That’s one challenge being put to students and faculty at UVa’s School of Architecture
during their fourth annual vortex.
“The project intends to imagine and investigate alternatives for living, studying and playing to the privatized spaces of 14th Street, [Jefferson Park Avenue] and Rugby Road,” reads a directive to students and faculty participating in the weeklong event.
“[Envision] a highly visible new public threshold into Central Grounds that builds on the 200-year-old Jeffersonian tradition of the original Academical Village,” the brief continues.
Each vortex is a weeklong design study of a specific area in the community, such as last year’s focus on the U.S. 29 corridor.
This time around, some of the teams will develop conceptual plans for land under the control of UVa.
These include the four quadrants of the intersection of Ivy Road and Emmet Street, as well as the former Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center. That hospital has moved operations to the Battle Building on West Main.
However, none of the student plans is intended to be binding.
“This is an academic exercise and this is a place to explore ideas,” said Genevieve Keller
, a faculty member who is helping to lead this year’s vortex. “It does not necessarily mean there will be student housing on these sites.”
The vortex is also informed by a May 2013 analysis of on-Grounds student housing that found that while the university houses 99 percent of its first-year students, only 42 percent of second-years choose to live on Grounds.
That number drops to 15 percent for third-years and 12 percent for fourth-years. Additionally, only 400 out of nearly 6,500 graduate students live in university housing.
Developers have sought to provide much of this housing with several new apartment buildings constructed in the past several years, including the GrandMarc on 14th Street, the Pavilion on Arlington Boulevard and the Flats at West Village
on West Main.
However, the charge to students is to imagine spaces that can provide a more connected and complete university experience than what can be offered by private parties.
The Ivy Road corridor is one where the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the university have shared boundaries. The city ends at the intersection with Old Ivy Road and so do bike lanes, sidewalks and other multimodal features.
“The first thing we should do is put a crosswalk in to make it more accessible,” said second-year student Tatiana Kalainoff while crossing a road without pedestrian signals. “We’re going to our site and we’re having to illegally cross the street.”
Kalainoff was one of about 100 students who walked the corridor Sunday afternoon. She said she isn’t very familiar with the Ivy Road corridor but welcomed the challenge.
“We’re all members of the university, and anything to further the community and make it a better place sounds fun and interesting,” she said.
Student designs might be able to take advantage of city and county resources. In October 2013, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors agreed to seek $1 million from the Virginia Department of Transportation to build sidewalks and bike lanes on the county’s portion of the road.
One of the goals of this year’s vortex is to directly help inform the community conversation.
“Charlottesville has this amazing relationship with the academic world at the university, and the university and the Grounds are a very particular typology of a public space,” said Manuel Bailo Esteve, an associate professor at UVa. “What we would like to work on is how this public space which belongs to the university can be linked with the city [and the county].”
Students also have been briefed on the history of the corridor, which is part of the Three Notch’d Road
that connected the Shenandoah Valley to Richmond and Tidewater.
“Traditionally, this has been where you might characterize where much of the Charlottesville-Albemarle [elite is] living,” Keller said. “It’s the area of country clubs and private schools and exclusive subdivisions that developed with racial and religious restrictions. That’s changed somewhat over the years.”
The 21st century likely will bring more changes as UVa continues to grow.
“The students are charged with looking at this as big as they can, and nothing is off the table,” Keller said.
A public kickoff event, to include a presentation by UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan will begin at 2 p.m. Monday at the Culbreth Theatre. Awards will be given out Jan. 18 during a public presentation at the Carver Recreation Center beginning at 11 a.m.