A vacant lot in the 10th & Page neighborhood partially owned by a railroad company is in the process of becoming a park. On March 18, the Charlottesville City Council voted in favor of purchasing the land, and the sale currently is underway.
“We’re hoping to close in the next couple of weeks on those property slices, which will make it a nice square,” said Missy Creasy, an assistant director at Neighborhood Development Services.
The future park is on a block bordered by Eighth Street Northwest, Eighth Street Lane, Seventh Street Northwest and Page Street. The city owns various parcels that make up the half-acre lot except for a 0.165-acre sliver owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway Co. When the sale from Norfolk Southern closes, construction is likely to begin at some point this year. According to an early board packet for Monday’s City Council meeting, “the city and Norfolk Southern recently reached an agreement pursuant to which the city would acquire this parcel for $60,800.” This item has been removed from the agenda as the resolution only needed one reading from the council.
Habitat for Humanity once owned a parcel on the block, with intention to build some houses, but it returned its portion to the city.
“We also were never 100% sure we were going to build there because, long term, we had to think about how that parcel fits in with redevelopment and master planning process for Westhaven,” said Dan Rosensweig, president and CEO of Charlottesville’s Habitat for Humanity.
The development will be made possible through a community development block grant of about $400,000. Since the summer of 2017, city staff held various community meetings and conducted surveys to gather community feedback and plan for design.
Kennon Williams Landscape Studio will handle the designs for the park. According to Williams, his firm has had meetings with the neighborhood to gather ideas and will seek approval for designs.
Transforming the lot into a green space and incorporating more vegetation to include trees were some of the ideas. Some site conditions limit the use of the space for certain projects, with constraints like stormwater drainage issues, underground utilities and an underground stream that is part of the city’s stormwater management system. There also is a culvert that carries Schenks Branch located beneath the site. These factors will be considered in the plans.
Some of the design ideas have also included using the planned park as a gateway into the neighborhood by adding signage.
“We’re hoping there can also be a sculptural art piece or sign if the funding allows that can be a gateway of sorts to the neighborhood,” Williams said.
Bennett’s Village proposal presented
An effort to bring a fully inclusive playground to the region is also one step closer to coming to fruition.
On Monday’s consent agenda is the reservation of space at Pen Park for Bennett’s Village, a playground that would be completely accessible to people with disabilities. The project is named after Bennett McClurken-Gibney, a Johnson Elementary School student who died in 2018 at age 5.
The 3.2-acre facility adjacent to the park’s tennis courts likely will be modeled after the ARC Park in Richmond. The Greater Richmond ARC opened the 2.4-acre park near the organization’s headquarters in 2015. The Arc of the Piedmont is serving as the fiscal agent for Bennett’s Village.
The project comes at no cost to the city. Fundraising is expected to be completed in two to four years, and construction is planned to end in five to six years.
News Editor Elliott Robinson contributed to this story.
Story corrected March 31, 2019, to note that Bennett’s Village is expected to be approved Monday as part of the City Council’s consent agenda.