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UVa cites three sites for potential affordable housing project

University of Virginia officials on Tuesday announced that three parcels of university-owned properties are being considered as potential project sites for developing affordable housing.

The sites include property at the corner of Wertland Street and 10th Street NW, near downtown Charlottesville and the UVa Medical Center; the existing UVa-owned Piedmont Housing off of Fontaine Avenue, near Jefferson Park Avenue; and portions of the university’s North Fork industrial park north of Rio Road and near the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport.

The sites are part of UVa’s goal to create 1,000 to 1,500 affordable housing units over the next decade on land owned by UVa or the UVa Foundation.

Existing structures, including rental units, will likely be demolished and replaced with new units in the redevelopment, officials said. Leases for current tenants of rental units at the Piedmont Housing site and at 1010 Wertland Street will be honored through the length of the lease.

“Economic growth over many decades has had a profound effect on housing in the Charlottesville-Albemarle community, and we are committed to working with community partners to create more housing intended for local workforce and community members who have been priced out of the local housing market,” Ryan said in a prepared statement.

“We believe these sites may be suitable for affordable housing, to potentially include mixed-use development,” he said.

Vikki Bravo, committee chairman of the local IMPACT Housing For All, said members were pleased to hear of UVa’s property list.

“We at IMPACT are very excited and pleased that UVa has taken the next big step towards fulfilling their commitment,” she wrote in an email. “On these first three sites, we can envision homes where workers can have short commutes, families that are able to spend more time together, and seniors who can live safely as they age.”

Bravo said it is important to make and keep the properties affordable, even as the area’s housing market sale prices and rents continue to rise.

“It is critically important that at least 30% of their goal be affordable to families earning at or below 50% area median income and that wheelchair accessible units are included,” Bravo said. “It is also important that these units have adequate access to transportation and necessary services and strive to be energy efficient and sustainable. We look forward to the next steps and a visionary request for proposal.”

Officials said identifying the sites is an important milestone but said it will likely require more than one site to meet the number of affordable units set by the university.

“We selected these sites based on careful analysis of UVa and UVa Foundation property holdings in the area and input from members of the community about what matters to them,” said J.J. Davis, UVa’s chief operating officer. “Following a public kickoff event in late April, our consultant conducted a listening tour and met with individual community members and representatives from more than 40 local organizations over several months.”

Davis said the consultants talked with city and county representatives as well affordable housing advocates and others involved in the housing industry.

Officials said the UVa Foundation will provide a ground lease for land not slated for other university purposes. Housing would be built and managed by outside developers and no university funding would be spent on constructing buildings.

UVa or the UVa Foundation would retain ownership of the land. UVa currently owns an estimated 16 million square feet of space in 554 buildings and 1,708 acres of land. The school administers more than 100 leases, encompassing 3 million square feet of rental space with annual rents in excess of $10 million.

The UVa Foundation, which is technically a separate entity, owns and operates numerous properties, including The Boar’s Head Resort; Birdwood Golf Course; the long vacant Blue Ridge Hospital/Sanitarium; Boar’s Head Professional Center; Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing; Fontaine Research Park; Foxhaven Farm, Kenwood Farm and Morven Farm in Albemarle County; And the North Fork research park property.

The foundation owns other properties that have been donated in wills and legacies from alumni over the years. It is one of the largest landowners in the area.

The affordable housing effort is the result of the Affordable Housing Advisory group, a subcommittee of the UVA-Community Working Group, formed in 2018 by Ryan as part of the university’s effort to be a great school and good neighbor.

There are four separate committees addressing a variety of community needs that UVa officials have identified as important to university and community relations.

Besides Affordable Housing, the groups include the Local Economy group, which is examining UVa’s purchasing programs and needs and works with local businesses to give them a shot at university contracts.

The Pipelines and Pathways group, which is trying to expand UVa’s employment pipeline from the community to improve access for underrepresented groups and give current workers opportunities for promotion; and the Early Childhood Education group, which is studying ways to increase access to high-quality educational experiences for children.

The areas are listed in the UVa 2030 strategic plan.

The housing committee received input from community members recommend that UVa’s affordable housing efforts including single-family and multi-family homes and townhomes at all tiers of affordability with opportunities to rent or to buy.

In the surveys, local groups, individuals and affordable housing activists recommended UVa find creative solutions for homeownership should be a priority with consideration given to marginalized groups and developments should include childcare and educational services as well as retail businesses that serve the development’s residents.

The UVa Foundation will issue requests for qualifications to narrow the list of interested developers. The goal is to select a development partner or partners in 2022. Construction will begin once design and financing are completed.


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