the land and residential uses bordering Market Street and Franklin.
This bifurcated zoning/land use was placed in the backyards of houses and residential properties fronting on the southern edge of Market Street. This allows manufacturing-industrial-business adjacency to residential use, cheek to jowl.
The Woolen Mills Neighborhood has appealed for thoughtful, community-based study and correction of this poorly thought out land use/zoning layout for decades. The Woolen Mills first formal request for a small area plan was made of the City Council at their August 1, 1988 meeting.
In 2013 the Woolen Mills Small Area Plan request had risen to the top of the SAP list, but was bypassed for more exigent planning challenges (Route 29 North, Starr Hill and Cherry Avenue).
The “new” draft Land Use Map mimics the “Future Diagrammatic Land Use Map” produced by Harland Bartholomew and Associates for the City of Charlottesville in October 1956 in regards to its blanket treatment of the residential community south of Market between Meade Avenue and Franklin Street.
(HBA were the primary architects of “urban removal” in the United States back when neighborhoods were torn down with bulldozers.)
Hoping against hope that the powers that be will rethink the proposed upzoning and destruction of the residential neighborhood fronting on the southern edge of Market Street.
We live here. Please…
City Planning Commission member Sue Lewis advised residents from the Woolen Mills neighborhood that “you should have mobilized sooner. When you are living in the middle of a potentially unwanted development, you should act before something happens.”—7/14/1988 Planners approve warehouses in Woolen Mills district by Kay Peaslee Observer staff writer
I think this issue about, you probably can go all throughout the City and find properties that are, inconsistencies between the land use and comprehensive plan and I think it behooves citizens to be
alert to every single one of those fragments that are left in the City. And I think we are working overtime to try and identify them all and I think it is grossly unfair that everyone should anticipate these areas that are caught in between.
I believe though that the Woolen Mills Neighborhood has not had the benefit of a real plan for how these acres and acres of M1 and B3 uses are going to be developed over ten or twenty years and other neighborhoods have had the benefit of that and it’s made a significant difference in how land will develop.
I know Ridge Street neighborhood had a neighborhood plan done for it, for properties that were zoned what we thought was inappropriate for the neighborhood. That project looked at it through another lens, it recommended down-zoning, it recommended a different kind of housing, and seven years later, the kind of housing that the City had anticipated was done because we dared imagine what a different and better use would be for those properties.
I think it is long overdue for the Woolen Mills that they have a clear signal of where their neighbor-hood is going, and not be done in this piecemeal fashion.
So I guess my hope would be that out of this process, given the talent that they have in their neigh-borhood, that they get together and decide that proactively we are going to tell you what the future of our neighborhood is going to be, and it is not going to continue to be an erosion of the things that they have come to feel anchor their neighborhood, that’s the residential use and some of the mixed use strategies that they have.
So that is one thing I would hope would come out of this process, and I guess you’ll have to wait to hear the outcome, for another two weeks.— Maurice Cox, April 7, 2003
Attention to Detail
The Charlottesville and Albemarle Railway (C&A) was a short electric street railroad operating within the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, during the early 20th century. The line was preceded by several streetcar lines operating both horse-drawn and electric powered cars dating back to 1887. After facing financial difficulties, the predecessor lines were reorganized into the C&A in 1903. The C&A’s electric streetcars operated off of an overhead line system that was powered by the railroad’s own power plant. The C&A also offered electric power generated by its plant to the city of Charlottesville. During the mid-1910s, the line received numerous upgrades, including the construction of a new power plant on the Rivanna River, a new company headquarters building, expansion of track, and the purchase of new streetcars.–Wikipedia
View from the right bank of Moores Creek
Paul Goodloe McIntire’s Rivanna (06)
In 1915, five years after Henry Clay Marchant’s death, his heirs turned the riverside land over to a group that saw in it a great aesthetic and recreational resource. The heirs leased, and later sold, the Marchant tract to the Albemarle Golf Club. Established in 1914, the club had enjoyed rapid growth, initially using leased land on Rose Hill. In 1915, George R. B. Michie, a charter member of the club and the president of the People’s National Bank, approached the Marchant heirs and worked out a three-year lease for their land along the Rivanna River. For Michie, the arrangement seemed ideal. In 1909, Michie and his family had taken up residence in the 1820s house built by John A. G. Davis as the plantation house of The Farm.
The house continued to look out over sod and pastures that the Marchant family had maintained since the 1890s. Now, with only minor changes, the landscape character would be preserved, and Michie would have the added advantage of having a golf course adjacent to his residence. For their part, the Marchant heirs insisted on preserving the pastoral character of the site. Their lease called for the land to be used for “athletic and grazing purposes only, and shall not be cultivated except so far as is necessary to get said land in the best condition possible for the raising of grass and sodding said land.” The sod could be removed only to build tennis courts and putting greens, and would have to be restored at the end of the lease. The existing grade of the land could not be altered, and no trees could be felled, save for a small orchard that could he removed if the golfers desired.
The rising popularity of golf in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was directly tied to the perception that urbanization would erode the health and vitality of the American citizens. A growing number of people who had been raised in the outdoors, on rural farms, had now taken up residence in cities and were spending their working lives indoors. This fact made the golf course seem an especially attractive venue for such city-dwellers to ensure healthy and restorative leisure. Pointing to the new golf course along the Rivanna, the Daily Progress reported: “The new grounds are within a short walking distance from the business center of Charlottesville ….The club is meeting a long-felt want in this community-that of furnishing healthful outdoor exercise for business and professional men who are kept in store or office during the major portion of the day.” Many charter members of the Golf Club did indeed spend their days indoors doing white-collar work. For example, George Michie worked in the People’s National Bank at Third and Main. Marshall Timberlake ran his pharmacy at Fourth and Main. W.J. Keller and Harry George operated their Main Street jewelry shop between Second Street and Third Street. All of these men lived within a few blocks of their workplace . All could now golf along the Rivanna where tennis, baseball, and boating were also available. Clearly, the Golf Club represented a new use for the agricultural lands along the Rivanna. Indeed, despite the appearance of the land that seemed somewhat pastoral in nature, the Marchant heirs had forbidden the planting of corn on the site and in 1915 after a “very rigorous debate,” club members voted to terminate the pasturage of cows on the land, preferring to pay for the mowing of the fairways. Under these changed circumstances, the agricultural landscape grew increasingly attenuated; nevertheless, with the introduction of golf, the site retained both its alluring pastoral character and its intricate connection to the economic, residential, and social life of the region. In 1918, pleased with their location and the growth of their organization, the Albemarle Golf Club paid the Marchant heirs $18,800 and took full ownership of their riverside golf course.
Members of the Albemarle Golf Club, 1921. Although not pictured, women could join the club as non-voting members, paying half the annual membership fee of men while the entrance fee was waived. Photo courtesy collection of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.
Paul Goodloe McIntire’s Rivanna: The Unexecuted Plans For a River City is by Daniel Bluestone and Steven G. Meeks. This article was published in Volume 70 2012 of the Magazine of Albemarle County History by the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society. Copies of the Magazine are available at www.albemarlehistory.org
Work is ongoing for the multi-family old folks development in the backyard/front pasture of James and Bannie Branham’s house at 1512 E Market.
JABA held a ceremony today behind the historic Timberlake-Branham house to celebrate the ground-breaking of its income and age restricted multi-family housing project.
Mayor Satyendra Huja (center) joined by developers Preston Coiner and Chris Murray.
Timberlake Place has been in the planning stages since 1999 according to architect Charles Hendricks of The Gaines Group. Developer of this project is Jefferson Area Board for Aging, Inc.
Timberlake Place will provide 26 units of low-to-moderate income housing and one market-rate apartment for persons aged 55 and over. The new housing combines the historic rehabilitation of the Timberlake-Branham House with 22 newly constructed one- and two-bedroom apartments in three buildings behind the original house. The new construction has been carefully designed to fit in with the scale and character of the Woolen Mills neighborhood, and will feature both “senior-friendly” universal design, and energy-efficient EarthCraft construction throughout.–JABA
December 31, 2011