Charlottesville Breaking News

Battle ready: Seven-story West Main transformation begins

Seven stories right on West Main.

Work has finally begun on the massive $141 million, 180,000 square-foot Battle Building at the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital, which will take three years to build and set the tone for future development between the Corner and the Downtown Mall. On April 27, Richmond-based general contractor Kjellstrom and Lee got the building permit for $12.8 million of foundation work on the former parking lot between the Blake Center and the building housing the defunct 12th Street Taphouse. Construction barricades went up earlier this month.
Architect for the University David Neuman has called the structure a "prototype" for West Main, the central road whose redevelopment has been discussed for at least two decades.

Named after Barry and Bill Battle, longtime champions of children’s health, the structure will serve as outpatient surgery and rehabilitative care facility for children and their families. Bill Battle, who died in 2009, was a former chair of the Ivy Foundation, which donated $15 million to the project– $45 million in all to the UVA Health System. The building will also include a Teen Health Center, a children’s therapy garden, and park-like green space around the building.

Eventually, the Battle Building will take over the corner at West Main and Jefferson Park Avenue, as the similarl...

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More risk? Safety engineer slams proposed helmet law

With the city on the verge of passing a new law that will require bike riders ages 14 and under to wear helmets, most bike safety enthusiasts are applauding, citing research that shows helmets can reduce the incidence of head injuries by 85 percent. One longtime bike rider, however, says the proposed law is misguided, based on outdated research, and could actually lead to a greater number of the most serious injuries.

"It is ludicrous to mandate helmet usage," says J. Tyler Ballance, a Henrico County resident who frequently visits Charlottesville to bike ride. "If safety were the real concern, then the Council might be mandating pedestrian helmets, or banning cars."

While it might seem blasphemous to oppose one of the most widely accepted safety devices and one that purportedly saves the lives of children, Ballance says the supporting research is outdated, and he cites new research to back his position.

A Safety Officer in the Navy for more than two decades, Ballance is a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers. He's also an avid bicycle racer and a father who says the statistics for helmets and safety are hardly as clear as some would like to believe, especially when it comes to child riders.

"Some research has demonstrated the potential for the helmet to 'dig-in' on impact," Ballance told City Council in an email before its most recent meeting. That "dig-in," Ballance told Councilors, actually increases the risk of paralysis....

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Trendless summer: Uncovering fun in Central Virginia

Every good townie knows his or her stuff when it comes to summer sunning and funning. Looking for live music? Stop by the nTelos Pavilion for the free Fridays After Five show. Craving a relaxing afternoon with friends? Head down to Scottsville's James River Runners to tube the day away. Want kid-friendly joy to include in your summer repertoire? The Downtown Mall's Discovery Museum always has an action-packed summer schedule.

But you know all this, as trendy attractions such as these are already on your calendar and have been, summer after summer. What about events that don't advertise themselves? We decided to break down 25 must-dos for the ultimate warm-weather Charlottesville experience. Welcome to a summer where you can really live off the beaten path.

1) The Blue Ridge Tunnel
Originally conceived as part of the Blue Ridge Railroad and built in 1856, the Blue Ridge Tunnel currently lies unused– but that doesn't mean adventure-seeking hikers aren't antsy to check out all 4,263 feet of it. The tunnel's two entrances pop out in Waynesboro and Afton, giving C'villians access no matter which direction they're headed. To use the tunnel's Waynesboro entrance, insiders recommend parking either alongside Route 250 at the train bridge between Waynesboro and Rockfish Gap, or at the animal hospital just off 250 after you pass Interstate 64. A dirt trail off the overpass leads up to the tunnel, although at times it's overgrown. In Afto...

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Well, this Bonnaroo ticket giveaway is certainly our biggest contest ever

<355"">StubHub are just dead set on starting your summer off properly, aren't they? This month they're sending pop-savvy blues-rockers Grace Potter and the Nocturnals out on the road with up-and-coming country-rock quintet Futurebirds and a few other folks for what they're calling the "Bonnaroo Buzz" tour, essentially a 13-show lead-in to whip up excitement for the enormous music festival, which takes place 6/9 through 6/12 on a farm in Manchester, Tennessee.

Grace & Co. will hit the Jefferson Theater on 6/8, and we have three pairs of tickets to give away to that show; two of these pairs will also come with some sort of backstage artist meet-and-greet thing (so please wear something nice for once!).


One lucky winner will a...

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Ready Preddy: County opens new park

Despite slimmed down budgeting, Albemarle County will open two new parks this year. On May 19, it cut the ribbon on Preddy Creek Trails Park, the first to allow horses to canter along with hikers, bikers, and runners on its 571 acres and nearly nine miles of trails,

"We know we're getting a lot of equestrian use because horses leave more than footprints," quipped parks and rec director Bob Crickenberger at the park's Thursday morning dedication. Whether horse droppings will become a problem is TBD. As for dog walkers: bring along a plastic bag.

One way to deal with sliced budgets is to recruit free labor, and Crickenberger and Supervisor Ken Boyd paid tribute to the volunteers who put in more than 1,700 hours clearing 8.6 miles of trails. The cost to the county for the park was $332,990, according to Crickenberger.

Albemarle bought the parcel in 1969 to use as a reservoir, but a 1977 study determined its capacity wouldn't suffice, said Boyd. The nearly 600-acre tract sat untapped for years.

"In 2003, when I first ran for the board, I was walking door-to-door around the neighborhood, and I was asked what we were going to do with that Preddy property we owned," recalls Boyd, who was unaware the county held such a large tract, which includes 104 acres in Orange C...

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