The owners of a medical building at the corner of East Jefferson and 10th Street Northeast in Charlottesville are seeking the City Council’s approval for a special-use permit to allow construction of a mixed-income residential building.
“The applicant proposes to replace the existing two-story medical office structure and associated surface parking areas with a 104-unit multi-family structure consisting of four and a half stories of housing over two and a half stories of parking,” reads the application on behalf of the Jefferson Medical Building Limited Partnership.
The uproar on a facebook post referencing this story was, sadly, unsurprising. The concerns about maintaining the character of Charlottesville resonate; we are a special City with tremendous nooks, crannies, and character. We are also a growing City, and we have only 10.3 square miles within which to work. Spend some time at the City’s GIS site, and use the nifty “swipe” tool to compare aerial images from 2013 to 1994 … a lot has changed in that time. Even more has changed as you look at the historical archives; change will happen.
One question: if not density here, then where?
Charlottesville wants to be a dense, walkable, bikeable city, right?
The proposed location is an 8 minute walk to the Charlottesville Visitors Center. Isn’t that a great location for dense urban housing?
A few questions, answers to which I don’t have
- What’s the “right” level of density?
- Who determines that?
- Isn’t a Special Use Permitting process a good way to address this question?
- When was this zoned by-right for this level of density?
- Albemarle County is projected to have 154K people in 2040, up from 105K today and the City of Charlottesville is projected to have 49K, up from 48K today. 1000 isn’t that many people, but without more dense development, we’re just adding more sprawl and congestion … at higher prices – and cost – to us all.
To speak simply to the affordability question:
Would the city prefer 34 most likely luxury-priced units or ~100+ more reasonably priced ones?
If we keep creating only for the upper end of the market, there will not be a lower or middle left in the city.
A reader sent me this:
Cities are big.
As in, there’s a lot of land in them, even when that land is constrained.
So, when a developer proposes 104 units, they do so because they want to provide something they think the market wants.
There’s a major employer three blocks away at the CFA Institute.
City policies have called for walkable communities for at least 15 years.
104 units allows the developer to spread the risk out across more units. Builds a better revenue stream.
This also allows the possibility of slightly lower rents.
If city denies it, by right you will see 34 luxury apartments/condos.
Fun fact – some would prefer richer people live there. And they will support this lower density.
We live in a country where we’re all angry at each other for living here as well. And no one knows how any of it works….
The city needs this density at this location. 104 units = more affordable units. 34 units = more financial Balkanization.
No one has the answers, but “no!” isn’t the right one. It’s hard to look at the outcry and not think, “NIMBY.”