Rezoning for Density in Charlottesville (City)

Question – Will the zoning rewrite positively or negatively affect the Charlottesville real estate market?

Answer: Yes.

Longer answer: the answer depends on the buyer, the situation, the location, the neighborhood and neighbors, infrastructure, financing, and time.

I’m still figuring out the what the City Charlottesville zoning rewrite means for the Charlottesville real estate market, and I’d welcome any insight, suggestions, comments, ways I can or should think about/consider the zoning rewrite.

For me, part of learning is writing and listening.

I always try to specify “City” because many hear “Charlottesville” and think that means “Central Virginia;” while that is often the case, when talking about rezoning here, I’m thinking about the City of Charlottesville.

End of this post has some of the things I’m reading and studying to learn more.

Density, done right, is good and organic. Density done for the sake of density without the connective tissue of good public transport + bike/ped accessibility will lead to failure, both economically and socially. No one wants to live somewhere where you’re forced to get into a car.

This comment from a client exploring Charlottesville as a possibility says it all … for the moment, the City, County, and UVA have, in my opinion, failed miserably. The cynical side of me says that we’re destined to fail due to our politics, policies, and inability to execute cohesive urban planning.

“he liked Kardinal Hall and Greenberry/Barracks Rd but his biggest concern was the traffic situation (surprising since driving in Boston is horrendous).  I think he thought the city would have more of a small town feel but he kept saying, “there are highways everywhere and I have to cross a highway every time I want to get to the next residential street.”  And on our way out of town we stopped by Whole Foods (very nice WF) but it was his introduction to Seminole Trail, which didn’t help the cause.

As out of towners, it’s hard to know how much of that would impact our day to day life if we lived there. Was it because we were sticking so close to the center of town? Was it because we followed Waze and didn’t know the secret back roads? Or is it just the reality of living in Cville? (I’ve seen the Reddit threads complaining about the traffic). My question for you is are there areas/pockets – regardless of walkability – that are less congested than others?””

My response to the concern focused on people who move to Charlottesville from lower cost of living areas to work in the City, and the observation that typically infrastructure follows residential development.

I think the Boston transplants and the UVA transfers are equally important. Boston folks are looking for a higher quality of life, same as the UVA folks. Boston people currently rent and work from home; they’d like to buy here and continue to work from home.

Regarding the timing of infrastructure, I think this is a “build it and they will come” instance. We have roads so people drive. We don’t have viable bike lanes/sidewalks so people don’t walk or ride.

We need density w/o parking. To have density w/o parking, we need to provide the infrastructure – between  Charlottesville, Albemarle, UVA – to allow people to move around without cars.

We find that individuals in low-income, car-owning [US] households are associated with up to 14% more walking trips and 33% more cycling trips in a week compared to higher-income households.

Annual Cost of New Car Ownership Crosses $10K Mark

Imagine if the car ownership cost was put into the retail/housing economy.

There was a good discussion on Reddit last week; this comment resonated: (Jim: links added by me; this is a great comment as well, but I don’t want to copy/paste all from Reddit 🙂 )

Lafayette Indiana working with Urban3 to build mixed use areas which have shown increases of tax revenue, decreased cost for the city and making everything people need more accessible. Fayetteville Arkansas removed parking minimums and it’s had a strong positive effect on the local businesses and community. Strong Towns did a recent YouTube video on Fayetteville.

As this is not my full time job my info comes from easy sources like Strong Towns and the work Urban Three has done.
Any city that has removed highways that went through the heart of the city typically replaces them with parks, “third places,” walkable places of business and neighborhoods. Here’s only a few.

Charlottesville is in a great position since it is still small and hasn’t massively screwed up with fully giving into car centric design with expansion. Further expansion can be done with the purpose of making the city more walkable and livable without the need for a car. Existing failed / abandoned areas along the 29 corridor can be turned into medium or high density housing mixed with businesses. Which I believe there are some plans for with what used to be Seminole Sq shopping center or Kmart.
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