UVA’s growth plans’ impact on Charlottesville real estate


Everybody knows that UVA changes our region, sometimes in small ways, sometimes much larger. The “trickle-down” effect is evident economically, educationally and socially, and I suspect that this is the case in other college towns. For starters, check out their Master Plan and their Master Plan Map; in short, UVA is everywhere, and will continue to expand and provide opportunities both for their employees, students and the general public (generally).

I received the following from a reader earlier this week.

UVa’s College of Arts & Sciences is slated to expand by 200-300 faculty positions in the near future (using capital campaign funds). UVA’s South Lawn Project (expanding The Grounds across Jefferson Park Avenue (JPA) near Venable Lane) is slated for completion around 2009.  The South Lawn will house the Departments of Politics, History and Religious Studies — 3 of UVa’s largest, most self-consciously “international” depts. (UVa is seeking to “internationalize” its curricular offerings and grow the size of its faculty.)

… like a lot of young faculty, we have grad school debts to pay back, and we’re first time homebuyers.  We couldn’t afford Venable real estate, we preferred “more bang for the buck” in terms of square footage, and besides, we wanted to be within walking and biking distance to UVA.  So we opted for Johnson Village (more here), where our house is a sweet 1.2 miles from the South Lawn.

It seems that many of the original residents of Johnson Village are now empty nesters who are “downsizing,” selling their homes — which are at an attractive price point (high $200s/low $300s) for first-time homebuyers and young families.  Since buying in Johnson Village, we’ve met many other young families, including UVa faculty, who have recently moved in or are moving into the neighborhood. Many of us are highly-educated folks who value our kids’ education, but we can’t afford private school tuition in addition to our mortgage payments. Our kids are still young, but in time, we, like most of our new neighbors that I’ve met, plan to send them to the public school. (In fact, the president of Johnson ES Parent Teacher Organization is a UVa faculty member.) Greater parental involvement is key to good schools.

Long story short:  UVa’s South Lawn project is going to make nearby SW C-ville neighborhoods even more attractive to certain homebuyers who value a walk-to-work lifestyle. (Developers already know this, and have begun working on new construction.)  Perceptions of certain neighborhoods need to adjust to new realities and future developments. 

One impact on the Charlottesville area real estate market will be continued demand for housing, likely for (relatively) affordable in-fill developments and existing housing. Aging housing presents unique opportunities – many of which have been upgraded slowly to keep with the changes in the market, but many have never been touched. Finding homes that have been lived in by only one owner for fifty-plus years is fairly common. These houses tend to be smaller than new construction, and arguably better built.

Another impact may be the further segmentation of our market. What I mean by this is that some parts of the city and county are becoming relatively ignorant of each other, as the residents don’t need to leave their respective worlds. As each neighborhood develops continues to evolve and develop and re-develop its own identity, residents may become more involved hyper-locally but less-so in the greater Charlottesville area. These existing developments are poised to take advantage of the re-emerging trends of *gasp* walking and biking to work and play.

For an interesting perspective on UVA’s growth and plans, from the recent past (2003), read this.

If there’s one truism about master plans, it is this: they change.
In an effort to better inform the community about its master planning efforts, the University has pledged to formalize the way that the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County participate in its planning process. Specifically, U.Va. has reconstituted its Master Planning Council — charged with advising the University president on long-range physical planning issues — which includes nonvoting representatives from the city and the county.

When thinking about UVA and their autonomy and seeming unrestrained expansions, I remember reading on a local blog years ago this quote – “If it weren’t for UVA, Charlottesville would be Scottsville.” Scottsville is great, but it’s not Charlottesville (and I would hazard a guess that they would never want to be 🙂 ) UVA will continue to grow and impact the community – socially, culturally and economically. Positioning oneself to best take advantage of their offerings is a challenge.

UVA, and the ancillary industries it creates and contributes to, causes people from all over the world to move here, often times with very different perspectives. I recall one story that they had to recruit from out of the area to fill positions in the North Fork Research Park because the commute was too long for locals. But … those from other areas, when faced with their commutes find twenty minutes to be nothing.

Related reading:

If you are positioned well, you may hit the lottery.
What about Martha Jefferson?
I wonder how many illegals might be affected.
And you wonder why their tuition keeps increasing?

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  1. Arthr April 28, 2007 at 22:15

    Great post, Jim. At some point a year or two ago, I decided to figure out just how many people UVA was directly adding to Charlottesville’s population. Between 1996 and 2005, UVA in C’Ville (everything except the Wise campus) added 231 full time jobs (not full time equivalent) and 236 Students in an average year. Unfortunately, I didn’t note the report where I got the figures, but I think it was from the UVA Budget Office website.

    ~450 people a year isn’t all that much in the context of the Charlottesville-Albemarle area, but I suspect that some high percentage of these people prefer to live close to grounds. Undergrads seem to want to live within stumbling err… walking distance of Rugby Road, Corner Bars, and even class. The folks who work for wages at UVA prefer living close because it is so much cheaper to not drive or not own a car. I suspect that salaried employees like your Johnson Village reader are the least likely of UVA people to live within walking distance.

  2. Arthur April 28, 2007 at 22:42

    On the supply side, the new zoning ordinance has allowed developers to ramp up student housing capacity on the corner and JPA – to the tune of 570 units in those areas alone since 2003. But now the corner is under BAR protection, which we can count on to keep a tight lid on supply, and just about every neighborhood around grounds is being considered for some kind of architectural protection. One of the main purposes of these proposed review districts is to keep out inappropriate (read “big”) developments. In the next 5-10 years, the supply of housing within walking distance of the University could become a good deal tighter than it is already.

  3. TrvlnMn April 29, 2007 at 19:43

    “If it weren’t for UVA, Charlottesville would be Scottsville.”

    The comparison I would probably make would be Lynchburg or Waynesboro. Scottsville’s really too small to make a comparison. And with it’s current Renaissance it’s really more like a Boutique bedroom community with it’s own government (perhaps similar to Crozet before it’s building explosion?).

  4. Jim Duncan April 30, 2007 at 07:49

    Arthur –

    Interesting numbers. Buying around UVA has always been a good idea, and now seems to be even better.

    TrvlnMn –

    Regarding Scottsville, I received this email the other day, ostensibly from a myspace page:

    Just to go on the record, as of 1230 pm on 01/16/07 the books show that the Town of Scottsville is $ 58,287.02 in the hole!! This does not take into account the $100,000 of loans for the “Streetscape” fiasco!! The police are going to lose one employee to another department and they will not be rehiring for the position, dose this sound like the actions of a financially solvent town?

    I have spoken to most of the Shop owners on Valley St. who have said that there receipts have been cut in half for the last month, that’s the few that are open by the way!!!

    I well be leaving this area soon so I have no more “dog in this fight” but I think about how poor the judgment of the Town Administration is and I wonder how an informed people can allow this type of madness to go on. Sorry Scottsville, you town government has let you down!!! The only good thing that well come of this is that the County well take over, and the citizens will not need to rely on a group of people who thing of the town as a live action Monopoly game!

  5. TrvlnMn April 30, 2007 at 20:10

    Interesting quote. It sounds as though the author of that has some serious gripes (and dare I say a fair amount of bitterness?) with regard to the town.

    I do have to wonder how “$58,287 in the hole” compares with a larger city’s deficit. In all I think it’s all part of the ups and downs of government- sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. Life goes on. I think as long as there are people who want to be on the Town Council- the town will stay a Town and will not be relinquishing control to the BoS (as much as I think the BoS would like for that to happen).

    I can’t comment as to the financial effects of their Streetscape project on Valley Street businesses. However when Cville bricked over Main Street to create the pedestrian mall, I’m sure there were plenty of business owners that had gripes, lost revenue, or closed down and moved out. But look at it now. I think things will bounce back from any negative effects of the Streetscape project. (And if the date in the quote is any reference to when it was written- January is not what I would think of as a booming time in Scottsville for business).

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