A reader wrote:
A lot of the people I know don’t think of living outside of the city as an option for them (I live in the city and work at the University). One couple on my street has two professional incomes and doesn’t own a car. They take a cab to buy groceries and walk or bus everywhere else. Another couple on my street buys all their groceries at Feast! so they won’t have to drive. These are extreme cases, but every year a few more seem to move into renovated old houses down the street. These folks along with the poor and undergrads (despite attempts to woo them with luxury and a free shuttle) seem to compete for space in the city and only in the city. I think of this every time I see you mention the CharlAlbemarle market, because it seems like there are really two markets, those who are willing to sacrifice a great deal of size, sfr, yard, parking, safety, etc. to live near downtown and the university and those who are not. The perception, fed by the C’Ville and the Hook, is that these “young professionals” and “urban hipsters” are taking over, but I wonder how significant that market really is.
Charlottesville and Albemarle. I refer to CharlAlbemarle frequently as I consider the two real estate markets to be the same, the political needs and desires are very similar (whether politicians want to admit it or not) and do exist in a symbiotic relationship. When relocating clients say that they want to move to Charlottesville, 90% of the time, they mean “the Charlottesville area” rather than within City limits. Frequently they will say that they want to move to Charlottesville but want to live in the County (Albemarle).
The HooK ran a comprehensive story last week detailing the apparent similarities between Charlottesville and New York City. (be sure to read the rebuttal) In many ways, this article bodes ill for those who simply want to live and work in a nice place. Serendipitously, Patience has a mighty relevant post.
Where is Charlottesville?
Charlottesville is an independent city located within the confines of Albemarle County in the Commonwealth of Virginia, United States, and named after Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the wife of King George III of England.
But are there two Charlottesvilles? Certainly. There are probably more than two.
Many people help define their identities by where they live. There is the “Charlottesville” that is comprised of the CharlAlbemarle area. There is the Charlottesville that exists in the creative minds of those crafty folks developing Four Seasons in Charlottesville (Four Seasons Ruckersville just doesn’t convey the same je ne sais quoi). There is the Charlottesville inhabited by students and professors at the ever-expanding University of Virginia.
There is a Charlottesville that is confined to life around the Downtown Mall. Several years ago I met somebody who had no idea where my office was, next to the (now defunct) Krispy Kreme, one of the most heavily-trafficked roads in the area – 58K/day as of 2003 (pdf). He never left the Mall area, rode a bike everywhere – he existed without need for outside influences.
Condos, condos, condos!
Part and parcel of this “City lifestyle” may best be depicted by the recent condo boom that has defined the Charlottesville (City of) real estate market for the past couple of years. While the rest of the market has experienced a shift, the condo market has plugged on.
Consider this – between May 1 and September 1, 2002, 11 new construction condos sold in the City of Charlottesville. In the same timeframe in 2006, 25 new construction units sold – more than twice as many. Referencing the condo conversion craze: same dates as above: 155 non-new construction sold in 2006 versus 9 in 2002 and 13 in 2004.
In the County of Albemarle, 10 new construction condos have sold in 2006, and zero sold in 2004. 79 non-new construction sold in 2004 and 247 have sold so far this year. (Source: CAAR)
What defines Charlottesville? The culture, the real estate, the politics, the occasional reference to the similarities to Boulder, Colorado. Charlottesville is a destination for many who read the glowing press reports but do not dig and further. “Charlottesville” is the City, the County and the surrounding counties that all contribute to Charlottesville.
There is more to Charlottesville than the 49k people living within the City limits. Finding the City limits is a task in its own right. Public services such as fire and police have significant overlap. The City of Charlottesville does seem to be overtaken in parts by Urban Hipsters, but there is more to the City than condos and coffee shops, although we have plenty of ‘em. And it really is a great place to live!
But yes, there is a Charlottesville within Charlottesville, but we all have to live together.
Update 11-21-2006: Patience starts the “5 pillars of Urban Living Series” – Part I – This should be fun.