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City moving forward with 10th and Page historical survey

Charlottesville officials are moving forward with a historical survey of the 10th and Page neighborhood.

Officials provided an update on the planned survey during the Board of Architectural Review meeting on Tuesday.

The survey was delayed in November after an initial public meeting where residents were wary of the proposal. A second meeting was held this month and residents focused questions on whether the survey might increase taxes.

“There was a palpable shift in opinion over the course of the night,”said Robert Watkins, an assistant preservation planner and design planner for the city. “It was almost entirely positive by the end.”

In October, the City Council signed off on spending $21,060 it received from the state and allocating the remaining matching funds from the city for the $50,900 survey.

The survey will examine the predominantly African American neighborhood to open up the prospect of a historic designation, which may increase funding opportunities to protect historic resources.

Since 2000, at least 36 homes built before 1960 have been razed, including 24 that were built before 1920, according to city documents.

Watkins told the board that surveyors will take exterior photographs and write brief descriptions of each building constructed before 1960. They will not knock on doors or go onto private property, he said.

Watkins said the surveyors will conduct their fieldwork between Jan. 27 and Feb. 4. Residents will receive postcards this week with information on the survey.

The neighborhood analysis also will determine the boundaries of a possible future National Register of Historic Places district that would provide tax credits to rehabilitation projects.

A historic district designation would only be sought if residents led the push for it. The city will not independently seek that designation.

BAR member Justin Sarafin commended city staff for the public meetings on the survey.

“It was a great example of community engagement,” he said.

The neighborhood includes about 480 parcels on roughly 100 acres. According to city estimates, 344 of the neighborhood’s 435 structures were built before 1960.

African Americans make up 54% of the population in the 10th and Page neighborhood, one of the highest levels of any area of the city.

According to city documents, the African American presence in the neighborhood was facilitated by John West, an emancipated slave who began amassing real estate after the Civil War. He would later sell the land to African American families.

The Rev. Charles H. Brown also worked with local civil rights leader Drewary Brown in the 1960s to help African American families acquire properties and secure financing to build homes.

The neighborhood is also home to the Westhaven public housing development, which was constructed in the 1960s around the time that the city razed Vinegar Hill, a historically African American neighborhood.

Westhaven won’t be part of the survey because it previously has been documented, but its impact on the neighborhood would be included in a narrative of the 10th and Page history.


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