No 'monster': But UVA garage razes houses

What if UVA built a parking garage and nobody cared?

Compared to last year's outrage over the "1,200-car monster" now under construction at Ivy Road and Emmet Street, there's been considerably less consternation at the University of Virginia's plans to build a 400-car facility. And that's despite the fact that the project, extending South Garage across 15th Street, will demolish six houses, some of which date from the 1930s.

In fact, except from Monroe Lane renters who are losing their apartments, there's been nary a peep of protest.

The project is scheduled to begin mid- to late-summer and should be completed by next spring, according to UVA Health System spokesperson Marguerite Beck. And while the new garage extension will have 400 spaces, "It's only adding 100 new spaces because it replaces parking that's been lost," says Beck.

Only two of the six houses to be demolished are still occupied. The others, like 444 Monroe Lane, a stone cottage built in 1933, are now owned by UVA and sit empty, surrounded by overgrown grass.

Shirreff Murray is one of those renters who think knocking down six houses to put up a parking deck is "completely ridiculous." He has to be out of his house by September, when his landlord completes the sale of the last house to the university.

Now Murray realizes why he didn't have to sign a lease, and he faces the challenge of finding a place to rent for himself and his pit bull, Deputy.

University architect Pete Anderson did meet with the Jefferson Park Avenue neighborhood association to inform them about the project. "Nobody seemed to bat an eye," says association president Liz Kutchai.

The reason? "Probably because we don't have anybody participating in the neighborhood association from that end of the neighborhood," Kutchai suggests. "There are no owner-occupied homes on Monroe and 15th."

She's concerned that the project is taking more rental property off the tax rolls. "The university is gobbling Charlottesville a little bit at a time, until we won't have any taxable property left," she warns.

Another reason the response was muted compared to the Emmet Street garage, says Kutchai, is that "1,200 cars added to the Ivy and Emmet intersections makes a situation that's already intolerable that much worse."

Murray thinks the traffic on tiny Monroe Lane already is pretty bad. "At 3 o'clock, you can't go anywhere. To add another parking garage is retarded," he says.

Tenant Devery Mock agrees. "The garage is going to be monstrous," she says. "This light is horrible to get out of."

Mock mourns the house she lived in while finishing her Ph.D. "It's a shame. It's a quaint old neighborhood that's really charming with all these trees."


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