REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Stay home: Great views without the commute


ADDRESS: 200 Douglas Avenue #3D, "The Belmont Lofts"


ASKING: $459,000

ASSESSMENT: $366,000


SIZE: 1,453 fin. sq. ft.


CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Loring Woodriff of McLean Faulconer Inc. 466-2992

Many people think they must move to the county for the famous Central Virginia "views," but this penthouse loft in Belmont proves them wrong. The vistas from the patio/deck/porch of this two-level unit are as spectacular as any in Free Union or Cismont. To the left, the city of Charlottesville with all its warts and new construction is arrayed in glory. To the right, the mountains seem to go on forever.

Inside, the sights are just as nice, thanks to personalized upgrades added to a standard unit by the artist owner. Huge smokily transparent shoji screens on rollers divide both bedrooms from the rest of the apartment, allowing for maximum privacy during parties or anytime. They add a touch of class we've rarely seen in ho-hum condo units.

In the kitchen, acid-washed concrete floors make us a little nervous, clumsy as we are with fragile dishware, but the variations of designs caused by the uneven application of the acid add interest. Other touches in the kitchen include light maple cabinets set off against dark formica counters around the sink as well as on the island dividing the kitchen from the living room.

One bedroom with full tiled bath is on the first, or entry, level; the second– also fully tiled– is up a short flight of stairs. That one is clearly meant to be the master suite, as it has a larger bathroom and closet, but the one on the first level enjoys access to the washer/dryer and has a very large walk-in storage closet.

Another interesting upgrade is a gas-burning "wood stove"– so big it takes up a good bit of the front wall on the first level. While at first this seemed like a miscalculation, when we glance out the windows across the railroad tracks, the owner's strategy becomes clear. Bam smack in front of this unit is the infamous Coal Tower– which in normal circumstances we would consider a huge boon, since it's a long-time symbol of the railroad– and indeed the downtown area it dominates.

However, in April 2006, the Hook reported Dave Matthews Band manager Coran Capshaw's Choco Cruz LLC's plans for the site that included keeping the coal tower but adding four buildings in a mixed-use project: 64 townhouses (four above a parking structure), 118 condos, and a commercial segment including restaurants and retail on 2.77 of the 10.8 acres around the tower. And parking– lots of parking– 506 spaces, some of which are underground. 

Suggestions that the development could soar to nine stories have not been heard since June of 2006, and the glut of condos and other development around town could be the reason. Whatever, the threat of such a behemoth rising up in front of this condo is no doubt what prompted the far-sighted owner to position as much necessary equipment as possible in front of the windows on the main level. Upstairs, it's hard to imagine that the plan could have a very serious impact on the views, unless it spreads way, way, way in either direction.

Belmont Lofts raised a lot of hackles when they were proposed, but since the 2002 groundbreaking, the furor seems to have died down as neighbors have gotten used to the structure and buyers have gotten used to the convenience of living within walking distance of all the glories of the Downtown Mall... and the occasionally noisy eateries of central Belmont. [see Dish, page XX!]

Each unit comes with two reserved parking spaces:  one above ground and one below ground, where there's also ample storage for each resident's flotsam. Not that the owner of this unit would need it, as plenty of storage space is tucked in lots of different configurations.

Monthly condo fees for the unit are $237, which includes everything except electricity– but heat is provided by a heat pump (hello, Dominion Power!) and while it's possible that could be significant in a cold winter, surely the insulation provided by adjoining units will help.

Downtown condo living of this sort seems well suited for an urban couple who want convenience with no upkeep, beauty without a commute.

Photos courtesy of the agent