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Planning Commission recommends denial of conversion of apartments to hotel use

In the other matter, developer Bill Chapman sought permission to convert an apartment complex on 14th Street into a hotel. Here’s city planner Dannan O’Connell. 

“The subject property is currently developed with a 21-unit multifamily condominium use and the applicant wishes to renovate the existing building to accommodate a 19-unit hotel with one residential apartment,” O’Connell said. 

The structure was originally built as a hotel in 1964 but converted to apartment use some time later. 

Tonight’s consideration by Council comes just over a year after the city adopted an Affordable Housing Plan that seeks to increase the number of units and nearly six months after a new Comprehensive Plan was adopted.

“The proposed redevelopment does meet some of the 2021 Comprehensive Plan’s goals regarding sustainable reuse of existing buildings, protecting the existing identity of city neighborhoods, and retaining successful businesses and jobs,” O’Connell said. “The proposed change of use would also result in a reduction of available rental housing within the city and this area. However, the existing apartment use is non-conforming in nature and located in an area of dense residential apartments geared towards short-term student housing.”

Current conditions at the Alcove Apartments. Look them up on apartment.com!

Much of the discussion at the Planning Commission was whether the residential units should be removed from circulation. Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg noted that the units rented at what would appear to be what’s known as “naturally occurring affordable housing.”

“The studio rents for $770 a month and that includes utilities,” Stolzenberg said. “And then I go look at what that is in terms of [Area Median Income] and it’s right at the 45 percent AMI range for a one-person household.” 

O’Connell said the application made clear that none of those units were participating in a subsidized program requiring the rents to be that low. 

“The reason these units are affordable is because they are older and so people can afford to live in them,” said Planning Commissioner Liz Russell. 

Developer Bill Chapman said the conversion would be similar to what he and his business partners did at the Oakhurst Circle and Inn project at the corner of Jefferson Park Avenue and Jefferson Park Avenue.

“My partners and I own nine buildings over here on the south side of UVA in the Oakhurst Gildersleeve Historic District and some of them are apartments and some are private homes and some are hotel rooms,” Chapman said.

And here’s how it might look as a hotel once more

Chapman said he thought the end result of the renovations of those buildings has made some of those streets better than they been. He said he wants to do the same at 207 14th Street.

“The block just down the hill from this property on 14th Street is one of the dirtiest blocks in the whole city in terms of trash and we’re going to transform that a little bit because being in the hospitality business it needs to look good,” Chapman said. 

Chapman said the apartments are run down and cheap because they are old hotel rooms. He is a contract purchaser, and does not currently own them. He said financing their renovation as an apartment would result in much higher rents. 

“This property was built as a motel and I think it’s best operated as a hotel especially since it needs this new life brought to it,” Chapman said. “Now, could it go for a few more years as an apartment building? Yeah. Could it go for 20 more years as an apartment building. No.”

Russell said she did not think the people living in the apartment were necessarily students. 

“We have to remember that not just students live in the area around the University but it seems like a pretty great proximity to the UVA Health System,” Russell said. “So many people can’t live in this community let alone proximate to UVA. 

Russell said she would vote to recommend denial because she housing is more important than hotel rooms. 

Commissioner Karim Habbab also could not support it.

“This is currently exactly the missing middle housing that we are trying to develop in the city and given our affordable housing issue, I cannot see how this would help with that,” Habbab said. 

The Commission voted 4-2 to recommend denial. Now it’s up to Council to make a decision. 


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 May 2, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

Process underway to reevaluate name of Greer Elementary School

Albemarle County Public Schools continues their review of existing schools this week to see if their current namesakes are appropriate for the third decade of the 21st Century. On Tuesday, a committee to review the name of Mary Carr Greer Elementary School will begin their work at a 3 p.m. organizational meeting, but the public is not allowed. Twelve people have been selected to see if the name is consistent with the county’s naming policy. This includes Principal Steve Saunders as well as guidance counselor Susie Lee. 

As with other schools that have gone through this process, the committee will develop a community survey to solicit suggestions for a school name. Two public meetings will be held as well. 

“Members of the community and the committee can recommend either a new name be chosen for the school or the retention of its current name,” reads a notice on the county’s website. “If the advisory committee selects the current school name as one of its three finalists, the policy requires the committee to examine if Mary Carr Greer, for whom the school is named, made contributions to the community of state, national or world-wide significance.” 

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RWSA update: Reauthorization, Central Water Line, capacity in northern Albemarle

The government entity responsible for providing drinking water and collecting and treating sewage will officially have to ask the state of Virginia for permission to continue existing.

“Authorities are authorized for 50 years and then they have to be reauthorized,” said Bill Mawyer, the executive director of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.

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Advertising error requires Charlottesville Planning Commission to reconsider Grove Street rezoning 

The main item on the agenda of the Charlottesville Planning Commission Tuesday night is a public hearing on a new submission for land accessible from the cul-de-sac Valley Road Extended but with an address of Grove Street. The applicant seeks a rezoning and special use permit to build four apartment buildings on 0.652 acres of land. Since the last go-round in October, the land is now designated as General Residential under the Future Land Use Map. 

This is back before the Planning Commission due to a technicality. The Commission voted 4-2 on October 21 to recommend approval, but one of the parcel identification numbers was not correct in the public advertisement for the rezoning, the special use permit, and the critical slopes waiver.  

“To ensure accuracy, all three applications have been readvertised and returned to [the] Planning Commission for action,” reads the staff report (page 7 of the .PDF). “No substantive information has changed or been updated to the application.” 

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Midway Manor subject of new affordable housing development

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority will hold a public hearing next Monday on the issuance of up to $23 million in bonds that would be used by a California-based company to redevelop Midway Manor. In January, the property sold for $16.5 million, more than double its 2022 assessment of $7.5 million. 

According to a legal notice published in the Daily Progress, the new company has requested the CRHA issue up the exempt facility bonds “to assist the Applicant in financing or refinancing a portion of the costs of acquiring, constructing, renovating, rehabilitating and equipping an age restricted affordable housing development to be known as Midway Manor Apartments, to consist of 94 one-bedroom units and 4 two-bedroom units.”

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Construction continues for 151/250 roundabout in western Albemarle

Construction of a roundabout at the intersection of U.S. 250 and Route 151 in Albemarle County is moving ahead. This week, a section of  Route 151 in northwest Nelson County will be closed overnight to allow installation of pipes for three waterways to be temporarily diverted during the project’s construction. According to a release, traffic will be detoured using Goodloe Lane and Old Turnpike Road from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night.

The project is one of several funded in the second round of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale process. Smart Scale is a system that funds projects based on a series of criteria including decreasing congestion and improving public safety. The application lists the reasoning for the project. 

“US 250 is not able to handle overflow when incidents occur on I-64 resulting in significant delays,” reads the application

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Population growth up 12.8 percent in region

Weldon Cooper releases population estimates

The communities that make up the Thomas Jefferson Planning District have grown by an average of 12.8 percent since the 2010 Census according to the latest population estimates from the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia. This time around they are making an adjustment based on what they see as an undercount in the 2020 U.S. Census. 

“Localities with relatively large college populations, including some Virginia localities, were often undercounted in the April 1st, 2020 Census Count,” reads a disclaimer on the website. “We have benchmarked the 2020 and 2021 population estimates on the Weldon Cooper Center estimates instead of the 2020 Census count for localities with populations that are comprised of over 20 percent college students.”

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Regional group briefed on “missing middle” housing

Changes to land use rules are being made across the region to allow for additional density to create what planners and developers refer to as “missing middle” housing. The term was coined by Dan Parolek in 2010. 

“His focus is on small units and making them feasible to build in neighborhoods where only large single-family houses currently exist,” said Emily Hamilton is a senior research fellow and director of the Urbanity Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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Albemarle EDA briefed on 2022 plans, Lewis and Clark Loan 

There will be no change in leadership on Albemarle’s Economic Development Authority. Donald Long will remain the chair, George Ray will stay the vice chair, and David Shreve gets to keep being treasurer.

The group met virtually yesterday and heard from Economic Development Director Roger Johnson about what his office will be up to this year. In the first part of the year, COVID remains a threat to business as usual and Johnson said help will be available from economic development. 

“We would expect there would continue to be COVID prophylactics, particularly when you think about some of the things that we have done historically,”  Johnson said. “It includes things like the LIFT grant, microloan programs, Safe Places and Safe Spaces.”

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New look for tourism website

The quasi-government entity charged with marketing the region to tourists has updated their website. The Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau launched an refreshed version last week of visitcharlottesville.org. The designer is a firm called Tempest as we learn in a press release.

“In addition to better serving visitors and industry partners, the new website will also reduce costs for the CACVB, in anticipation of a significant budget decrease projected for Fiscal Year 2023,” reads the release. “The reduction in budget for the upcoming fiscal year is a direct result of decreased transient occupancy tax collection from local lodging properties, due to the impacts of COVID-19.” 

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