Redevelopment work continues at Southwood

Work continues to redevelop the Southwood Mobile Home Park as a mixed-use community that will offer new homes to those who have lived there. The chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville gave an update to the Albemarle County Economic Development Authority on Tuesday. 

“So when Southwood is done it will be somewhere between 1,000 and 1,100 homes and up to 700 of them will be affordable depending on subsidies that we get and how things develop,” said Dan Rosensweig, Habitat’s chief executive officer. 

Habitat entered into a performance agreement with Albemarle and the EDA to provide a certain amount of affordable housing in exchange for financial payments and tax breaks.

“Our work at Southwood is part and parcel of our larger scale work to create mixed income neighborhoods and affordable home ownership in the region,” said Dan Rosensweig, the chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville. “We were a pioneer in this. We were the first Habitat nationally to do it and the first in the country to do mixed-income neighborhoods. We’ve now done ten mixed-income neighborhoods and built almost 300 homes in those neighborhoods.”

Rosensweig said in 2004, Habitat stepped in to save the Sunrise trailer park in Charlottesville from development and the result is a mixed-income community. 

“Sunrise today is a neighborhood of front porches and back porches and open space for the community to use,” Rosensweig said. “To our knowledge it is the first mobile home transformation without displacement and that sort of set us up for Southwood.” 

Credit: Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville

Habitat purchased the land in 2007 and the agency has operated it ever since.

“It was a mess,” Rosensweig said. “There were fires, trailers catching on fire, sewage bubbling into people’s trailer through their commodes. And it’s large. It’s on an enormous scale.” 

Rosensweig said Habitat invested in infrastructure and entered into an agreement with Albemarle County for how redevelopment as a collaborative relationship as well as the performance agreement worth $3.2 million in both cash and tax rebates. 

“Our deliverables in the first phase… are 75 affordable homes and our milestones are multiple,” Rosensweig said. “We’ve had to meet milestones in terms of submitting building permits, getting Low Income Housing Tax Credits apartments under contract.”

The latest milestone was to raise at least 95 percent of the funds necessary to purchase the building materials for the Habitat units. That released an appropriation of $600,000. 

“We’re overperforming that performance agreement by quite a bit in that first phase,” Rosensweig said. “Per the performance agreement we’ve promised 75 affordable homes in the first phase alone. We’re building 207 affordable homes.”

As part of the first phase, the Piedmont Housing Alliance is constructing an apartment building financed through Low Income Housing Tax Credits. 

Rosensweig said construction of two Habitat homes is almost complete and site work is underway for the rest. The second phase of the project still needs a rezoning and this will go before the Board of Supervisors on September 21. 

Full build-out of the project will take another dozen or so years. 

“As part of phase 2 we’re planning a business incubation center and a little bit of a neighborhood downtown,” Rosensweig said. “Some of the uses we’re trying to attract are shared commercial kitchen, a business incubation center, a cafe, early childhood education center and potentially some other non residential uses such as a credit union.” 

Habitat CEO Dan Rosensweig told the Albemarle Economic Development Authority’s Board of Directors that two Habitat homes are nearing completion at Southwood (Credit: Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville)

Habitat has offered to reserve seven acres for a school that Rosensweig hoped would be more urban in scale with at least two and a half stories. However, they can’t give the land over for free. 

“In the $500 million cost of Southwood, by far the largest contribution to filling up the bucket is market-rate lot sales and so if we were to give that away we would lose tens of millions of dollars of lot sales which cross-subsidize the affordability,” Rosensweig said. “What we have done is proportionally offered a discount if the school would like to purchase it.”

The final determination of what will happen remains to be seen especially with a rezoning vote pending. Deputy County Executive Doug Walker weighed in.

“There is ongoing dialogue between the planning staff and the school staff about the viability of this site for their plans so that we can be in a position to share with the Board of Supervisors whether this is a viable site or not,” Walker said. “I do know that those conversations are ongoing.”

Rosensweig said the way the proffer is worded gives the county until 2027 to make a decision. 

The EDA unanimously approved a resolution to acknowledge the latest milestone and release the $600,000. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the August 19, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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