REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Urban reverie: Robinson Woods offers nature in town


Address: 117 Robinson Woods

Neighborhood: Preston

Asking: $399,900

2009 Assessment: $413,700

Year Built: 1997

Size: 1,924 fin. sq. ft. 

Land: 0.158 acres

Agent: Tommy Brannock, Real Estate III, 434-977-3033

Curb Appeal: 7 out of 10

Although some folks remember when the post office on 29N was considered on the way out of town, those pre-Wal-Mart days are gone for good. Charlottesville is growing, bringing the good– Virginia baseball in the College World Series, Whole Foods– and the bad– traffic, Jessica Simpson, Whole Foods. In response to national publicity ("best place to live") and expansion at UVA among other things, Charlottesville has grown up and out. 

This week's house is an example of the opposite phenomenon: urban in-fill.

Developer Tom Hickman purchased Robinson Woods from three families in the traditionally African-American neighborhood of Kelly Town. The tracts, a short, steep drop down from Preston Avenue, were heavily forested with a meandering stream that was partially buried to accommodate the cul-de-sac. Today the neighborhood is a quiet street of colorful, narrow frame houses with white-columned front porches. The clustered Craftsman-style houses create a neighborhood reminiscent of Belmont.

Number 117, the first house built in the subdivision in 1997, is more modest than some of its neighbors (including a 3,476-square-foot house Hickman built for himself at 121 Robinson Woods).

This place is at the end of the street, and part of the old stream trickles through the small yard, which manages to look both wild and manicured. The grass is clipped short, but rushes hang thick and heavy over the stream banks, and the vines coming down from the Preston Avenue lots are kept at bay with fencing and retaining walls. All this lush greenery keeps the house cool (especially the off-street rooms) and filled with bird songs. 

The downstairs, painted yellow, feels roomy and light, with large windows and an open living-dining-kitchen floor plan. (A tiny half-bath with oxblood walls is tucked off the foyer.) Extras include a gas fireplace in the living room and a gas range in the kitchen. The spacious dining area leads to a wooden back porch, perfect for barbeques as long as you light that Citronella. 

The second floor feels more closed off: two guest bedrooms and the master suite flank a central hallway. The master bath, with white walls and linoleum flooring, is clean and serviceable, but, after 12 years, is showing its age. A guest bath directly overlooks the street, which means the blinds must be drawn at all times, both for privacy and to keep out the summer sun. (This is the hottest room in the house). The bathroom also doubles as a laundry room— an innovative use of space, but not necessarily conducive to a relaxing soak. 

The third floor leads up to a finished attic that could become a fourth bedroom. Although there's no door to the stairwell, it's larger than the master and is plumbed, but not finished for a bathroom. Otherwise, it's a natural family room, with open space and built-in shelving. Two closets and some small walk-in storage areas are useful, if small. Clean out the basement before moving here!

The house itself is pretty, pleasant, and predictable. It's in good condition, but could use some optional updates. We'd re-do the two full baths and tear up carpet on the top two floors to replace with hardwood. The biggest perk of the house is the location. It's green and quiet: an easy bike ride to UVA but removed from the fraternities along Rugby Road. Families with kids will like it, as Washington Park is a short roll down the hill, and it's in the coveted Venable school district. 

The slightly larger 105 Robinson Woods was recently on the market (asking $409,000) but is now under contract. While that price is out of reach for many, it's more affordable than many of the larger, older houses near Rugby. With this comfortable, convenient house for sale just under the assessment, it might not be too long before the Woods welcomes a new family. 



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