As the University of Virginia increases its enrollment at a faster rate than its on-campus housing, nearby neighborhoods like Jefferson Park Avenue catch the spillover.
Sandwiched between UVA and Fry’s Spring, JPA is a desirable place for students to live. They can walk the short distance to class, or take one of the university or city transit buses that stop frequently along Jefferson Park Avenue itself.
This area, like many others in the city, wasn’t always so bustling. It was once a neighborhood of modest family homes inhabited by university employees and other local folks who didn’t have the means to build large houses, or buy them on Park Street, Charles E. “Chic” Moran, Jr., recalled in an interview for the From Porch Swings to Patios oral history of Charlottesville’s neighborhoods. Moran was born in the neighborhood in 1917, in a house on a cowpath that eventually became a street. His mother named it Shamrock Road.
In the 1930s, UVA built Scott Stadium and other campus facilities in the area. Fry’s Spring became a vacation destination throughout the 1920s and ’30s, and more homes were built along what is now Jefferson Park Avenue. Back then, though, JPA was still considered part of Fry’s Spring.
Moran lived in the neighborhood for 60 years, until he moved to Albemarle County 1977. “By the time I moved away, the University of Virginia had overflowed into the area, and my part of Fry’s Springs was occupied mostly by students and student families,” he recalled.
That’s still true today, though students are living further and further away from campus, in neighborhoods like 10th and Page that have historically been low-income, majority Black neighborhoods.
While looking at ways to address the city’s housing crisis, city residents, city officials and even the students themselves have noted students’ effects on the housing market.
“Charlottesville is a community of 47,000 people, and UVA has 27,000 students but only 7,500 beds on Grounds, resulting in tens of thousands of student renters needing to find off Grounds housing,” UVA Student Council acknowledged last fall. “This places a significant burden on Charlottesville’s housing stock.”
The group supported the new comprehensive plan’s call for increased housing density throughout the city, particularly in the JPA neighborhood.
City officials hope that by increasing residential density near the university — and allowing more and larger apartment buildings in neighborhoods like Jefferson Park Ave — students will stay close to campus instead of renting lower-cost homes that would otherwise be occupied by city residents.
But longtime JPA residents are skeptical of further growth. Just last month, City Council voted in favor of a seven-story 119-unit apartment building to be built at 2005-2007 Jefferson Park Avenue. Homeowners and longtime renters have expressed their concerns about this building at municipal meetings for the past few months. They worry that the additional density could worsen traffic accidents and congestion in the area and block natural light from entering nearby houses.
They also question whether or not the building, which was approved under the existing zoning code rather than upcoming new guidance, will do anything to help make more affordable housing options. The new plan will require developers to include affordable units in large buildings; the existing plan gives developers the option of including affordable units or making a donation to the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. Most developers, including this one, have chosen the latter. not.
Reading Chic Moran’s interview about the neighborhood, one might think he had the ability to predict the future.
“The city and the university should promote close cooperation” between long-time residents and students alike, he said. “To maintain a good quality of life for all and prevent exploitation and greedy over-development.”
Over time, more and more students have moved into those older homes, and developers have built apartment buildings to house even more students along the avenue. Now, more than 94% of Jefferson Park Avenue residences are rental properties.
This area is one of just a few in the city that has been zoned as a multi-family residential corridor, which has allowed for the construction of multiplexes and apartment buildings instead of solely single-family dwellings. Future zoning designations could allow for even more residential density, as well as mixed use for shops, restaurants and more.
Along with Venable, Jefferson Park Avenue is one of the youngest neighborhoods in the city. The reason? You guessed it: UVA students. It is almost entirely college and graduate students and a few young families. The vast majority of Jefferson Park Avenue residents are between the ages of 15 and 29.
Jefferson Park Avenue appears to be very low on the income scale, again because UVA students often rely on part-time jobs or their parents’ financial support to help pay rent and other bills. But there are high incomes in this neighborhood as well, most likely professors and higher-ranking hospital employees — more than half of the neighborhood’s residents working in education and healthcare, according to occupation data from the American Community Survey.
UVA requires all first-year students to live on campus, but it does not guarantee housing to upperclassmen, graduate or professional students. That means the vast majority of UVA’s student population — about 20,000 students — seek off-campus housing.
But overall, this neighborhood’s population has declined, from about 4,500 in 2013 to about 3,500 in 2020.
That change could mean there’s a shift in how students approach the Census, citing their parents’ address rather than their school apartment as their residence. UVA directly reports the populations of students who live on campus to the Census, but estimates in areas with many off-campus residents can sometimes be unreliable, according to the Census.
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Charlottesville Tomorrow and 2022 graduate students in UVA’s School of Data Science teamed up to tell a story of our neighborhoods in numbers. As the city undergoes a major rezoning effort, we’ll examine how 19 neighborhoods have changed over about decade and what zoning could mean for their futures.
Coming soon: Interact with all the data we used in this series
The data we use in this project go back about a decade. They do not tell the longer stories of the Monacan Indian Nation, whose people have lived here long before the creation of the city of Charlottesville or the collection of this kind of data.
Click on a purple neighborhood button to find out more. As we publish more stories, you’ll see more purple.