Green building in Charlottesville is about to (hopefully) take a major step forward

They are setting a lofty goal and vision that should set the standard for new developments in the Charlottesville region. Yesterday I had attended a presentation given by the developers of the new Belvedere development and the builders – Hauser Homes and Church Hill Homes.

The approval is for up to 775 units. They have the vision – “Enhance lives by creating great places to live and work.” They are using the right buzzwords – “stewardship” “LEED” “sustainable.” They will have an organic farm run by a local organic farmer (and current candidate for Albemarle’s BoS). They’re saying the right things – “green space within 250 feet of every front door.”  Healthy skepticism and cynicism dictates that judgement be reserved for a couple of years … but they are certainly on the right track (in spite of the recent negative press).

A few notes and thoughts on yesterday’s presentation for Realtors:

– None of the floorplans (not yet online) are more than 3,000 square feet. This is a huge accomplishment for the developers – recognizing that buyers want smaller, smarter and high quality space is surprisingly innovative for such a large development.
– Realtors who are representing buyers will have to be more educated on this development than they would have to be on other developments – there is just more “to it.” As such, Agency disclosures will be even more crucial. And … the process seems to be so integrated that finding room for buyer representation will be challenging. My fear is that buyers will think that they don’t need buyer representation. For an example of a “worst-case scenario” – read this (and no, I am not implying that this will be the case here).
– There will be a soccer facility there – immediately bringing in the “beating heart” of the community.

Chris Schooley’s comment in May seems to be a reality. They will be building 800-1200 square foot cottages in the development.

While the current data don’t clearly demonstrate this trend locally:

In 2004, 52% of homes sold in Charlottesville/Albemarle were less than 2000 square feet finished and in 2007, the percentage was 56%.
In 2004, 27% of homes sold in Charlottesville/Albemarle were more than 2500 square feet, compared with 25% in 2007.

The trend is there and will grow.

Bacon’s Rebellion has a post today about Belvedere as well as a more in-depth story that points out a major hole in the development:

The project will not include a grocery store. That hole in the retail offering will generate thousands of off-site trips every month, adding to congestion, gasoline consumption and pollution.

So close to perfect …

The vision is admirable and was lamentably lacking in the past five to seven years. Lauding a visionary goal is one thing; lauding implementation of said vision will come later. If they can pull it off, they will provide the best model (yet) for new developments in the region.

Belvedere Site Plan (larger image here)

Tonight I am attending an “Exclusive Information Session” for interested buyers on behalf of out-of-town clients. Whether there is any difference between their message to Realtors and their message to the public remains to be seen.  More tomorrow.

Update 18 October 2007: The presentation was the same, but the questions from the audience were new.

– There is a persistent them that the development will be “family friendly.”
– Concerns about the soccer facility came to light – there will be traffic to and from the fields and this likely will be a concern for some, although the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
– Streets will be narrow to encourage slower traffic and more walking – “activating the street” as they say.
– The buzz around this facility is unique. At no time did anybody speak of agency or representation. Who they select to market the development will be interesting, for many reasons. More on this in a later post.

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