810 Locust Avenue, the manor home of the Locust Grove estate
Area: Locust Grove
Price range: $172,500-$800,000
Schools: Burnley-Moran, Walker & Buford, Charlottesville
Pros: proximity to downtown, stately homes, nice lots
Cons: traffic, traffic noise
It's hard not to feel a pinch of envy when driving down Locust Avenue, where stately homes boast large, lush yards all within walking distance of downtown and with easy access to walking trails. But while the neighborhood known as Locust Grove may be recognized as being home to some of downtown Charlottesville's most coveted properties, it has also been the site of various controversies, including one over a proposed land swap and another that prompted a property owner to string razor wire across her land.
Taking its name from the house that sits at 810 Locust Avenue, Locust Grove is 828 acres bordered by the Rivanna River, McIntire Park and the 250 Bypass. The Locust Grove estate was originally a 500-acre portion of The Farm, a 1,020-acre tract of land once owned by Meriwether Lewis’s uncle and now transformed into a Charlottesville subdivision.
The house at 810 Locust Avenue was built c. 1840, and the Locust Grove estate, as it was known, was subdivided in the 1890s. It was during the period from 1940-1970 that the neighborhood saw the bulk of its development, but it was the construction of the 250 Bypass that transformed the character of the area from rural to suburban.
Locust Grove includes three parks– McIntire, Pen and Northeast– as well as extensive walking trails through the neighborhood and along both the Rivanna River and Meadow Creek. Of course, due to a lack of communication between trail organizers and Locust Grove residents, the Rivanna Trail made news in 2004 when a resident strung razor wire on her Bland Circle property to block Rivanna Trail-goers from hiking across her land without permission, though that battle has since been resolved.
In another controversy, a developer who'd hoped to swap his 15 acres adjacent to Riverview Park for three acres of city-owned land in Locust Grove was thwarted when the Locust Grove Neighborhood Association mounted vocal opposition. The swap was nixed, making way for the development of the River Bluff subdivision that sits above the Rivanna Trail near Riverview Park in the Woolen Mills neighborhood.
The Locust Grove Neighborhood Association is still quite active and is open to anyone living within the neighborhood. It maintains both a website that includes a map delineating the boundaries, details about meetings, and contact information for the association officers and a Facebook page that includes photos, videos and information about community events.
Garnett Mellen, president of the LGNA, reports that membership in the association is voluntary, and dues, which are requested but not required, are minimal. Funds derived from the dues help offset the cost of picnic supplies and mailings that advertise neighborhood events. The website, Mellen suggests, could also be a wonderful place to advertise homes for sale.
"I have always thought it would be great for people selling a house by owner or real estate agents to advertise local properties through neighborhood associations," she says. "Advertising directly to neighbors means people can tell their friends to move to their area. Instead of intentional housing, it would be intentional neighborhoods."
Currently, the MLS reports three listings in Locust Grove ranging in price from $239,900 to $540,000. The 36 sales reported over the past two years with figures between $185,900 and $800,000 reflect a market that Loring Woodriff, of Loring Woodriff Real Estate Associates, describes as “fairly robust.”
When asked what she thinks buyers find attractive about this particular area, Woodriff observes, “I don’t think it’s just this area; I think it’s the appeal of the city itself. These are stately houses on nice lots close to downtown.”
As for drawbacks, Woodriff notes that traffic noise could be a factor. “Locust Avenue inside the bypass handles a fair amount of traffic,” she says. “But most of the houses are set back from the road a little bit, which ameliorates the issue.”
Susan McCulley, a longtime resident of the Locust Grove area, echoes these sentiments. “I love being so close to downtown while still having privacy, quiet and a connection to nature,” she says. “With our house off the main street a bit, we don't get much in the way of traffic noise (that's probably the biggest drawback of living here) and we have space in our backyard for a big garden and a flock of chickens. For us, it is a good choice environmentally and for quality of life to drive less and still enjoy the natural beauty of Charlottesville.”