Wahoo towers: Biggest-ever student-plex rises behind Barracks

An Atlanta-based company has launched a quest to erect the biggest student apartment complex Charlottesville has ever seen, and it's happening near Barracks Road where Peak Campus has spent over $10 million before construction even began.

“They tore down a perfectly good office building," says real estate agent Roger Voisinet. "It shows you how dear well-located land is.”

Anyone driving up Arlington Boulevard near Millmont Street will eventually behold a dramatic change to the landscape: an 80 foot-tall complex consisting of two adjoining five-story residential structures with a 480+ spot garage.

It's called The Pavilion at North Grounds, and the first phase of construction began earlier this year after the company, which paid $9.7 million for 4.7 acres, spent another $200,000 to demolish most of what was sitting on the site. An adjacent complex at 1023 Millmont– now home to several UVA offices including its Institute on Aging– will get whacked after the lease expires.

Scheduled for completion in August 2013, the first phase of the Pavilion will consist of over 293,000 square feet of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, with the second phase adding another 95,000 square feet.

In June, the company cut another check, this one to the City of Charlottesville's housing fund for $278,095 as a way to comply with an ordinance forcing all high density structures to make provision for affordable housing.

For Peak Campus Management, which will soon have projects in 19 states, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. The UVA project is the company’s 42nd student housing complex.

This corner was long the site of a youth treatment center operating under such names as Brown Schools and Whisper Ridge. Last known as Jefferson Trail, the center became known for changing names after citations and convictions that included physical and sexual assaults against teenaged patients.

Plans for the complex state it will house “graduate students and young professionals” and with UVA's  Darden and Law Schools and the Army's Judge Advocate General's School less than a mile away, the target market appears within walking distance. Fully equipped with a "resort-style" swimming pool, the complex also includes a 24-hour fitness center and a tanning bed.

On a street with a hodge-podge of buildings, some more than thirty years old, real estate expert Voisinet says the amenities and location will make the Pavilion highly attractive to graduate students and grab occupancy away from more distantly located housing. Even Kathy Hughes, the resident manager of the nearby Jeffersonian Apartments, enthuses over her future neighbor with the possible exception of the traffic that it has already begun bringing to busy Arlington Boulevard.

“I think that you definitely have to continuously expand," says Hughes, "and you know the housing is needed in Charlottesville."

Over at City Hall, Economic Development Director Chris Engel extols the project's ability to “enhance the tax base" and notes that it will “create demand for service sector business.”

However, Keith Rosenfeld, partner in HotCakes restaurant/bakery, doubts much measurable impact for the Barracks Road Shopping Center but figures that the Millmont Shops, next door to the planned complex, will reap some rewards.

The Pavilion will provide “great exposure” for the businesses in Millmont, says Julie Arbelaez, owner of Millmont-based Peace Frogs Travel. “We’re mostly destination shops at this point," says Arbelaez, "and it would be nice to have just general drive-by traffic.”

Speaking of growing traffic and demand, developer Jeff Githens, who would speak to a reporter only by email, says he is confident the project will have as much success as Peak Campus complexes in such major cities as Chicago and Los Angeles. Citing a “stable and growing university,” Githens calls Charlottesvlle "an ideal market.”

Nobody seems to keep a registry of the largest buildings in Charlottesville, but it appears that with nearly 295,000 square feet dedicated to residents by the end of phase 1 the Pavilion will be approximately tied in size with the GrandMarc, a similarly vertical complex on 15th Street near the Corner district. By the end of phase 2, when it will total nearly 400,000 square feet, the Pavilion appears on course to become the largest student-housing complex ever built in Charlottesville.

Voisinet said this project shows the “confidence and optimism” in the city and points out the importance of location. In urban development, he explains, there are three stages which begin with the easiest parcels. When those are exhausted, developers eye the “harder-to-build-upon” tracts. Charlottesville, however, has entered the final phase, in which developers buy existing structures to improve or demolish.

“We’re entering the third phase of development where land has reached a value that a developer can justify buying land with buildings on them," says Voisinet. "There’s not a lot of land left in the city."


$278,095 will barely pay for a single "affordable" home around here. How is that little amount of money paid to the City of Charlottesville's housing fund going to make a particle of difference to anyone?

TexasGal, the developer shouldn't have to pay this $278,095 to subsidize homeless and lazy people in the first place!!!

Students need housing and this will help keep residential neighborhoods near Uva from being overrun by landlords who rent to students and do little in the way of maintenance and often charge the students lots of money for crummy places.
The city should butt out-its city taxes and regulation that help drive rental prices up in the first place.
GSOE makes a good point too.

@texasgal , the money is usually given to Habitat for Humanity.
Charlottesville is over 60% rental because people, other than students, do not want to live in town in its outdated housing.
If you would like to see housing that most people want to live in here in central VA, watch the show at http://www.realestateiii.com/tv-episode

@GSOE----affordable housing is used for people with earned income that cant afford some of the high rents in this locale. being homeless or lazy has nothing to do with it. maybe you should start coming to planning commission meetings to learn something about this topic.

"Charlottesville is over 60% rental because people, other than students, do not want to live in town in its outdated housing."

Please elaborate. That statement strikes me as completely ridiculous and completely contrary to my experience. For one thing, if no one wanted to live in the city, the no one would be able to rent housing to them. Also, I live in a part of the city where houses still sell and seem to do so with some regularity. They sell to people who seem thrilled to move into them. Most are older homes, which is what draws their buyers to them.

TJeff, I couldn't afford the rent around here (or buying a home) either. Until I took a full time job at age 18 and saved my money for a few years. Nobody ever gave me a single dime to get into my first apartment or home. Back to what I was saying.... it's all for the lazy homeless who won't work to succeed. 2012 and we now have 45 million families on food stamps, namely the lazy who don't want to look for and find a job.

@GSOE...not all lazy. Some made bad decisions earlier and now want the government to bail them out. While I do have some sympathy for the 25 year old who had three kids by age 23 and dropped out of high school, I think it is highway robbery to make an "evil big, rich developer" cut a check for $278,000 to bail her out. But, alas, that is the redistribution of wealth mantra.
This dovetails nicely onto the city's "living wage" charade: conditioning this city to think that the evolution of one's self is to end up thirty-years-old with two kids and only be able to have a job that pays close to minimum wage.

@TexasGal...It does not make any difference to anyone except people like Dave Norris who have a vested interest in keeping people struggling for so-called "affordable housing." If these types of causes go away, people of his ilk are out of a job.

R.I.P.: Big Pun

@cookieJar, look at the link I provided to the TV show and start reading the property transfers published weekly in the Hook. It should be obvious. Of course somebody wants to live in the City, there are 43,000 people living here. What I have noticed in older sections of town is that, as the older home owners, die, their homes are often bought and turned into rentals.

@TJeff, "...affordable housing is used for people with earned income..." also people who are on disability or who do not otherwise work. Many people living in affordable public housing do not work and therefore do not declare any earned income. Originally, everyone who were to live at Norris Hall at 4th and Preston were supposed to have jobs. That has now changed. Some of the residents do not work. These things are not discussed at Planning Commission meetings because the commissioners have absolutely nothing to do with the finances of the City. That is discussed at Council meetings, sometimes in work sessions.

"Charlottesville is over 60% rental because people, other than students, do not want to live in town in its outdated housing."

What a goofy perspective on real estate. First of all, renters are "people" and they choose where to live too. So I'm not sure what the fist half of your sentence has to do with the second.

There is not a single kind of housing that "people want to live in." The market is diverse and everyone makes different trade-offs based on their own preferences. Some accept a smaller home to be closer to work. Some want new, others prefer old. I think the fact that homes in the city are so expensive is a good indication that people want to live here, whether or not you believe they should want to based on the homes you see on TV. The market speaks for itself.

"Charlottesville is over 60% rental because people, other than students, do not want to live in town in its outdated housing." Change "live" to "buy." Home prices in the city reflect that they are often investment properties.