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Friday, Dec. 1, 2023

At 501 Cherry Avenue in Fifeville, on the site of the old Estes IGA Foodliner, something unusual is happening.

Unusual not only for Charlottesville, but for development projects across the United States. A neighborhood association asked to have a major say in what a private developer put on its site. And the developer said yes.

An aerial photo of a vacant lot surrounded by houses and trees, showing fall leaves. At the center of the photo is an empty parking lot and a building in bad shape.
Credit: Sanjay Suchak/Dexter Auction

Fifeville residents got a say in a private developer’s plans by making an unusual agreement

The Fifeville Neighborhood Association, Woodard Properties and Piedmont Housing Alliance spent months negotiating a rare type of contract called a “community benefits agreement memorandum of understanding.” In it, the developer agreed to (if at all possible) build affordable housing, hire nearby residents at living wages, and sell commercial space to nonprofits for below market rates.

The neighborhood association fought hard for this unusal input to a private developer's plan. And, in agreeing to work with the association, the developer said he will earn “much less” profit than he otherwise might have. But the resulting project could be far more beneficial to the existing neighborhood.

Because of that, some local civic leaders, and advocates against displacement hope other Charlottesville developers take notice.

Like many Charlottesville neighborhoods, Fifeville is experiencing intense gentrification pressure — and it is changing perhaps more quickly than any other neighborhood. We explore this transformation in our latest update to Changing Charlottesville.

A graph shows the median household income in Fifeville. A purple line hovers between $35,000 and $45,000 for about seven years, then sharply increases beginning in 2019.

One of the oldest and most dense neighborhoods of Charlottesville, Fifeville has been changed by the expansion of UVA

From the community

An aerial image of homes, trees and cars with text overlay that reads: "The Financial Resiliency Task Force is closing the wealth gap in our community." And orange button says: "Learn more" and two logos say "Envision, helping all families thrive" and "United Way of Greater Charlottesville"

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The data show that in 2013, Fifeville was economically diverse, with household incomes distributed relatively evenly across the income spectrum. At that time, more households fell into the lowest income bracket — earning $20,000 or less per year — than any other.

But by 2021, just eight years later, more Fifeville households fell into the highest income bracket — earning $100,000 or more each year — than any other.

I hope you take some time to read through and digest these two powerful stories by neighborhoods reporter Erin O'Hare. We'll be revisiting this topic frequently, especially as the city charges forward in its rezoning plans.

As always, if you have any questions you'd like us to explore, hit this link to ask us! We're a small team, so we can't get to everything. But feedback from you all helps us prioritize our coverage.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

P.S. We’re hiring: Cover big stories in local democracy as a reporter with Dexter Auction!

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I'm Dexter Auction's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at [email protected]! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a [email protected].