This Foxhaven entrance is inside the Bellair subdivision.
Foxhaven, in blue, gives UVA a kind of western wall around Charlottesville.
After two decades of dealing, a sprawling Charlottesville-area farm recently came into the possession of UVA, practically completing a sort of university-owned western wall around Charlottesville and stoking development concerns in the surrounding neighborhoods. By paying $1.575 million to Foxhaven Farm LLC on July 7, the University of Virginia Foundation finished its purchase of the properties long owned by the late Jane and Henderson Heyward.
“I would hate to see a whole bunch of highrises on a beautiful piece of property. I think that would be against all Mrs. Heyward’s wishes,” says a concerned Elena Day, longtime resident of Buckingham Circle and friend of Jane Heyward, who died in December at the age of 94.
The Foundation maintains that there is no immediate development plan for the nearly 200 acres of verdant land, and Day says she takes comfort in the fact that nearly half of the farm is legally protected from development.
Day explains that the Heywards held different opinions regarding future uses of Foxhaven, a circumstance that led to the creation of two separate deeds to organize the transfer. The deed pursuant to Jane Heyward’s wishes gave the Virginia Outdoors Foundation a protective easement for about 85 of the site's 199 acres. Nevertheless, the other 114 acres, unencumbered by easement, are thereby potentially open to more cavalier development plans.
Tim Rose, CEO for the UVA Foundation, explains in an email that while the original agreements began in 1992, the Foundation has no immediate plans for the farm which lies just outside the western borders of Charlottesville city limits.
The UVA Foundation manages financial and real estate assets for the benefit of the University with a robust real estate portfolio including, but not limited to, several farms, apartment buildings, offices, and the Birdwood golf course.
President of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce Tim Hulbert explains that the Foundation often "land banks" property for future use.
“UVA has a different horizon when it acquires property than a short-term developer has,” Hulbert says. “I remember a conversation about Foxhaven being on the prospect list, well, for as long as I’ve been here.”
So does a prominent local developer, who recalls a visit to UVA about ten years ago, when he saw a development plan for Foxhaven.
"It was laying on a table," says the developer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It was a massive amount of buildings and parking– with access via the Bellair neighborhood. It was a research park."
Bellair resident Joel Loving says that as a member of the community, he would like the Foundation to keep residents apprised.
“I would personally not have any problems with a research park expansion to that area, as this would certainly be more desirable than a housing development,” Loving says. “As long as our roads are not affected, I doubt anyone in Bellair would be too concerned, but of course I don’t speak for everyone.”
Norman Brinkman, a longtime but former resident of Bellair, anticipates careful management by UVA, but recalls past worries about student housing.
“In the past, the concern would have been not so much that UVA would get the property, but that it would develop it as student housing and use Bellair as the de facto cut-through entrance,” says Brinkman.
Such fears might linger in the minds of long-time residents who recall UVA's original plans for Birdwood, which is adjacent to Foxhaven. The Foundation purchased the bulk of Birdwood in 1967 and attempted several times in the 1970s and '80s to transform it into a 3,000-unit residential college. Newspaper clippings at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Historical Society show how the Board of Visitors would– in the face of relatively high costs, reduced enrollment projections, and resistance from the Bellair Homeowner’s Association– shelve and eventually forfeit that battle.
Today, UVA is under a governor-driven mandate to expand enrollment by 1,500 over five years. However, Rose dismisses the possibility of developing student housing at Foxhaven as the University attempted at Birdwood.
“I think that was the last time that concept was discussed,” says Rose. “It has not been in discussions that I am aware of since I have been here.”
Indeed, UVA has recently been building up rather than out, a policy on clear display along Alderman Road where the so-called "new dorms" of the 1970s across from Scott Stadium are getting torn down for taller structures.
Regardless of the future for Foxhaven, Day simply hopes that the Foundation will respect Jane Heyward’s wishes.
“She had the conservation easement drawn up because she was against inappropriate development on the property,” says Day, who recalls that her late friend hoped the university would create a botanical garden or arboretum with public walking trails. Day wrote to the university to demonstrate support for the concept, but she alleges that university officials responded by explaining that the donor hadn’t provided an appropriate endowment to bring that to fruition.
Rose says the Foundation simply aims to open up avenues for the future while acting as responsible stewards.
“The intention then and now is to land bank the property for future UVA use," says Rose. "At this time, there are no short or long-term plans, other than to be good stewards to the property."