The Setting Today
The University of Virginia (UVA) is set in the heart of Albemarle County, within the City of Charlottesville. Rising from the James and Rivanna Rivers to the rolling hills and peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this Piedmont area provides a varied landscape of agrarian uses. With a well-educated workforce, and proximity to Richmond and Washington, D.C., the region supports a wealth of cultural and economic activity. UVA provides education, cultural resources and economic stability, while acting as a catalyst for continued growth and progress. With over 2,100 full-time instructional and research faculty and over 15,000 full-time staff, the University is the largest single employer in Charlottesville-Albemarle. More than 20,000 students are enrolled at the University, with a significant influence in the local community.
The land use within the City and County neighborhoods surrounding Grounds, and their relationship to the University, is varied. Commercial uses are present along West Main Street and University Avenue, referred to as the “Corner,” providing restaurants and shops in a pedestrian environment. Residential uses predominate to the west of Emmet Street, south of Jefferson Park Avenue, east of the Corner and along Rugby Road. Many of these bordering neighborhoods are specified as historic districts; the goal of such districts is to preserve the existing character of historic neighborhoods and to maintain property value and neighborhood diversity.
Virginia’s cities and counties maintain separate governments with exclusive jurisdiction over their own municipalities, legislation, and economics. As such, the City of Charlottesville with a population of ~50,000, and the surrounding Albemarle County, population ~100,000, each maintain separate zoning ordinances, elected officials, board members and staff. The University Grounds are set within the fabric of these two municipalities, bisected by their border at the southern and western edges of the City. As mentioned earlier in the history, the University joined with the City and County in 1986 to establish the Three-Party Agreement, to coordinate developments within their jurisdictions. University and community development is coordinated on the comprehensive planning level and on through neighborhood communication that more typically addresses the development of specific projects. This coordination also applies to larger land use concerns such as parks, recreation and transportation systems for the region at large.
THIS history of growth and planning at the University has shown how the institution evolved, highlighting the decisions that brought it to its present state, and the forces playing upon those decisions. Certain challenges have been recurrent, such as providing for a growing student body, addressing technological and social change, balancing the center and the periphery, and negotiating the interaction of the University and its surrounding community. The responses of past planners to these challenges have themselves become part of the University’s traditions and its physical structure. Today’s planners, attentive to the importance of preserving the University’s cultural, building, and landscape resources and of managing the impact of the University upon its physical and social context, are the beneficiaries and caretakers of this rich legacy.
To provide a framework for today’s planning decisions, the next section of the Plan focuses on the natural and physical systems that comprise the University and its immediate environs. The approach for future growth is established through analysis of the opportunities and constraints presented by the University’s current land use, natural systems, transportation, and infrastructure, with related objectives for the management of each.