IMBY: What difference will 11 condos make?

ADDRESS: 329 Parkway

NEIGHBORHOOD: North Downtown

ASKING: $745,000



SIZE: 3,559 fin. sq. ft., 175 unfin.

LAND: 0.16 acres

CURB APPEAL: 8 out of 10

LISTED BY: Beth Monaco, Roy Wheeler Realty Co.

"Not in my backyard" is the well-known cry of neighborhood protectionists who oppose development in their area. NIMBYs advance all sorts of arguments– that new development will increase local traffic, decrease property values, degrade the environment, spoil a community's small-town feel, or generally strain public resources.

While one or more of those things can surely be said of most of the development going on at light speed in Charlottesville and Albemarle, the development planned for the side yard of this house in the middle of the city may possibly have a different effect.

The primary positive impact of the development of the house next door– Stonehaus's transformation of the McCue mansion (recently known as Comyn Hall) to 11 high-end condo units– will unquestionably increase property values. Whether that will offset the downside– increased traffic (25 parking places are slated for the parcel, reportedly to be underground), loss of green space and trees, and an increase in density in a stretch of Park Street with widely separated houses– is another question.

How it will affect this particular house is also unclear. The current owner says that Stonehaus is willing to work with a new owner as the company plans plantings and other screens to block views not only of construction– tentatively set to begin in March– but also of the completed behemoth.

Those could be crucial negotiations, because this house is full of windows. In the 2001 addition, the second-floor master suite is a virtual light box, with wall-to-wall windows on three sides, providing wide-ranging views over the entire neighborhood. The main-level addition is a sunny den/sunroom with French doors and more windows, but because it's lower, the next-door commotion won't be as noticeable.

In the original part of the house, a large wood-burning fireplace (and the owners deserve props for not going the gas-log route during the renovation) dominates the small living room, and French doors lead to a good-size dining room and breakfast nook. Radiant heat was incorporated into the floors of all three levels in the addition, and that's undoubtedly a welcome foot-warming this time of year.

The basement has been divided– the rear section is part of the house, and comprises a children's playroom and dad's workspace as well as the utilities. The front half of the basement– with two entrances and lots of light– is a spacious one-bedroom apartment, currently rented for $700/month. Berber carpet down here makes the space seem very cozy.

A large full bath has been roughed-in beside the playroom in the event future owners want to incorporate the whole ground level into the rest of the house. With the removal of a temporary wall and a few other embellishments, the first level could become a very comfortable mother-in-law suite or teenager's private domain.

An architect designed the addition, and that's apparent in many details, such as an interesting hall office on the second floor overlooking the stairs and a cute linen closet with old-fashioned storage cabinet built in above. The bathrooms were redone in cobalt blue and white, in a low-key upgrade that eschewed the excess of so many new baths. (Luxury can be toned-down as well as shrieking, and here it's muted and effective.)

During the renovation, closets were built into the existing bedrooms in an unobtrusive way, another example of the moderation that tempered all the changes.

A big front porch looks like it would be a great place for neighborhood soirees in the summer, and the small backyard is fenced so children can be parked out there while the parents can tipple– worry-free– upstairs.

How the Comyn Hall changes will affect those sorts of outdoor activities is another unanswered question. Some people say that the main glory of downtown Charlottesville residential areas is the way various sensibilities are accommodated– for example, the large high-rise condo on First Street amid classic old private homes, or the law offices, courts, and churches coexisting with houses and apartments along High and Jefferson Streets.

Perhaps that kind of eclectic blending will soften the blow of the changes and enhance the experience of living in this house rather than ruin it. One can always hope for the best.