Future Directions

We hope that our project sheds light on the complex, interweaving histories of UVA’s and the UVA Foundation’s land development and expansion in the last forty years and the effects these activities have had on surrounding communities. More than that, however, we hope that these stories influence future decision-making of the University, helping to hold it accountable to its lofty goals. To this end, we have also sought to highlight the excellent work that has been done or is currently underway regarding the history of (in)equity at UVA and in the greater Charlottesville area. Many of these projects can be found in our Other Digital Projects page.

Our Conclusions

As described in Foundations, in response to both spatial constraints and federal and state cuts to higher education in the 1980s, the University of Virginia created a legally separate 501(c)3, non-profit corporation to manage and grow its real estate investments. The creation of the UVA Foundation (UVAF) expanded the University’s presence throughout Charlottesville and Albemarle County and provided it with an important alternative revenue stream. UVA’s presidents have explained the University’s expansion between 1980 and 2020 in terms of investment in the community and preservation of the University’s academic and social values and functions.

However, community responses to real estate acquisitions by UVA and the UVAF throughout the decades suggest that local communities have not always welcomed or benefited from these investments. Investment’s four case studies illustrate how the University’s and the UVAF’s acquisitions have sometimes conflicted with their stated goals: for example, the practice of overpaying for properties and land-banking has displaced communities and distorted the housing market, negatively affecting the community at large. Finally, as described in Legacy, UVA’s desire to link its growth and its ‘Jeffersonian’ heritage has had subtler, though no less significant, ripple effects—from concealing historical narratives of dispossession and racial discrimination, to an insufficiently critical approach to Jefferson’s architectural legacy at the University.

Our Recommendations

Based on the findings of our project, we want to recommend the following:

Avenues for Future Research

Like many research projects, Land and Legacy has created more questions than it has answered. Here we identify additional research questions regarding land, legacy, and equity in Charlottesville and Albemarle County that arose during our project, but for which we did not have the time, data, or expertise to address. The scope of our project, as usually happens, also grew beyond our expectations: starting out with a fairly self-contained set of queries about land development, we ended up with a sprawling narrative that includes legal, financial, historical, and aesthetic questions. We hope others will take up and explore these areas: