Finally: Jefferson School ready for renovation

The long-delayed renovation of the historic Jefferson School could begin as early as this week. A private group that purchased the property from the city for $100,000 signed papers August 1 for a $12-million loan, clearing the way for work to start on the nearly $18-million project.

"It's a big, big step and we're very excited," says attorney Steve Blaine, one of the citizens tapped by the city to form the Jefferson School Community Partnership LLLP to salvage the aging structure, once the heart of Charlottesville's black community during segregation, and turn it into a community center with nonprofit tenants and an African-American heritage center. "The contractor is mobilized and ready," says Blaine.

Milestone Partners will manage the project, and its co-founder, Frank Stoner, is also a member of the Jefferson School partnership. Richmond-based Kjellstrom and Lee will do the construction.

The fate of the Jefferson School has been under discussion since the school closed its doors to students in 2002. Once the current plan was in place, the project was stalled first by the recession, and then by a court decision earlier this year that ruled Virginia tax credits, upon which the project hinged, could be considered taxable to the investors who purchased them, timing that Blaine calls "a bit of a bombshell."

Several donors made pledges to satisfy lender Union First Market Bank that money would be there to repay the loan, says Blaine. He declines to identify the donors or how much they ponied up, but says they had already agreed to contribute to the fundraising arm of the project, which will support the African-American Cultural Heritage Center.

"These donors reached out and made donations now," says Blaine. "It was a real shot in the arm and got us over the hump."

Along with the $12-million bank loan, the city is loaning $5.7 million to the project through CEDA, a.k.a. the Charlottesville Economic Development Authority.

Tenants such as the Jefferson Area Board for Aging, Piedmont Virginia Community College, and the city's parks and recreation, which will lease the refurbished Carver Recreation Center, have been signed for a couple of years to get space in the primo downtown location.

Blaine promises a celebration of the signing in early September. "The hard part is done," he says. "The easy part is doing the building."

Correction and update August 29: Milestone Partners incorrectly were identified in the original version, and rehab is being done by Kjellstrom and Lee.


So they purchase it from the city, borroew moneyt from the city and then lease part if it back to the city.

No wonder the economy is in the toilet.

You forgot and then get bailed out by the city when they can't make their payments.

This project has an arc of at least ten years. It belonged to CCS. CCS did not maintain the property. The then superintendent loathed the consolidated preschool that was housed there & forced a 'gift' from CCS to the city. The city had to say 'no' for a variety of odd reasons, until they could say 'yes'. Literally hundreds of citizens spoke on behalf of not selling the property to the highest bidder --- and, yes, I was one of them. And then came the 'Jefferson School Task Force'.

Because only a private entity can claim --- and sell --- tax credits, the city had to sell the property to some private entity. These people are the entity. The city retained the lease for the Carver Rec Center as a condition of sale. Far better than losing it entirely.

The irony is that the consolidated pre-school was ahead of the curve. Our School Superintendant is re-consolidating (or will be) the preschool at the Walker site when it is decomissioned as a school a few years down the road.

CCS had ten facilities. It gave away one, and a unique one at that. This is the best outcome of a profoundly flawed process based, overwhelmingly, on one CCS superintendant's loathing of paying for preschool before anyone made him do it.

We could all still own and use the Jefferson School --- if only we'd maintained it. We don't because, frankly, we were short-sighted and stupid. Under those circumstances, I cannot blame anyone who may, or may not, make a few dollars at our expense. We did this one to ourselves.

"We" did this to ourselves? I would have bulldozed it and maybe put a YMCA there instead of the park. We're certainly going to pay for the mistake of a few who chose to subsidize a private development for the sake of a dubious plan for a history museum. Seem a lot like the water plan that's being forced on people that don't want or need it.

We did do this to ourselves: CCS didn't maintain the facility we orwned & city council didn't mind that it fell off the CIP. We did this to ourselves.

As we have done to so many African-American icons: Lane High School is now the county office building --- paying no taxes to the city. Burnley is now an Albemarle County school --- paying no taxes to the city. Vinegar Hill & Starr Hill: they're McIntire/Ridge silliness. We obliterated black history in the city: sold it off or demolished it. Pretty damned deliberately. Black history is everybody's history: it's not just the month of February.

I'm as pale as pale can be. I resent the faux barrier to respecting and owning black history. I want to own all the heros & be their heir. I really can't do that until we honor black history appropriately. And loaning them a few million while they get back on their financial feet after we neglected them --- that's absolutely the least we can do.

I hope they put sod over the prison yard that was our playground

Have "we" neglect a handful of white developers? That's whose getting the money.

The museum is only a tiny part of the whole and almost certain to be ignored by everyone bet school children who are forced to go there. Small, underfunded, single themed museums just aren't interesting, usually because they have a tiny staff.

It will most likely look something like the Discovery Museum, flat boards with graphics splashed across them that look out of date in a few years with a few things off to the side in a glass box or two, and that's an optimistic view of things. Boooring!

We already have a Historical Society with boring boxes full of stuff. Why would ghettoizing a portion of our local history be a positive thing , didn't you just say that you as a white person want to honor and own black history?

The project, like far too many in the area is a scam and a money pit. A well intentioned but really pretty simple minded city council is falling for the bait of easing its white guilt by being asked to fund a project that isn't really about doing anything positive for the local African American community but instead is helping out the buddies of the people selling the idea.

in what way is Lane High School an African American icon?

Lane High School started out as the white high school and BURLEY (not Burnley) was the black high school back in the dark ages of segregation. Lane became the high school for both, it was never a black icon. Albemarle County bought Burley over 40 years ago. Charlottesville sold both Burley and Lane to Albemarle County willingly.

I am for preserving history, but have you seen any pictures of what Vinegar Hill looked like before it was razed? I don't care who lived there, it was not a good place. Much of the history of many natives as well as notables who moved here and made a difference, both black and white is gone from Charlottesville/Albemarle. My g-grandfather owned the land the Hollymeade Town Center is on. A house on his property was SAVED only because it was built by one of the first black stone masons in the county. His farmhouse though, is gone. The area of Vinegar Hill, behind the Chamber of Commerce building sat, empty, with no buildings, for many years before the silliness you speak of was built.

Perhaps some of the history of all of those who lived here years ago, whatever race or culture, who were not rich or influential, but were honest, hard working citizens who made a difference could be considered worth saving, if still around.

Is there anything remotely interesting about the architecture or features of the Jefferson school ? It looks like an ugly pile of tired old bricks to me.

Just another example of the City of Charlottesville not maintaining buildings and infrastructure. Wasting Millions of dollars on rebricking the Mall and building a "water park" while pipes are bursting, streets and sidewalks are crumbling, and buildings are falling apart. The waste of money is just amazing.

The YMCA will have a state of the art childcare center in this building! I've searched for quality childcare for 2 plus years now and finally located the small building they're in currently. If the section of the facility is as good as the care they give, I say AMEN to the project. "We" need a place for children to go while "we" are working.

And by the way, get over the park issue. Most people who write and complain about it haven't stepped foot in that park in years.


"Most people who write and complain about it haven't stepped foot in that park in years."

Do you have proof of that? Why isn't the Y daycare center going into the Y????

A better question is why isn't the YMCA itself going into that space. There is more than enough room, it would be closer to the people that might use it, and it wouldn't contribute to the loss of McIntire park. The answer of course is in the money trail.

The only reason I haven't stepped foot into McIntire park in a few years is that the thing has been hideously poorly managed. Stanton's Gypsy Hill park has its problems, but it is a far better example of what a central park ought to look like.

Destroying the park any more is going to be irreparable and that would be a tremendous loss. The fact that it is even possible shows what a crock all of the accolades about this being the best small city in the US really are.

Thank God a few candidates for City Council care enough about the city to stand up and do something to stop that.

Old Timer, whens the last time you were in the park? I will say this as well people are hiding behind "save the park" but what their real issue is would be race driven.

McIntire Park (ie the golf course) S*CKS and has for at least the thirty five years I've occasionally used it (to the detriment of my game). Who in their right mind would create sand greens ? Get those bulldozers cranked up & build that Parkway !

Great sledding on "suicide Hill" I once watched a drunk fellow pull his burning sled out of the bonfire at the top of the hill and ride that sucker all the way down!!
Now those are the memories that should keep the park open!


Two weeks ago, even though I am a county resident. Race driven? Race driven is dumping all the public housing downtown on or two neighborhoods, while preserving the 'white neighborhoods' in the City and the County.

But you bring up an interesting point: Is the purpose of the Y only to service minorities? One more reason middle class tax payers should be furious.

Possibly is very correct on the history of the High Schools in this area - but I wasn't alive during that period. I do recall the Downtown Mall - not being bricked.

I happen not to be a "minority" and my children both attended the YMCA Daycamp which I think is the most reasonably priced and diverse camps out there. They offer just as much if not more to the children and do so with proper supervision and a wonderful staff.

Our city has long needed more community buildings and that is what the YMCA is offering along with more services like cities and counties our size in other areas utilize. I find it truly offensive that everyone wants to "save McIntire Park" which has been an eyesore for years, not properly maintained and could be taken to a whole new level. I believe the YMCA will do this. We need more diverse basketball, football, and other sports programs for our children and I know the YMCA does this very well but can only do it even better with the space they will be utilizing. This said, their intent has never been to bulldoze it all or drastically change what there is - but to enhance it!

I love the way all people appear to fly off the handle on matters like these. And what is wrong with all of us wanting diversity, community and all of us to work together?

Burley has always been owned by the County. It was a joint County/City black high school. At least the county has maintained it as a school thereby honoring its long tradition of education.