Notable Project Timeline
Observatory Hill Dining Hall
Historic Preservation FrameWork Plan This plan evaluated over 140 buildings and landscapes, setting the framework for the continued preservation and study of the University’s post-Jefferson built history.
Claude Moore Nursing Education Building
Claude Moore Medical Education Building
Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center
2011 and beyond
Rugby Administrative Building
South Lawn New development, community integration, preservation
The South Lawn project is the brainchild of former Arts & Sciences Dean Mel Leffler. Originally termed the “Digital Academical Village,” the project creates a presence for the College of Arts and Sciences on the south side of Jefferson Park Avenue (JPA), and accommodates future growth in College programs. The siting of the project on the south side of the thoroughfare offered superior opportunities for expansion in the interest of a multi-disciplinary future for the South Grounds.
The initial goal for the design--to connect the precinct visually, physically and metaphorically with Central Grounds through ordered, articulated space--was derived from the Lawn and the axial relationship to the Rotunda. Bringing students and faculty together for open dialogue and an active connection outside the academic classroom was also desired, and the plan for South Lawn prioritized outdoor activity space and circulation. A strong desire to “knit” the University community back together drove the final axial arrangement of buildings and green space in an effort to unify the Arts & Science buildings to the Health System. The incorporation of LEED standards into the site planning and design of the project added to its overall success and influence.
Interaction between the various communities involved in the project was imperative as plans for the South Lawn developed. Planning workshops were held within the University’s internal community, involving key players and departments such as Health Sciences, the Arts and Sciences, in addition to others. The products of these meetings were invaluable to the overall South Lawn design process and to the greater master planning vision. Public meetings were also held to engage members of the greater Charlottesville community, specifically those individuals living in close proximity to the project and others who had specific concerns related to the development of the South Lawn. In this way, the South Lawn became a multi-faceted project involving different types of communities interconnected by the future development proposed for the site.
The design development stage of the project was a long and involved process throughout which the University dealt with a number of concerns from city residents and neighborhoods surrounding the site and the University. Each challenge was approached with the intent to compromise and provide an improved project benefiting the overall community. One example of this was the solution offered to community residents opposed to the scale of the proposed development. Residents along Oakhurst Circle felt the initial plans were out of scale with the surrounding community, and revisions were made, resulting in more appropriate placement of structures and integration into the natural topography of the site to respect the residential feel of the area.
Another issue brought to the table by the Charlottesville and University communities was the loss of surface parking from the existing parking lot on the site. When the below-grade parking garage became too expensive to remain in the proposed plans, residents were concerned their access to cultural events would not be ensured. The University offered a solution in the form of accessible parking on the north side of JPA and the addition of surface parking lots on Brandon Avenue. This area had been identified in the Parking Management Plan as a prime location for redevelopment; thus surface parking would maintain that development potential while aiding the parking problem for the South Lawn project site. However, as most projects go, one solution often creates other problems. Residents along Valley Road opposed the Brandon Avenue parking lots, feeling they would negatively affect the character of the neighborhood and encourage commuter traffic. After gaining community input, the University decided the best compromise would be to pay the cost of converting Valley Road into a cul-de-sac on the north side, eliminating the opportunity for non-neighborhood traffic to move through the neighborhood.
Finally, the South Lawn addition raised a number of questions as to how the University would address cultural resources, pertinent to the history of the institution, in the face of future development. Because the South Lawn project resides in an area once known as “Canada”--the former location of an early African-American community--tension between the plans for development and the importance of acknowledging community history needed to be addressed. The decision to retain the historic Kitty Foster homestead and adjacent African-American burial ground to create an interpretive public park in commemoration was viewed as a positive step. The move unified the vision of the South Lawn project to the overarching history of the University itself, creating cultural ties that are essential in a project of this scale and scope.
The South Lawn project is an exemplary model for the successful integration of communities past, present and future. While incorporating innovative design solutions that push the University toward ever more sustainable goals, the project also exhibits the challenges and rewards involved in the merging of communities toward one vision. By taking the time to understand individual concerns and provide case-sensitive answers, the University was able to address issues effectively through communication and compromise. The South Lawn exemplifies the benefit cross-community and cross-cultural engagement has on a project and its future success.