UVA purchases Oak Lawn property

The University of Virginia has made a major property acquisition in the Fifeville neighborhood by purchasing the historic Oak Lawn estate at the corner of 9th Street SE and Cherry Avenue. 

“UVA Health will partner with the Fifeville Neighborhood Association and other community groups to explore how to best use the historic home to support community needs,” reads a press release sent out this afternoon. 

Stock photo of 501 9th Street from the city’s GIS records. The sales price for today’s closed transaction has not been disclosed but I’ll have that fact soon enough.

No sales price was disclosed in the press release. The transaction has closed but details are not yet available in the city’s open data portal. The seller is former Nancy O’Brien who lived in the house for many years with her late husband Francis Fife. 

The 5.207 acre property has a 2023 assessment and is currently zoned R-1 and would have the Residential-C category under the new zoning. However, that would be irrelevant because the University of Virginia outright as the institution does not have to comply with local land use rules or pay real property tax. 

The purchase stems from efforts by UVA President Jim Ryan to build connections to Charlottesville neighborhoods. 

“UVA Health will work with the neighborhood association and other community groups to consider potential services at Oak Lawn,” the press release continues. “There are no current plans to tear down the historic house; it will be used to help provide services to the community.”

The rest of the fenced-in process is currently undeveloped but one possibility could be new construction of childcare services, but further study would be required. 

Immediate neighbors include Buford Middle School, the Smith Aquatic Center, and a branch of the Boys and Girls Club. 

“With UVA Health University Medical Center situated in close proximity to the Fifeville community, our commitment to the Fifeville community and our role as responsible neighbors compels us to further our efforts,” the release quotes Wendy Horton, the  chief executive officer of UVA Health University Medical Center.

O’Brien has been preparing for an eventual sale. On July 5, 2017, Council granted an easement to a family burial site on the property.

“The purpose of the easement will be to allow access through the Buford site to the Fife family cemetery, which is located at the rear of Ms. O’Brien’s property,” reads the agenda for the June 5, 2017 City Council agenda. “If approved the easement would only be available for use after Ms. O’Brien no longer owns 501 9th Street.”

This is the second parcel that the University of Virginia has purchased south of the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks. In August 2016, UVA paid $8.73 million to buy a total of 2.63 acres on seven properties on Grove Street and King Street as I reported for Charlottesville Tomorrow at the time

A draft of the University of Virginia’s master plan depicts housing as a primary use for the land with administration and “community life” for that property. For more information, read my story “Grounds Framework Plan points way to future of UVA’s built environment” from June 18, 2023.

As for the Oak Lawn, the president of the Fifeville Neighborhood Association supports the purchase.

“We look forward to our continued partnership with UVA Health, and to coming together to envision how Oak Lawn can serve the Fifeville community,” said Carmelita Wood.

The purchase comes at a time when work to expand and renovate Buford Middle School to add 6th grade students is underway. Construction of what will eventually be called Charlottesville Middle School.

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 October 19, 2023 edition. Or will be in there, at least. This is the second article I have posted here first. It’s a new era!

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One thought on “UVA purchases Oak Lawn property

  1. The original headline stated “UVA purchases Oak Lawn property for undisclosed sum” but I altered it after a conversation about those last three words introduced an element to the story I didn’t intend. We will eventually know the price.

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