Locustville? MJH selects developer for 'community'

cover-pedbridge-locustA Charlotte, NC-based real estate company will be developing the old Martha Jefferson Hospital into a master planned community.

Old Trail Village isn't the only master planned development making news. Martha Jefferson Hospital has selected a Charlotte, NC-based real estate company to handle the estimated $170 to $200 million development of its 14-acre Locust Avenue campus. The hospital is moving into a new 88-acre location on Pantops Mountain in 2012, after more than 100 years in its current location, and had launched a national search for proposals to develop what they'll be leaving behind.

"More than 25 firms responded," says MJH spokesman Steve Bowers, " but we finally winnowed it down to Crosland. They totally get it all, and they have the experience and capital to create a place that could really please everybody."

What Crosland appears to get, says Bowers, is that the MJH site will have to balance alot of interests– economic, demographic, the extension of the downtown area, and preserving a classic neighborhood.

"Martha Jefferson Hospital has been very clear about what is important to them: preserving the site's history and their legacy at this location, creating a vibrant plan that fits the neighborhood, and transitioning this property into a new, great place for Charlottesville," said Crosland's Steve Mauldin in a release.

"They were interested in the project for a long time," says Bowers, "and have a good track record, especially in Central Virginia."

As Bowers points out, Crosland has worked with Celebration Associates on its Bundoran Farm project, a 2,300-acre high-end "preservation" development on which 90 percent of the land is protected by easements. The property is just up the road from 450-acre Sutherland Farm, much of which is also protected by easements, and which was in the news recently when its owners tried to demolish some historic structures. The founder of Celebration Associates, Charles Adams, spearheaded the famous Walt Disney Company master planned community, Celebration, Florida, which occupies 4,900 acres in Osceola County and cost a whopping $2.5 billion to develop.

Bowers says that once the deal is finalized, the planning stages could begin late this summer or early fall.

"And that would include public discussions with neighbors, and public forums with the city," says Bowers. "There's nothing firm about what the design will look like at this point."

However, the proposals Crosland submitted include condos, townhomes, single family homes, open spaces areas, office buildings, and retail space, as well as a 15,000-square foot grocery store. In addition, historic properties, such as the 80-year old Patterson Wing of the hospital, will be preserved, and some of the homes that were converted to hospital offices may become homes again.

At first, MJH simply planned to sell the property to a willing developer, but Bowers suggests the hospital may want to get into the real estate business.

"The real financial reward could come down the road, so the hospital might stay involved," says Bower, "to have a stake in the project."

But why not just sell the property and pocket the cash? Certainly, it will be money needed for the new hospital.

"About two years ago, the hospital's board decided this wasn't all about money," says Bowers. "It was about a legacy. Twenty years from now, people will still be saying, 'yeah, that's the site of the old Martha Jefferson Hospital.' We want to be proud of what happens there...we want it to be special."


"At first, MJH simply planned to sell the property to a willing developer, but Bowers suggests the hospital may want to get into the real estate business."

Bad idea. Really, really bad idea. That would be like a real estate developer wanting to get into the medical business, and it serves to help explain why so many doctors are such lousy investors. Had this happened 10 years ago, whoever was developing that land may very well have suffered the same fate as the spiffy new hotel on the Downtown Mall. It would kind of suck if that developer was or was backed by Martha Jefferson Hospital.

This would be a very irresponsible move.

Wow Cassandra, where to start?

This is already a very developed property. My guess is the traffic count in the neighborhood will go down relative to the current use of the property. And how is having a 15,000 sq. ft. grocery(think Reid's or Foods of All Nations sized) a greedy "gimme"? The neighborhood would support it.

Just so you know, I can't afford an expensive condo. But I'm not sure what's so wrong with them. That's a lot of new property tax that would help the city pay for the various social programs they now provide.

And you don't really make clear who those greedy ice cream eating people are by the way(is ice cream now a tool of the oppressors?).

@James Huron: Commercial real estate in a college town(that, like C'Ville doesn't have a real overcapacity) is a different beast than most parts of the country. Our biggest employers(UVA, health care, NGIC, State Farm, etc,) tend to be somewhat protected from the slaughter in the manufacturing and financial industries right now(which is why C'Ville has, for the time being a AAA rating on its munis)

Developers like this one get involved because they do want to make money and think they can. I'm guessing(guessing! - I don't know!)they won't break ground until 2011 - 2012, which gives them 3 or 4 years for the condo market to get rid of its current overcapacity. That's a wicked long recession if things haven't turned around by then.

I do have to agree with you about Biscuit Run. I think that that kind of development will look quite a bit less attractive a few years from now than it did in 2007.

And finally, James on Grove(can I call you Jim?), I'll buy the first round of Guinness

IMHO you're right on every aspect...except "developers will be rich beyond their wildest dreams." That's just not going to happen anymore in this area or in the US. Commercial RE is about to go under at the same rate that residential real estate is...and the "recovery" will be just as slow. Years and years slow. In 2011 people will be saying "Locustville is still in the planning stages." And in 2014, "Locustville, Biscuit Run, too bad about them both."

Could this be right $200 MILLION ?

Smoke and mirrors, bread and circuses, and don't forget broken promises. This is going to end in tears for that poor neighborhood as people get a case of the "gimme's" Gimme a grocery store, gimme some high-end condos, gimme this, gimme that. The tricky part? They're never going to tell the people asking for all this crap that there will be an incredibly high price to pay down the road. Instead, it's going to be lots of pretty pictures to whet the appetite and lull the neighbors to sleep.

They'll throw in an affordable unit for the janitor of the complex and keep talking about density in the urban core, and that will make the Planning Commission roll over. Then, when they've somehow managed to shoehorn this mega development that's all things to all people, into that relatively small spot immediately adjacent to homes, the developers will turn to the beleaguered neighbors and say "But we just gave the people what they wanted."

The greedy people will be so happy because they'll have their ice cream and sparkly lights. The Planning Commission will feel ever so virtuous. And the developers will be rich beyond their wildest dreams.

This is a development I'd invest in not Old Trail --believe me MJH sees it to --it is all about money --lots of it in this location

I sure do like the idea of a grocery store in the neighborhood. I hope the put in lots of bike racks and scooter parking zone. I also hope they put in a pub with Guiness on tap. Rock on Locustville!

14 MILLION and acre? and a good part of that are roads sidewalks and open space that generate no property tax once completed. So more like 16 to 18 MILLION an acre? Do you realize how much they will have to charge to recoup that?

There is NO WAY they can supply affordable housing in that mix. There is no way they can build a grocery store that can afford 35k a month rent in that neighborhood.

What is the assesment of the 14 acres now?

What is the expected traffic count with this idea?

The City should make ZERO zoning changes other than converting the houses back to houses and allowing another business on the hospital site proper.

Forget the condos, forget the retail. The reason half the stores on the mall are vacant is because the rents are simply too high. Now add in this mess to steal away the retailers with deep pockets and the downtown mall will flounder for another decade.

The city owes it to the exisitng commercial property owners to not dilute the pool of available commercial properties even further.

No variances that will further blight the downtown mall.

OK --- how about if C'ville does what is done in some places in Europe. The developers are required to submit a busness plan for thier development where in a specified period of time (say 5 yrs) that if thier development is not 100% successful after completion then they (the developer) are required to put the property back to its original state!! AT THEIR EXPENSE.

Joel S, how about a little documentation of that? Seem very unlikely that would happen anywhere, but if it does, then I would like to see what effects it has had.

It would be hard to find a better site in C'ville for redevelopment. It has great access to the 250 bypass, to downtown, and to 64 via East HIgh. Infrastructure to support it is largely in place, and it is obviously already developed, so no battles about loss of green space. It could be a really superb project in the end. The only way that is going to happen though is through very intense scrutiny by the project's immediate neighbors with clear agreements about what will be built and substantial penalties for non-compliance on the part of the developers(s).

The developers will promise the sky to get their project approved. The city has a terrible track record of making sure those promises are ever fulfilled though. They are more interested in tax revenue than making good neighborhoods. Some poor citizen now basically has an unpaid full time job on his or her hands making sure this works out well. Having a former city councilor in the neighborhood who knows how the games are played may help, but he probably blew any real political capital he had by questioning the powers that be on the water plan.

The powers that be now agree with the former city councilor that the water plan should be re-visited, based on faulty and misleading information. Kevin Lynch has a large popular following and lots of political capital. He's highly respected by everyone on Council for his knowledge of infrastructure and I'm sure they will consult with him as part of this plan.

the price should not be calculated as price per acre, but as price per square foot of building. It is cost effective and environmentally responsible to re-use the existing buildings and I hope they do so to a large extent. I am 100% into a grocery store and a neighborhood pub and will be a patron of both. Here's to a walkable city....

The City Council are hardly the powers that be.

They should be but often the staff seems to be the wizards behind the curtain

I'm just excited that the new MJH is being built in Pantops, which is a major factor in why I just bought a new town-home in the Pavilions community. Least to say, I think Charlottesville will continually do very well. I'm proud to be a member of this community. And if this Locust Ave. site does anything close to what this bloated good news article says, then I'm up for it.