Saturday, November 17, 2007

Levy Avenue update: All 5 owners identified

Levy site is Lots 2-11 Block 4 Belmont

Charlottesville, Va.—Eight of the 10 parcels that make up the Housing Authority’s Levy Avenue site were acquired in three condemnation lawsuits in 1972. Lots 7 and 11 were purchased by the Authority under threat of condemnation in 1971. The 1891 plat of Belmont shows the original development as Lots 2-11 Block 4, south side of Levy. The site now rents to the city as an employee parking lot for $1 a year.

On this block, the last of the three holdouts were Dennis F. and Mildred B. Hensley. They had bought lots 2,3,4, now vacant and overlooking Friendship Court, in 1964 from Mary E. and Haynes C. Settle. The Housing Authority paid the most for this property, $50,000, and took title June 26, 1972, Deed Book 337 Page 528. Real estate tax of 1971 and half of 1972 were deducted. Nine thousand went to the bank. The balance was deposited with the Clerk of the Court.

The second most expensive property was $28,500 for lots 5,6,8,9. Better Living Inc. purchased the lots 1963-65 to secure bonds for the company. Charlottesville Lumber Company Inc. was renamed Better Living Inc. in 1968 (Charter Book 15 Page 86, July 20, 1968).

Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority, petitioner, v. Better Living Inc, defendant

“This cause came on this day to be heard upon the papers formerly read and more particularly upon the report of the commissioners dated and filed April 18, 1972, and was argued by counsel…CRHA has paid to Carl E. Hennrich, Clerk of the Corporation Court of Charlottesville, Virginia, the sum of $28,500 as ascertained by the commissioners in said report to be the value of the land taken in this cause…The property hereinafter described is necessary for the development of an urban renewal project.” (Deed Book 335 Page 251, April 18, 1972)

Lot 10 was owned by Irene Payne Draper and six siblings. $8,500 were deposited in the Clerk of the Court’s Office to be split among 7 children of Emma E. Payne, who died intestate 1956 (Deed Book 337 Page 446, June 1, 1972). Emma Payne had acquired the property June 15, 1945 (Deed Book 120 Page 350).

The cheapest properties were the ones where the owners negotiated a deal to avoid condemnation.

The Housing Authority paid $3,500 for Lot 11 from Mary C. Lushbaugh and Ellen V. Nash, executors of the estate of E.M. Charlie, deceased (DB 326 P 296. May 26, 1971).

Lot 7 (and 5,6) was once owned by Mr. Azhia Azar, with real estate holdings in Belmont, Garrett, and ½ interest in store at 501 E. Main (now Market St. parking garage). Azar bought lot 7 from Sally E. Manley, widow, Dec. 14, 1916 (Deed Book 29 Page 392). Azar died Mar. 12, 1936.

But his estate lived on as a trust. A 1944 deed lists 18 paragraphs of properties and the donation of land for Ware Street extension to extend 4th Street SE and connect Garrett Street and Elliott Avenue for the 1929 Ix textile factory (Deed Book 64 Page 43, Dec 20, 1928). Frank Ix & Sons Silk Mill closed 1999. In 2002 the Ware Street extension was renamed 2nd Street SE.

Peoples National Bank of Charlottesville (1875-1963) and W.F. Long, executor of the estate of Azhia Azar, sold lot 7 to Edna F. Moon for $4,350 (Deed Book 127 P 198, July 25, 1946). Upon her death, Moon left her entire estate to her sister Carrie L. Tooley (deed Book 133 P 231, Aug. 5, 1947).

Tooley, a widow, negotiated with the Housing Authority and settled at $6,500 for the lot and “dwelling house thereon” and title was transferred on Aug. 23, 1971 (Deed Book 329 P 173).

After 35 years, what does it all mean?

There’s a risk that an owner could bring suit today and argue that the Levy site was not “necessary in the development of an urban renewal project.” Other projects were developed nearby. Levy is still not redeveloped. There’s been no necessity to any project. Therefore the Housing Authority does, in fact, not own the Levy site “free and clear,” if at all.

The Housing Authority paid a total of $97,000 for the site in 1971-72 dollars. As a 35-year-old parking lot, the 0.846-acre consolidated parcel is now assessed at $449,300.

When I requested from the Housing Authority the deed numbers for Levy Avenue, Randy Bickers gave me the deeds for the 1971 acquisitions. These appear as normal sales where the property is for sale and a buyer pays the selling price. When I requested the remaining deeds, Bickers referred the request to the city’s legal department.

Thursday afternoon, after I published my previous update, Barbara Ronan of the legal department called me and gave me the other three deed numbers from a Nov. 5, 2005 title search. Friday afternoon I spent an hour researching the deeds. These deeds were written by the court as a result of condemnation.

Also Thursday afternoon, the Carter G. Woodson Institute returned my morning call. They referred me to Scot French, now the director of Digital Knowledge at Alderman Library. French said he has only digital files and assumes the original archives are back at the Historical Society, or wherever they came from.

French said the files should be online and searchable within two months. He took my number. I said I would follow up in January 2008.

When that database of photos and documents goes online, you’ll be able to see what the fuss was all about. Example of deed and photo of an urban renewal property.

509 Ware St. was owned 1960-1971 by Mrs. Laura Dowell.

509 Ware St conveyed to CRHA for $10,600 (Deed Book 331 Page 360, Nov. 9, 1971)

Some other properties noted in deed research of Nov. 16, 2007.

June 1, 1972. Deed Book 337 Page 449. 801 6th Street SE. CRHA v. Ellen V. Nash, Trustee, etc. et al. Compensation $9,400. Plat date Nov. 22, 1919, DB 34 P 252.

June 1, 1972. Deed Book 337 Page 452. At South First and Diggs Street. CRHA v. Virginia Michie Jones, et al. Compensation $4,700.

June 1, 1972. Deed Book 337 Page 456. On Parrott Street adjacent colored cemetary. CRHA v. James Michie. Compensation $2,500.

June 1, 1972. Deed Book 337 Page 473. Nine lots including 6th SE, Diggs, and South First. CRHA v. Moses Bryant, et al. Compensation $35,000.

For maps and plats and stories related to Levy Avenue site.
“Levy Avenue update: Proof of ownership incomplete”, Nov. 15, 2007.

For more photos( 10 unidentified houses, 8 photos of 6 houses).
“An Inconvenient Truth”: Report from Housing Authority: Update on archives, HUD request”, July 16, 2006.

CRHA v. The Gleason Corporation et al. First of 3 deeds showing 14.5 acres condemned for $370,000. Dec. 6, 1976. Deed Book 330 Page 567. ("Luxury Gleason Condos: urban renewal still not over", Nov. 27, 2006)


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