Near the end of an eight-hour meeting last week, the Charlottesville Planning Commission approved a new apartment building in Sunrise Park. The building will complete the mixed-income plans that Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville originally drafted for the development.

Sunrise Park currently includes 30 affordable units and 16 market-rate units. The new apartment building will add 21 more market-rate rental units to the development.

Habitat sold the site of the proposed apartment building to the Building Management Company, which designed the other apartment building in Sunrise Park.

“Because we are very much partners with the families who live in Sunrise, we went back to the community and asked them, ‘What do you think?’ Their response in a couple of community meetings was overwhelmingly positive,” said Dan Rosensweig, Habitat’s president and CEO.

Rosensweig said that the main request from residents in the meetings was for BMC to build on-site parking because the city has eliminated some of the overflow parking spots on streets outside of Sunrise Park. That required rezoning the property.

Towanda Hammond owns a house in Sunrise Park across from the proposed building. She said that the mixed-income character of the neighborhood has worked well.

“You get to meet different people from different stages of life. You’ve got poor people, rich people, people in the middle, and that makes you feel like everybody’s human, regardless of how much money you’ve got,” Hammond said.

Hammond said she already has parking difficulties, particularly when she works until midnight.

“I come here and some nights I don’t have a parking space here. I have to ride around this block to find a parking space. Not to mention, it’s not that lit up around here and I’ve got to walk to my house,” she said.

The Hammond family opposes adding more buildings to Sunrise Park. Hammond’s daughter, Sara, would have preferred to see the vacant lot become a neighborhood playground.

“We’ve got the community center, but that has to be supervised. If we had a playground right here, people could look out of their windows,” Sara said. “There are a lot of kids in this neighborhood, so I feel like there should be more things for them to do over here.”

Habitat has promised to keep the new building compatible with the neighborhood during the rezoning process.

“We at Habitat feel very strongly that the building does meet the requirements,” Rosensweig said. “From the outside, it’s going to look very much like the adjacent building — similar materials, similar height, similar massing. It’s designed to be a kind of twin building to that.”

The Planning Commission agreed that the building met the requirements of Habitat’s proffers. Three commissioners seconded the motion in unison to approve BMC’s final site plan on June 12.

All commissioners present voted in favor of the site plan. Commissioners Hunter Smith and Taneia Dowell left the meeting before the Sunrise Park agenda item.


Emily Hays grew up in Charlottesville and graduated from Yale in 2016. She covered growth, development, and affordable living. Before writing for Charlottesville Tomorrow, she produced a podcast on education and caste in Maharashtra, India.