The property out Old Lynchburg Road known for the Polo Field and the artists' enclave known as Biscuit Run Studios is about to assume a new persona: the 1,000 acres of near-town real estate that could change the face of southern Charlottesville.
Fifty years ago, I. J. Breeden bought two pieces of land stretching between Old Lynchburg Road and Route 20: Biscuit Run and Forest Lodge. It was always his intention to develop the property, and Elizabeth Breeden knew that when she moved to Biscuit Run 30 years ago with her husband, sculptor David Breeden, I. J.'s son. "That was the deal when we got it," she says.
"We tried to develop it," says Elizabeth, a founder of ArtInPlace. "I can't tell you how many plans are in the closet."
The big problem: the property's rural RA zoning.
In the intervening years, two things changed: Charlottesville grew to the south, and I. J. Breeden died.
"To settle my father's estate, it has to be sold," says David Breeden. Now, he and Elizabeth have succeeded in getting half the parcel into the southern "urban ring" zoned residential R-1, opening the door to development.
Breeden refuses to offer a number that he thinks the 1,000 acres are worth. "We're looking for a price that's reasonable for the development of it," he says.
"Without doing any research at all, I'd guess between $15 and $30 million," says Hasbrouck Realty president Lane Bonner of the Breeden property.
Up on Route 29 north, a 200-plus acre parcel is listed for $50 million, and another 150 acres has a $42-million price tag.
"The north side is worth a lot more than the south side of town," explains Bonner. Even so, he scoffs at such asking prices. "You can ask what you want," says Bonner, "but that's way too much."
Enter John Weber with Weber Associates in Manassas. He's handling the Biscuit Run sale, and he also declines to speculate how much the land might bring.
"You think you know the answer to that," says Weber, "but the marketplace is always the best way to dictate how land use will occur."
And so the Breeden property is going to be auctioned. Weber will be sending packages out to people who've expressed interest, but he hasn't set a date for the material to go out and when bids will be due.
And bidders must pony up a nonrefundable $500 fee– "to keep people from wasting time," says David Breeden. "We'll consider the bids, they'll give us a resume, and we'll have a consultant tell us which one is most likely," he says.
Elizabeth Breeden pulls out an aerial view of the property. The Polo Field's 150 acres, owned by the UVA Alumni Association, are not included in the sale, nor are David and Elizabeth's 50 acres surrounding their rambling Biscuit Run house and studio.
If recent developments are any indication, Albemarle County will likely require a connector road between Old Lynchburg and Route 20. And with "neighborhood model" the county's current mantra, plans could include some commercial to balance the residential.
"It's a big project with far-reaching implications, from schools to transportation," says Benton Downer, president of the Charlottesville Albemarle Area Realtors.
David and Elizabeth Breeden wonder how their totally private views will change, but without too much dismay. "We know Albemarle County takes years to give approvals," Elizabeth points out. "A thousand acres will take 20 years to develop."
And no matter what happens, the Wednesday dinners for which the couple is famous will continue, assures David Breeden.
"Everybody's invited to Wednesday dinner. Put that in the paper."
Elizabeth and David Breeden's Biscuit Run Studio is in the middle of 1,000 acres about to go out for bid. David would like to see DMB manager/Albemarle real estate magnate Coran Capshaw buy the property and make a sculpture garden part of the project.
PHOTO BY LAUREN BROOKS
The Breeden property, which stretches from Old Lynchburg Road to Route 20, is probably the last parcel of this size close to town to come on the market.