The West Main Street Parking Lot is a prime piece of somewhat undeveloped real estate in Charlottesville, Virginia, an otherwise fully-developed 10.27-mile city that is clamoring for more affordable housing. This parking lot can solve many of our current issues in Charlottesville. I will explain how below, but first, I will give you some history behind this property.
Allan Cadgene and the late great Gabe Silverman purchased the West Main Street Parking Lot through their Union Station Partners, LLC in 1997. The purchase includes the parking lot, Chad Ragland’s Wild Wing Cafe, the Amtrak Station building and other parcels. Allan and Gabe paid $707,838 in 1997. Currently, it is assessed at $3,152,100.
This property has a long history, including a law suit that pit Allan and Gabe against the Midtown Business Association. My friend Peter Castiglione, the co-owner of Maya Restaurant, and the MBA almost sued Allan and Gabe in 2010-11 for failure to maintain the parking lot. Peter is a leader in Midtown, and frankly, he’s a leader across Charlottesville, especially within the restaurant and lodging community. CVille is lucky to have Peter.
Allan and Gabe were not maintaining this parking lot properly. In fact, prior to 2011, the lot was not even paved, which resulted in serious issues with dust across Midtown, especially during windy and dry spring and summer days.
Eventually, through the threat of a lawsuit from the Midtown Business Association and its attorney, Edward Lowry, Peter was able to strong-arm Allan and Gabe into paving the lot. (Full Disclosure: Ed is a partner at MichieHamlett Attorneys at Law. This is also my organization’s general counsel.)
In March, 2011, Allan and Gabe began paving the West Main Street Parking Lot. The paving solved the dust bowl issues and kept the Midtown Business Association from litigating.
To optimize their profit margins, Allan and Gabe removed the little hut at the entrance of the parking lot. This little hut housed an hourly employee who was in charge of monetizing the lot through hourly parking rates. Today, the parking lot is automated with machines instead of hourly employees.
This leads us to today. Please find some important metrics about the West Main Street Parking Lot from the Charlottesville Assessors Office through the screen shots included with this analysis.
From my standpoint, especially with CVille being a 10.27-mile City that is essentially fully developed, the West Main Street Parking Lot is severely under utilized. I would rather see this lot developed into dense housing that helps solve our affordable housing crisis. Please let me outline my reasons below:
(A). The West Main Street Parking Lot is literally in the heart of our city. It’s a short walk from The Charlottesville DowntownMall, the University of Virginia, The UVa Corner, The UVa Hospital, the Starr Hill Neighborhood, Fifeville, Belmont, North Downtown, well, you get my drift. It’s close to everything in CVille.
(B). We are prioritizing the West Main corridor through the West Main Streetscape Project because our citizens and tourists deserve a much more aesthetically pleasing entry to and from The Downtown Mall and the University of Virginia. The West Main Street Parking Lot is ugly, creates a bottleneck of congestion and provides no true value except for housing cars and trucks.
(C). Imagine the possibilities of micro units and dense housing on this plot (ala Oliver Kuttner’s idea for Downtown CVille, which City Council inexplicably kiboshed years ago). Some of this housing should and would be allocated to citizens who earn 30% or less of area median income (AMI).
(D). If we can transform and evolve the West Main Street Parking Lot into micro units, we will increase housing and human density along this very important corridor.
(E). With increased housing and human density in this corridor, we help alleviate the affordable housing crisis, which is the top priority in CVille today.
(F). Also, please consider the tremendous potential for entrepreneurs and small business owners on West Main, The UVa Corner and The Downtown Mall. Increased housing and human density on this property would have the following impact:
(1). More customers in the area to support the small business owners.
(2). Less traffic on West Main Street, around the The Mall and UVa. Currently, West Main Street is a traffic nightmare, and it will only get worse with the West Main Streetscape project on the horizon.
(3). Less pollution in CVille because people are walking instead of driving.
(4). Less vehicle accidents.
(5). Improved quality of life for citizens in CVille.
Allan is a developer, a businessman and a San Francisco attorney. While he’s certainly very, very aggressive and focused on his balance sheet, he is also willing to sell and develop properties. In fact, Allan and Gabe made Midtown as we know it today. Prior to Allan and Gabe, Midtown was super sketchy. Today, it’s a thriving corridor of restaurants, boutiques and positive energy.
In closing, we must consider any and all ideas to improve the affordable housing crisis in Charlottesville, a 10.27-mile city that is landlocked and essentially fully developed. Converting parking lots to dense housing is a very good start.
Please let me know your thoughts. Please “like” and “share” this post if you think it has merit or could help our community.
BACKSTORY: I recently published a thread on my Twitter account (Twitter.com/JerryMillerNow) about this parking lot that sparked some discussion. I originate most of my ideas on Twitter, so if you’re into breaking news & brainstorming possibilities, I encourage you to follow me in the Twittersphere.
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