What role should economic development play in the future of Charlottesville? That question is a crucial one as local governments continue to recover from the pandemic, and key in a city where there’s been much executive turnover in the past five years. This week, the city’s seven-member Economic Development Authority was briefed on a new strategic plan intended to guide the city’s efforts.
“It has been about ten years since we embarked on a full-blown strategic planning process so with the encouragement of our interim city manager, Michael Rogers, we are proceeding down the path to have a consultant guide us through a strategic planning effort,” said Chris Engel, the city’s economic development director.
For many years, the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce has operated a program to bring together people who have an interest in building community in Central Virginia. The pandemic put Leadership Charlottesville on hold, and now the initiative has been rebranded the Leaders Lab of Greater Charlottesville.
“After a rigorous review process, our selection committee is thrilled to announce an inaugural cohort that reflects our goals of individual excellence as well as diversity of geography, industry, race, gender, age and more,” said Elizabeth Cromwell, President & CEO of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce in a press release.
This week, the Albemarle Economic Development Authority offered financial support to grants already received by local nonprofits. In many cases involving state or federal programs, large awards require some local money in the form of matching grants.
The Bridge PAI has received a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for a project called Unsettling Grounds that will reexamine space in the Broadway corridor that has been studied by the county as an area for economic development. The EDA will contribute $5,000 to the project.
“The idea of the title Unsettled Grounds is a project that uses some experimental methods to try and create monuments and works by and for Black, indigenous, and low-income artists, supporting them their artistic endeavors,” said Jay Simple, the executive director of the Bridge Performing Arts Initiative.
There have been a series of new hotels constructed in the area within the last few years to satisfy demand for those who seek to travel to the area. Many visitors who come here have some ties to the University of Virginia and two new hotels in the works will cater directly to those people.
Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants will operate a new hotel under construction at the UVA Darden School of Business which will replace the UVA Inn at Darden with 199 rooms in a five-story structure with around 11,500 square feet of meeting space and a ballroom large enough to accommodate up to 425 guests.
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.
The effort to link the Blue Ridge Tunnel in Afton to Charlottesville with a continuous shared-use path has received a major boost from the federal government. A $2 million grant authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be awarded to Albemarle County for the Three Notched Trail Shared Use Path Plan.
“A ‘shared use’ path is typically a 10’ wide paved trail that is physically separated from the motor vehicle travel way and allows bi-directional pedestrian and bicycle traffic,” reads a website for the project. “Once built, the TNT will provide local residents and visitors with car-free transportation and recreational opportunities.”
What direction should economic development go in the city of Charlottesville? The city is seeking a firm to help create a new strategic plan to guide the next five years. A request for proposals was issued in late July that seeks the following:
- A full review and analysis of key demographic information and relevant economic indicators for the City, presented in context with at least 10 peer cities.
- An analysis of existing target industry clusters and their associated workforce.
- A review and deep understanding of the City’s current situation with regard to opportunities and constraints with attention to:
- a) current/planned land use and zoning rules
- b) national/regional trends in real estate development
- c) trends in entrepreneurship and business development
Charlottesville has now received all of the $19.6 million in funding it will receive from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan Act fund. Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers gave Council an update at their meeting on July 18.
“It’s been a big help for local government in terms of recovery from the impact of the pandemic,” Rogers said.
Do you know someone who should be recognized for their efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion? Or a small business or group that seeks the same goals?
The Minority Business Alliance of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce is taking applications through August 5 for the John F. Bell Sr. Vanguard Award.
“The MBA Vanguard Award is named in honor of John F. Bell Sr., a strong, determined and respected business leader and citizen who established successful businesses during a time when the larger society wasn’t welcoming to or supportive of the Black business community,” reads a press release for the award.
Storefront vacancies are up in the six commercial areas tracked by the City of Charlottesville. That’s according to the latest twice a year report put together by the Office of Economic Development (read the report).
“This study examines only the ground-level retail storefronts at the six major shopping centers, so vacancies on the second floor and higher are not included,” reads the report. “Not all vacant buildings are included in the vacancy rate provided.”