Older Americans Month prompts new look at ‘age-friendly initiative’ for community

Daily Progress – When it comes to advocating for government planning initiatives and policies that benefit older people, advocates sometimes find it hard to get the public to push decision makers to act.

“We tend to dismiss people as they age,” said Natalie Snider, a senior program assistant with AARP Virginia, “… so government doesn’t deal with these planning and policy issues. …. There’s more of a focus on the needs of schools, young families, new businesses.”

But that could be a big mistake. READ MORE


Rotunda rehab: Good-bye and good-riddance to magnolias?

UVA architect David Neuman says the magnolias need to come down.

As UVA gears up to begin a $4.7 million roof replacement project for the Rotunda, part of a planned $50 million restoration of Thomas Jefferson’s famous centerpiece on the Lawn, a major visual transformation of the UNESCO World Heritage site (along with Monticello, one of only four in the country) could take place before the first piece of old sheet metal is removed.

According to a statement by University architect David Neuman, the six 100-year-old magnolias in the two courtyards that flank the Rotunda need to be removed, both because they have become a danger to the structure and because of the need to erect scaffolding for the roof work. What’s more, according to UVA’a leading Lawn historian, the giant magnolias, which have grown to the roof line and crowd the Rotunda’s curved walls, would mostly likely displease the structure’s original architect, who preferred that his major buildings “stand up and stand out” against the horizon.

However, according to over 3,000 people who signed an online petition opposing the removal of the trees, they should stay up and stay put. READ MORE

Rock Hill forever: Charlottesville’s not-so-secret gardens

Forget about the impending Meadowcreek Parkway and the 250 Interchange project for a minute, as well as the fabulous history of the nearby eight-acre Rock Hill estate, once the site of a circa-1820 two-story Federal style house (which, thanks to a mischievous youngster, burned down in 1963). Forget that famed architect Eugene Bradbury once called it home, and that the Rev. Henry Alford Porter, minister of Charlottesville’s First Baptist Church (Park Street), who bought the place in the 1930s, created the extensive rock gardens that one UVA architectural historian has called the “most complex residential garden landscapes in all of Charlottesville.”

Forget its history as a controversial segregation-era school in the 1960s. Forget that it’s now the overgrown back yard of the Monticello Area Community Action Agency (MACAA), which has expressed interest in selling the property to the City. (read more)

Forget the City’s and the Federal Highway Administration’s promise (broken?) to restore the garden and add it to the park system as

Rooms with a View: New Monticello boss opens rarely seen rooms

Monticello was designed for the pleasure and architectural curiosity of its owner, but as a new tour and exhibit will show, it was also designed for the enslaved workers who moved about the house relatively unseen, serving food, changing linens, and emptying chamber pots.

On Tuesday, May 25, Monticello boss Leslie Greene Bowman and staff gave the press a sneak peek at rooms that have never been opened to the public. It’s all part of a new “behind the scenes” tour that will launch June 11, accompanied by a new exhibit in the cellar level called “Crossroads,” all to shed light on the intersections between Jefferson, his family and guests, and the enslaved workers.

“We’re trying to make Monticello a more lively and entertaining experience,” says Susan Stein, Monticello’s senior curator.

Indeed, during Tuesday’s tour, reporters were led through the…Read More

Tao of Poo

cover-worrellwater-sludgeplOn May 27, Governor Tim Kaine (D) presided over the groundbreaking ceremony for a $40.3 million upgrade of the Moore’s Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, which one attending official called the “next step in addressing the impact of humans on the natural ecology.”

Of course, it’s a welcome upgrade, but is it really the “next step”? What if there were a company right here in Charlottesville that makes a waste treatment system designed to look like a beautiful garden and mimic a tidal estuary, a system that purifies wastewater without chemicals, emits no odors, and comes at a fraction of the price of systems like Moore’s Creek?

Too good to be true? Let’s find out (more)

Waste Wars

cover-murf-1Way back in February of 2008 I wrote about Peter Van der Linde’s new state-of-the art recycling facility out at Zion Crossroads. Since then, the story has become quite interresting…a story about a man who may have a solution to our waste woes, the same man being sued by our own waste authority….

What a Waste: Is the trash Authority going obsolete?

Why is the main local trash authority suing the man who has offered a solution for the local waste disposal problem? And why is that man paying investigators to find out what words are spoken at the entrance booth of the authority’s favorite trash station?

It’s all part of an ongoing waste war. And before it ends, there’s a chance that the private citizen– unless he’s vanquished in court– may have beaten government at its own game.

Before you toss this newspaper in the recycling bin (we hope that’s what you’ll do after reading it), let’s talk trash with Peter Van der Linde.

A ‘real player’
“The landfill of the future just came to town,” says Van der Linde, a slender, soft-spoken man whose voice sounds not unlike a friendly wizard in a fantasy film, but although it might seem like magic, his new $11 million recycling facility near Zion Crossroads isn’t imaginary. It really does turn trash into cash.

“In the last seven years or so, these separation machines have really been perfected,” says Van der Linde. “I did a lot of research on them, and I believe this one I bought is the ultimate machine.”

Inside a 100,000-square foot steel-framed building, one of three such structures on the site, a 15-man crew is running a state-of the-art recycling machine, a $3.2 million device that can sort up to 100 tons of construction and demolition debris and curbside recyclables per hour. (more)

Wasted revenue? Authority realized in 2005 station didn’t track origins

As reported in a recent cover story [“What a Waste: Is the trash Authority going obsolete?”], there’s a waste war raging with distrust, lawsuits, and even spying.

The Rivanna Solid Waste Authority is suing Peter Van der Linde, who recently opened a major recycling facility in Zion Crossroads (right next to the RSWA-sponsored facility), to retrieve millions in fees the outspoken hauler allegedly avoided paying by lying about the origins of his trash. However, Authority documents recently obtained by the Hook show that the Authority may have been fleeced by its own partner in trash. (More)

Recycle this! Van der Linde steps up tone

Recycling entrepreneur Peter Van der Linde, who opened an $11 million state-of-the-art recycling facility in Zion Crossroads last December, recently did a round of local radio interviews, drawing attention once again to his ongoing legal battle with the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, which has filed a $3.5 million lawsuit against him.

“If this doesn’t bother you, nothing will,” declared former Republican City Councilor Rob Schilling on his WINA radio program, saying he was “disgusted” by the Authority’s action against Van der Linde. “It’s wrong in every single way.” (More)

The Mall fountain, a bit of advocacy journalism

Wrote an article for the Hook about the disuse of the “interactive” water fountains on the Mall. It was unusual for me in that I wasn’t just writing about something happening, I was writing about something that I thought ought to happen.

Fountainblue: Who’ll revive our Mall fountains?

Can you place the four interactive water fountains on the Downtown Mall? Don’t feel bad if you can’t place them all. Three are usually hidden, surrounded by the outdoor seating at Miller’s, Sal’s and The Nook restaurants, and all four have strayed so far from their designer’s original intention that one local architect says the biggest one– at Central Place– has become “a kind of dead zone.”

According to several local architects, that’s not what renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin had in mind when he designed the Downtown Mall in the 1970s. Indeed, Halprin– now 90 and living in San Francisco– is famous for the integration of interactive fountains in his public space projects, most notably his Auditorium Forecourt Fountain in Portland, Oregon, a complex of falls and water shoots that invite people in to splash around. Here on the Mall, Halprin’s invite has been thwarted by restaurants co-opting the space around the fountains and general disuse, not to mention a thick “keep out” chain that was installed around the Central Place fountain.

Although Halprin couldn’t be reached before press time, UVA landscape architecture professor Beth Meyer agrees that his original idea for the fountains has been derailed.

Halprin, says Meyer–a specialist in 20th Century public landscapes–designed several significant American urban spaces, such as San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square, Portland, Oregon’s Auditorium Forecourt and Lovejoy Plaza, Seattle’s Freeway Park, and, of course, our Downtown Mall. “All of these spaces had fountains and pools that invited participation,” says Meyer. “From sitting on or stepping into a basin to jumping from stone to stone across a pool and immersing oneself in a waterfall.” In addition, Meyer says the Downtown Mall is one of Halprin’s finest works. “It is one of a few places in the United States where a pedestrian street has worked economically and socially,” she says. ” Granted, it has benefited from a populace that has valued it and cared for it even when it was not yet economically vital.”

Meyer, who spoke to Halprin about his Charlottesville work some years ago, says he did have plans for a large participatory fountain plaza at the east end of the Mall where the amphitheater went up, but the scheme was too costly for the City.

“But they did include the small fountain at Central Place,” she says. ” I first saw the Mall in the mid 1970s. The fountain was on, the basin full, and there were families gathered around it. When I moved here to teach in 1993, the fountain was not chained. The water was not always on, but when it was, it attracted people.” More