Category Archives: Charlottesville

Albemarle County Broadband Survey (Also, Broadband Increases Real Estate Values)

Last week I asked a seller’s agent to get the download speeds from a property in a not-so-rural part of Albemarle County.

Here is what my tenant sent: … The results were: Pings 36 Download 2.89Mbps Upload 0.47Mbps”

My client will not consider this property, nor will they consider 75% of the properties that they find interesting – properties a bit outside of the City with a couple acres under $500k.

Albemarle County is conducting a broadband survey (click through for the press release).

A few thoughts before you take this survey:

1 – This is just such an opportunity where this should be a City of Charlottesville and County of Albemarle (and UVA) survey, not an isolationist one.

2 – How does this fit in with the Albemarle County School system seeking to build a “dark fiber” network? Note it’s an “upgrade” in the budget. (and who’s bidding on and building it?)

3 – High speed internet increases property values. I haven’t found the numbers defined (yet) but I’ve heard that high speed adds $7,000 to a property’s value. In more stark terms, often the “value” is a binary one – in that high speed access yields a “yes” or “no”.

4 – Not having high speed internet access in rural parts of Albemarle County negatively impacts education.

5 – Why is Korea so much more advanced than the US?

6 – If a state wants to be known as the crossroads of America and to attract local, national and international businesses – and what state doesn’t? – even its smallest communities need to offer broadband connectivity via fiber to the home (FTTH).

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Posted in Albemarle, Charlottesville, General Real Estate | Tagged , | 2 Comments

A Short Look at the Charlottesville Real Estate Market – April 2014

Remember the $8,000 homebuyer tax credit? Remember how it pulled demand forward and compressed the 2010 real estate market (in Charlottesville at least)?

In trying to figure out the first part of 2014, that’s the best sort-of-analogy I can make. So far, things are looking less awesome than they would appear. There are so many nuances that I tend to look at for clients – new construction versus resale, proximity to whatever it is that is important to them and that particular sub-real estate market, interest rates, ability to walk or bike to groceries and more. But. For a brief high-level look -

It looks like the first two months of 2014 were slower than the first two months of 2013 and March is when the market starts to pick up.

Remember – “Normal” is “Now.”

When do homes Come on the market in Charlottesville - 2014

Still trying to figure this out …

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Wave! to the People Visiting your Neighborhood

Free Daddy and His Little Shadow Girls at The Skate Park Creative Commons

I have never shown a house in the neighborhood where the neighbors waving was deemed offensive by my buyer client evaluating the neighborhood.

Two of the criteria I and my clients tend to frequently apply when evaluating neighborhoods and areas is how friendly the neighbors appear to be. Think about it the next time you’re out for a walk. A wave and a smile go a long way.

I drive through a lot of neighborhoods in the course of a week and while there’s not yet an algorithm that measures the waviness of a neighborhood and I haven’t yet seen a smileZestimate for a neighborhood, friendliness is pretty easy to discern.

The family riding bikes together in the middle of the day last weekend? Left a great impression on my clients (and they were all wearing helmets).

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Mount Rushmore of Chefs + Blue Ridge Food Bank = Good Dinner for Great Cause

The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank has been one of my family’s preferred charities for a few years; they do tremendously important work in the Charlottesville area.

When the folks at Charlottesville 29 food blog reached out to me about my writing a story about the dinner, my first question was – how much of the $250 per ticket goes to the Food Bank? The answer:

The entire $250 goes directly to the food bank. The chefs are donating their time, and we’ve got lots of purveyors donating food and wine (The Rock Barn, Caromont Farm, Rappahannock Oyster Co., Blenheim, Trump, etc). Any additional expenses will be covered by a donation from my law firm. So, every penny of ticket sales goes to the Food Bank.

That makes for some nice, easy math. $250 x 100 tickets = $25,000 which equals 100,000 meals. So I bought two tickets. As of this writing, there are 33 tickets left.

With your support we will provide healthy, nutritious food to more than 119,000 children, families and individuals every month. Every dollar you give will provide 4 meals! And since we expect to provide more than 16 million meals this year, we need your help!

From Charlottesville 29 blog:

Last year, five chefs were named to the Mt. Rushmore of Charlottesville chefs for their extraordinary contributions to the Charlottesville dining scene: Craig Hartman, Angelo Vangelopoulos, Melissa Close-Hart, and the duo of Tim Burgess and Vincent Derquenne. On April 13, the birthday of Charlottesville’s original gourmand Thomas Jefferson, these elite chefs will come together at The Space Downtown for a once-in-a-lifetime Charlottesville culinary experience, honoring their achievements.

After a reception of the chefs’ hors d’oeuvres, guests will sit down for dinner — a set menu of five courses, each prepared by a different Mt. Rushmore chef.   Wines will be paired with each course.

If you can, please consider donating to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. You can buy tickets to the dinner here.

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An Impromptu Map of Charlottesville

I did this map the other day when explaining commuting and settlement patterns in Charlottesville and Albemarle. It would have been near-perfect had I put the “North” indicator on it; that said, its orientation is with north at the top.

The good part was that it made complete sense.

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A Stark Look at Urban Planning in Charlottesville and Albemarle

What do most people think about when they think about “Charlottesville”?

The Downtown Mall? It’s in the City. Monticello? That’s in the County. So’s the Rotunda. And John Paul Jones Arena.

Know what doesn’t get shared effectively or efficiently? Planning how to get from Darden Business School to the Downtown Mall. Absurd, right?

Ever wonder about the differences in urban planning in Charlottesville and Albemarle?

I’ve often likened the relationship between City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle as that of estranged parents who get along just well enough to feed their kids. Most of the time.

Hmmmm ….

Sean Tubbs at Charlottesville Tomorrow writes a must-read piece this weekOne community, two approaches to urban planning in which he delves into the disparities between the City and County in population (the County has a lot more people), funding (the City has a lot more to work with) and ability to plan and implement said plans (the County is at a significant disadvantage to the City).

To guide that growth, the county has adopted four master plans that cover the U.S. 29 corridor, Pantops, Crozet and the Village of Rivanna.

However, the county’s proposed capital budget identifies no new funding to implement projects called for in those plans. For instance, one item that will be deferred is a long-awaited small area plan for the intersection of Rio Road and U.S. 29.

On the other hand, the Comprehensive Plan adopted by the City Council last year calls for small area plans, two of which are currently underway.

They are the “strategic investment area” in central Charlottesville completed by the firm Cunningham and Quill and the $340,000 streetscape of West Main Street.

The city’s proposed capital budget also includes $2.1 million in the next year to begin implementation of those plans.

“That’s money for design for whichever projects we decide to move forward,” said Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services, at the council work session. He said this could include street improvements or work to begin daylighting Pollocks Branch, a creek running underground near Friendship Court and the Ix warehouse complex.

The localities have a symbiotic relationship. The City of Charlottesville has the Downtown Mall and the “hustle and bustle” of a City. The County has Monticello. And a whole lot of UVA (think Boar’s Head, Klockner Stadium, office buildings along Emmett Street, too). Route 29 runs through the City and County for goodness sakes. One would think that the City and County would agree on how its citizens traveled. The City of Charlottesville is not an island. (found via )

Courtesy Cooper Weldon Center for Demographics

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Posted in Albemarle, Charlottesville, Growth | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Western Bypass is Apparently Dead. So What’s Next?

So says the Daily Progress.

One decades-old question was answered with a resounding no.

“A bypass is not something we would consider,” Norfolk-based consultant Philip A. Shucet, the head of the advisory panel and former commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation, told the board.

Nearly two years after officials awarded a contract for the bypass, and after $54 million was spent on the project, the planned 6.2-mile road has become a footnote.

The transportation board, a 17-member panel of gubernatorial appointees that presides over Virginia’s transportation system, will determine what happens to unspent money from a project state officials had valued at more than $244 million.

If nothing else, this seems to remove the uncertainty from the conversation about the Western Bypass. We can return now to our discussions about the woes of traffic on 29 North and how the CharlAlbemarle area is woefully incapable of understanding the issues and equally incapable of implementing solutions. Such is life.

Rather than go into the history of the Western Bypass (it goes on for decades), discuss the various regional influences (Lynchburg is key), the various local players (broadly it’s growth vs no-growth) and whether VDOT is going to sell the houses it bought many years ago (it should if the Bypass is truly dead) or even whether the Western Bypass was the right route (it wasn’t but that’s because it’s a 30+ year old design, designed well before massive growth on 29 North) – start looking at background at Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Lynchburg is mad.

There is a fundamental disagreement over what, exactly, U.S. 29 is. Is it a major north-south transportation corridor with the goal of providing relatively unimpeded traffic flow to through traffic along its 1,000-mile path or is it, in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, a local retail strip? It can’t be both. …

Charlottesville and Albemarle, however, still persist in their silly, outdated belief that U.S. 29 is really just “Emmett Street,” the local retail strip, and has no connection to the rest of the state. That’s evident in Albemarle’s “plan” to address improvements on Emmett Street: a silly, utopian “Places29” with overpasses — built where major retail centers now sit — for through traffic, pedestrian-friendly amenities and added lanes for traffic.

I think they’re right. If the bypass is truly dead, what’s the solution?

Short story – a new solution needs to be implemented. One would assume it would need to be agreed upon first, so let’s accept that the segmentation of the Charlottesville – Albemarle region will continue. Not that that’s a bad thing, it just is. (more)

One of the first things I thought about what this line from Ocean’s 11.

I’m thinking we will need to wait for Elon Musk’s hyper loop.

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3 Reasons I Like Radon

I’ve said to my clients often enough that “I Like Radon” that one of them suggested I write a story with this title.

EPA Map of Radon Zones

Sure, radon is a colorless, odorless gas that emanates from the earth’s crust that causes cancer.

Sure, the Charlottesville area is in Zone 2 of the EPA’s Map of Radon Zones. “(Zone 2 counties have a predicted average indoor radon screening level between 2 and 4 pCi/L(orange zones)”

I still like radon. So why do I like radon?

I like radon in real estate negotiations because the solution to radon is known and relatively inexpensive. Generally, in my experience, a radon mitigation system costs between $800 and $1500. In the scope of a real estate transaction, that’s relatively insignificant.

Let me distill this page which is chock full of lots of radon information into an easily digestible sentence or two that is relevant to those (who may be seeking to buy a home) in the Charlottesville area:

- We have radon in our area – generally at least 50% of the homes I see tested have actionable levels of radon.

- You might as well get a test during the inspection period (it costs ~ $150)

- I don’t think radon is that big of a deal, but it’s a good negotiation item and it’s easily remediable.

- I don’t see radon (or radon mitigation systems) as having any impact on market value

From an NPR story a couple years ago that put context to the radon risk conversation (I wrote about it then, too):

Phil Price, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, has spent a lot of time studying radon. He is willing to accept the government’s rough estimate that radon causes about 21,000 deaths from lung cancer each year. But, he says, people should know something about that number.

“A large fraction of those estimated deaths are thought to be among smokers,” he says. “One way to think of it is it’s just one of the things that goes along with smoking, is that it increases your chance of radon-related lung cancer.”

The EPA estimates that among people who have never smoked, radon accounts for fewer than 3,000 radon deaths each year. The huge difference in risk is because smoking and radon appear to have a powerful synergy when it comes to lung cancer.

This is what I tell my clients – a radon mitigation system accomplishes at least three things -
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