Thursday, December 19, 2013

Galvin’s crusade to redevelop Garrett urban renewal zone

1935 Charlottesville, Va.
Charlottesville, Va. – Why is the “area south of the railroad” a dead zone? Think about it for a minute. Stand at Live Arts on Water Street and look out on a sea of urban renewal. All those parking lots and open space was anti-development. We’re going back in time when landmarks like the EconoLodge on Emmet across from the JPJ arena become vacant land again. That’s happening all over town. Imagine demolition happening to an entire mixed-use neighborhood.

City Councilor Kathy Galvin refers to this region as the Strategic Investment Area. She promised to use City government to re-create every detail of this neighborhood. The problem with past efforts is that only affordable housing was addressed while industry and jobs moved out. In her “out-of-the-box, bold” vision, government may have to create all the jobs as well. Her faith in socialism is complete. She believes government can mandate the ideal neighborhood, which City government literally destroyed in this case.

Galvin doesn’t know much about the history of this neighborhood. She knew that the Ix textile factory once made parachutes. She didn’t know that the factory opened in 1929 and carried the city through the Great Depression becoming the largest employer during World War Two. She knew there was industry but didn’t know this was a residential neighborhood.

She said this is a traditionally poor area. No, this was an affluent neighborhood where poor people had moved into rundown, grand homes. Count up public housing units in this area (150 units at Friendship Court + 126 at Crescent Halls + 58 at S. First + 25 at 6th SE + ? at Midway Manor = 359+) and you have the number of units lost to urban renewal in this part of town alone. Add a church, a preschool, 30 businesses. The reasons for a dead zone start to add up.

Does the history of this neighborhood have any lessons to teach us? Absence of government leads to the ideal neighborhood, where no zoning leads to mixed-use, pedestrian friendly, human-scale, etc. Property rights lead to investment. If the previous owners of the now City-owned land can have their homes taken for private use without Due Process, why would any potential investor put money where the local government has a history of stealing real estate investments, and the same regime is in power? Crime causes poverty and other problems even if the Supreme Court says it’s good for the public. The Constitution makes it unlawful because the practice causes so many problems throughout history.

Maybe I’m wrong and there’s nothing illegal or embarrassing. This is a proud history of government intervention. Why is it called the Warehouse District? Whatever happened in the 1970s, people quit talking about it. So new people came and saw warehouses. So they misnamed it and no elder leader like Mayor Satyendra Huja corrected them because of his own involvement. Actually it was mixed-use before mixed-use was outlawed by zoning and now mandated by zoning.

Not talking about it has moved into Phase 2: Withholding knowledge to allow you to talk about it. In this case it’s the public housing archives. Will Kathy Galvin crusade for more education and historic preservation of history? Will she make a motion that City Council order the Housing Authority to allow people (Blair Hawkins) to come down there sometime with a laptop and scanner, and start publishing this history. It should only take me about ten years since the text documents alone are 6,845 items.

I didn’t call the Coy Barefoot show this afternoon because I thought it would be a waste of time. Galvin has talked about her socialist dream in previous appearances. I called the Schilling Show in 2009 asking Councilor Holly Edwards for help getting the archives published. On air she promised to help. Off air she played games and said she would get back to me each time I contacted her. She wanted me to meet the 2 people blocking the history: UVA historian Scot French and Housing Authority then-director Randy Bickers. Now I have history to tell. Holly Edwards does not want people to know what’s in these archives, as documented by the broken promise made on the Schilling Show.

What is the motivation of City Council? They don’t want people to know how big urban renewal really is? They don’t want people to know that seizing and selling real estate violates the civil right of due process? Information is dangerous and the masses should know less, not more?

Or maybe they just don’t care? Nope! If they didn’t care, they would stand aside and allow volunteers to preserve the only thing left of a historic neighborhood which made so many contributions. Where's the mercy of Council? It’s only words and pictures. What could be so dangerous about that?


1762 – Town of Charlottesville chartered. Thomas Jefferson was 19 years old.
1825 – Alexander Garrett builds his mansion on his 117-acre farm called Oak Hill removed for Garrett Square/Friendship Court 1977. Friend and financial advisor of Jefferson, Garrett witnessed Jefferson’s last breath and recorded the moment in a letter excerpted in Daily Progress Apr. 2, 1952 when the dilapidated house was torn down.
1860 – Garrett Street developed.
1865 – Private all-black Jefferson School opens on West Main.
1870 – Town’s first public school on Garrett Street.
1915 – Development of 4th SE, renamed Ware St., what’s left renamed 2nd St. in 2002. People making the decisions are disconnected from our history.
1929 – Ix factory booms. People’s bank turned a profit during the Great Depression with large base of small account holders.
1954 – Era of Urban Renewal begins with creation of Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Eminent domain to seize and sell real estate is legal for the first time.
1960 – Vinegar Hill urban renewal, now mentioned exclusively by politicians to give the impression Vinegar Hill was the only urban renewal.
1967 – Strategic Investment Area urban renewal begins. The World War Two of redevelopment.
2004 – First request to view the public housing archives and discovery that they are closed to the public (Blair Hawkins).
2006 – City Council unanimously in regular meeting refuses to allow access to the archives. No news outlet recorded that history. But the video camera recorded it..
2009 – Holly Edwards lies on the Schilling Show. “Latest Archive Request on Schilling Show”, Feb. 12, 2009. Includes a more detailed timeline and photos before and after Vinegar Hill.
2013 – Dec. 19 Kathy Galvin’s utopian socialist dream to mandate an ideal neighborhood, aired on Coy Barefoot's Inside Charlottesville on WCHV radio FM 107.5.


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