The community has called for more affordable housing, and several major projects are on the dockets at local meetings this week. In thirty years, will anyone still be around to remember the details?
This particular newsletter is long, but the staff reports I draw from are even longer. This week is a long one, and I will be following up on many of these issues in the daily newsletter.
Monday, October 19, 2020
It’s a long day. Let’s start in Albemarle.
Three housing nonprofits are teaming up to bring up to 140 housing units directly on U.S. 29 at the site of a current hotel. The Piedmont Housing Alliance (PHA) and Virginia Supportive Housing have redeveloping the Red Carpet Inn in two phases to include up to 20,000 new square feet of commercial space. The Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless would also be involved, as 80 of the units would be operated by VSH. That group also developed the 60-unit Crossings development in Charlottesville which is largely regarded as a successful development for those with very low incomes. The development will require a rezoning and the required community meeting will be held this evening as part of the Places29-Hydraulic Community Advisory Committee. (meeting info)
While the project is in development, TJACH will repurpose the existing hotel rooms for emergency supportive housing. The nonprofit developers are asking for a higher level of residential density that is recommended in the Comprehensive Plan, as well as a waiver from providing the amount of parking required under the county’s ordinance. (project narrative)
The above item utilized the Places29 Master Plan as a guide developers use to understand what elected officials want in land use development. To further guidance elsewhere on U.S. 29, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors adopted the Rio Road Small Area Plan in December 2018.
But are property owners ready to step forward with bold, transformative projects?
At 1 p.m., the Architectural Review Board will review a plan from the owners of the Rio Hill Shopping Center to renovate existing store fronts to bring them into something more in line for the third decade of the 21st century. (meeting info)
“While the existing buildings will remain, new construction would involve removing portions of the existing canopies and store entries and transforming these building fronts using a variety of new materials, forms and storefront windows,” reads the narrative for the materials before ARB.
“When one begins analyzing the problems with the existing conditions, it becomes apparent that the solution for a truly successful site transformation requires a creative design response revolving around a major reorganization of the current facade,” the narrative continues.
One goal is to create more gathering space and to improve the pedestrian experience. While there is no new construction proposed, the narrative hints at the future.
“It is important to understand that the owners see a potential later phase that may likely come into play with this site,” it continues. “They have identified the southwest corner as a near-term future redevelopment option…. This potential later construction phase would include the demolition of the first feet of retail space and the re-building of a new 2 story office or medical office building.”
The Charlottesville City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. for a full meeting. (agenda)
After the public comment period and the consent agenda, the five Councilors will dive into work with a resolution on a new fee structure for sidewalk cafes. The initial state response to the pandemic shut down restaurants and the establishments slowly began to operate over the summer. Rent for those spaces has still been due and there have been negotiations for relief.
“With the continued impact the pandemic is having on restaurants and given that outdoor dining appears to be in the public interest, an adjustment to the fee structure is appropriate,” reads the resolution which will be presented by economic development director Chris Engel.
Under this resolution, fees would be waived for March and April and the permit fee will be cut in half to represent the 50 percent reduction in capacity still mandated by state and local rules.
Next, Council takes up three resolutions related to public housing. The first two detail the complex financing arrangements for how renovation and new units will be paid for and who is responsible. Last week, the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s redevelopment director updated his Board of Commissioners on the status of the Crescent Halls renovation and new development at South First Street.
Council must approve a plan to allow Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to supplement other funds.
“As part of the redevelopment process, CRHA will also add additional subsidized affordable housing units that will be owned by an entity receiving the LIHTC credits, but will be operated and managed by CRHA,” reads the staff report by Brenda Kelley. “Upon completion of redevelopment efforts, Crescent Halls will maintain 53 public housing units and provide 52 subsidized units; and South 1st Street Phase 1 will provide 13 public housing units, 24 subsidized units and 25 units with no operating subsidy attached (but still at or below 60% AMI).”
City taxpayers have made a contribution of $3 million in capital costs in Fiscal Year 2019 towards Crescent Halls and South First Street Phase 1. Riverbend Development has been working with CRHA and CRHA residents on the project, and the staff report details the complex real estate deals involved, including creation of Limited Liability Companies for both Crescent Halls and South First Street. The CRHA technically will not own the buildings, but the CRHA Board of Commissioner also meets as the Charlottesville Community Development Corporation (CCDC).
Such elaborate public private partnerships may be a way to move projects forward, but the real question comes in decades years when all of the existing players have moved on. There are cautionary tales about what happens in those situations, especially when public money is involved. See Tuesday’s entry about parking.
After the first reading of ordinances on those agreements, Council will take up something called a Recovery Agreement between the CRHA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The federal government deemed CRHA to be “troubled” in December 2018 due to scoring less than 59 in HUD’s Public Housing Assessment System. A separate August 2019 audit revealed that CRHA agency was in violation of procurement laws.
Now the recovery agreement requires an action plan to hit certain performance targets and a sustainability plan. (staff report)
Next, Council will be asked to authorize a forgivable loan to the Piedmont Housing Alliance for their redevelopment of the Friendship Court property. In the FY2020 budget, Council approved $5.545 million in capital improvement program funds for the project, which will be built in four phases. That funding will be used for infrastructure ($1.386 million), displacement prevention and construction ($3.6 million), and “soft costs” such as design ($555,000).
“City staff has been working closely with PHA staff and consultants to develop the attached Ordinance and Affordable Housing Covenant(s) that spell out the agreed-to specifics of how and when the funding will be disbursed, and for what the funding may be expended,” reads the staff report. “These documents further provide protections and guarantees in place to insure that Affordable Units and infrastructure are built in accordance to the agreed upon performance requirements to disburse funding.”
PHA secured LIHTC funding in 2019 and are working to finalize financing before breaking ground. Under the terms of the city agreement, Phase 1 would build 106 units. Of that, 46 would replace the existing units covered under the existing federal project-based subsidy. An additional 30 units would be built for households making less than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). The rest could be rented to households making less than 80 percent of AMI. All of these affordability levels are enshrined in a 99-year housing covenant.
The details in this 88-page report are worth reviewing by a large audience. One detail is that if the property is ever foreclosed, “the affordability restrictions will terminate.” (staff report)
“At some point, in order to maintain affordability, the City may have the opportunity to control affordable units in the Project,” reads the report. ”However, if the City were to take advantage of this opportunity, there will be a cost to the City associated with this.”
Separately, Council will review a performance agreement between the Charlottesville Economic Development Authority (CEDA) and PHA.
“To help facilitate the financing of the project, Piedmont Housing has requested that the city consider an agreement that will share the incremental increase in real estate tax revenue generated by the investment,” reads the report from Economic Development Director Chris Engel. “With a commitment from the city to contribute the future revenue stream (as a grant), Piedmont Housing will borrow on this with a private lender to create the cash needed to begin the project.”
Following that, Council will allocate an additional $410,000 to cover four specific requests. They are:
- $110,000 to continue an emergency food program for public housing residents
- $80,000 to pay past due rent for all public housing residents
- $20,000 for the Conscious Capitalist Foundation to create a mentoring program to help students with virtual learning
- $200,000 for a Black Community Wellness Center most likely coordinated by Sentara Martha Jefferson (staff report)
After that, Council will get an update on their strategic plan, a financial report through September 30, and an update on the city’s climate action efforts. There is also an item for Council to discuss “temporary city employees” but there was no staff report available at production time.
On the consent agenda are several items of interest.
- Council will accept $257,480 in funds from the Virginia Department of Social Services under the Temporary Aid to Needy Families program. The funding goes for supportive services and workforce development for city residents at or below 200 percent the poverty line. (staff report)
- Council will accept $168,018 in federal funds and $56,006 in state funds for the Victim Witness Assistance Program (staff report)
- Council will get a written report from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority and the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority. Water production and wastewater flows were below the five-year average for the month of September (staff report)
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
The Albemarle Economic Development Authority meets at 4 p.m. They’ll get an update on the Albemarle Broadband Authority and the recent rezoning of the Albemarle Business Campus. The EDA and the county have a performance agreement with developer Kyle Redinger that was signed on April 15. One of the terms is that Redinger must reserve up to 25,000 square feet of space for a primary business in exchange for $100,000. In return, Redinger will also provide enhanced connectivity, provide bike racks, and construct an enclosed bus shelter. (meeting info) (agenda)
The Albemarle Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. and will have a work session on transportation issues. No materials have been provided in advance, but transportation planner Kevin McDermott recently provided the Board of Supervisors with this quarterly report. (report)
The Charlottesville Parking Advisory Panel meets for the first time since the pandemic and with new members. Many of the city’s recent parking decisions have been in the wake of an ownership change at the Charlottesville Parking Center. The CPC had been an organization with shareholders before Mark Brown acquired it in August 2014, and that purchase altered the dynamic of the public-private partnership through which the Water Street Parking Garage was built. That’s one small piece of the story of municipal parking in downtown Charlottesville. As with affordable housing, there are millions of public dollars involved.
The Parking Advisory Panel was created in the wake of a Parking Action Plan adopted by Council around the time in early 2017 when they spent $2.85 million to purchase land on Market Street for a future parking garage. There are many details of what happened next, and I will be spending time before now and 4 p.m. Tuesday refreshing the details in my mind.
In this case, it is crucial for people to consider the idea of Transportation Demand Management. Downtown Charlottesville is one of many centers in our region, and it fits into a system. So do the many centers at the University of Virginia, which has a Parking and Transportation Master Plan that lays out strategies to reduce single occupancy vehicle usage. This plan is a must read for any panel member. Interested parties might also consider paying more attention to the Regional Transit Partnership, which meets on Thursday. (read the plan)
The consent agenda has details for an expansion of the Center for Christian Study site at 128 Chancellor Street. The BAR will have a preliminary discussion on renovations to buildings that will be used as part of the new joint Albemarle/Charlottesville General District Court.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Last August, Council denied a critical slopes waiver that would have allowed a by-right development at 915 6th Street SE next to the Ix property. Their 4-1 vote followed a 3-2 recommendation for denial from the Planning Commission. On Wednesday at 10 a.m. there is a site plan meeting for a proposed multifamily complex that ostensibly will not need the waiver. The current plan is for 21 units on the land, which is in the Downtown Extended zoning district. (agenda)
The Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee meets at noon. (meeting info)
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets at 1 p.m. They will have a joint work session with the Albemarle County School Board. They will also have a work session on proposed guidelines for anti-displacement and a tenant relocation policy. The Board adopted a general policy on September 18 but will now see more specific proposals. (agenda)
“The guidelines are designed to provide benefits for residential tenants who will be displaced by housing demolition, substantial rehabilitation, conversion to nonresidential use, or sale of a residential property under a sales contract that requires an empty building,” reads the staff report.
Supervisors will hold public hearings. They are for a special use permit for a veterinary clinic, a new telecommunications lease at the county’s property on Buck’s Elbow Mountain, and to take public comment on changes to county code to remove gendered language.
Thursday, October 22, 2020
The Places 29 Rio Community Advisory Committee meets at 6 p.m. While the agenda has not yet been posted, you can take a look at the Development Dashboard for the area. (meeting info)
The Regional Transit Partnership is scheduled to hold a business meeting at 2 p.m. The agenda was not available at production time.
This post was contributed by Sean Tubbs. Sean is a journalist working to build a new information and news outlet centered around Charlottesville and Virginia. In 2020, he launched a daily newscast and newsletter and also created a semi-regular podcast on the pandemic.
Support for Sean’s “Week Ahead” update comes from The Piedmont Environmental Council.