Sunday, March 28, 2010

Belvedere to Help Co-sponsor Workshop and Public Talk: “Design for Health” With Nature and Play

Is it important for children to play unsupervised in nature?

Can we design play spaces that encourage freedom to roam in residential neighborhoods, community parks, schools, and childcare centers?

What are the child health and developmental costs of not doing this?

How can nature play contribute to learning, community identity, and growth of social capital?

Come find out at a public talk and workshop by landscape architect and nature-based educator Robin Moore and other staff of the Natural Learning Initiative.

Designing Natural Play Spaces for Healthy Children and Planet, Saturday, April 24, 2010 will teach about approaches to better children’s health through designing natural play spaces.

Moore’s public talk, Free Range Nature Play: Designing for Healthy Development of Children and Planet is scheduled for Friday, April 23, 2010. Both events are being held at the Mountaintop Montessori School, 305 Rolkin Rd., Charlottesville, VA 29911.

Play and learning in natural settings stimulates all aspects and stages of child development. Moore’s research shows that play in nature:

· encourages imagination and creativity,

· fosters language and collaborative skills,

· reduces or eliminates bullying,

· stimulates social interaction between children, and

· children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other.

Study after study about the impact of play in nature show significant increases in:

· problem-solving, science and math skills,

· standardized test scores and ecological awareness,

· self-esteem and motivation,

· concentration, delay in gratification and more.

Moore’s approach is interdisciplinary and multi-dimensional, inviting people of all ages to be in nature, especially children. His 40 years of experience has benefited childcare centers, schools, residential neighborhoods, and community facilities such as parks, museums, zoos and botanical gardens.

Families, community members, teachers, landscape and garden designers, developers and administrators of health and educational programs of all kinds should attend these events. Inspiring presentations in the morning will show activities and designs for children of different ages in different settings. Afternoon activities will teach design principles and their application in a hands-on activity. Several participants are bringing actual park plans to improve their community and schoolyards.

Fees are $10 for the public talk, and $25 for the workshop if you preregister (includes lunch). Call Ryan DeRose for more information, 434-960-4082, or go to You can also become a sponsor and have a display about your school, business or program. Rates are reasonable!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Belvedere Developer's Report

We recently had a gathering at the Hauser model home where the developers gave residents a round-up of where things stand, and upcoming activities. Here are the highlights:

1) Multi-family Development

The land slated for apartments (the second patch of bare ground as you come into Belvedere on the main drive) will be developed starting later this year. There will be an apartment community built by the Cathcart Group consisting of 294 1-2 bedroom (with some 3-bedroom units) nicely arranged around a central parking area with strip parks. The design looked very nice, with the apartments built to look somewhat like the townhomes in Belvedere - with varying elevations even within the same main building. The apartments will have their own clubhouse and pool, with trails around the development open to the public.

This is big news on its own, but it also makes possible the development of...

2) The Belvedere Town Center

This will occupy the top slice of the land next to the apartments, generally directly in front of you if you come across the Free State Bridge. The developers plan on having the infrastructure ready by the end of the year, and are taking a flexible approach to exactly what will go there. The idea is that there will be individual pads which can be built up (within the architectural guidelines, of course) by the individual builders into 1-2 story retail units, at an affordable price per square foot. Stonehaus is also hoping to attract a "destination restaurant" for somewhere in the Town Center.

What this means is we will have shops (mmmm - coffeeshop anyone?) and hopefully a restaurant within walking distance, supported by the residents of Belvedere proper and the apartment center, as well as the communities near by, like Dunlora.

The Town Center design also includes some townhouse units, and a park. The new location I think is better all around, and I can see it being a meeting place for our community, as well as an opportunity for residents who have small businesses to locate them there.

3) Signage

There will be signs posted in Belvedere soon - "Children at play", etc. These, as well as the general growing density will help keep traffic problems to a minimum. There will also be clearer indicators at the traffic circle to help direct traffic the right way around the circle.

4) Village Green

The Village Green is going to be re-done, with the large berms at either end graded down. These were a nice idea, but the effect was to visually isolate the Green from the rest of the community. The final design of the Green is open and residents were encouraged to provide ideas as to what they would like it to look like.

5) Organic Farm

This has been set back by the economic situation, as grants the farm needed to prepare the land are not available at this time. The location of the Farm on the floodplain, although very good from a soil perspective also presents challenges with access, which translates into somewhat higher startup costs.

6) Community Garden

Stonehaus is supportive of creating a community garden if there is enough interest among the residents. This would be located down near the erosion control ponds so that if it were to get a bit messy (as gardens can be) it would not be something everyone had to see up front and center.

In the meantime we talked about getting an organic farmer to come into the neighborhood on a weekly basis.

7) SOCA (Soccer Association of Charlottesville Albemarle)

SOCA has presented a design for their indoor facility just off the Village Green. Although large, it will present a fairly small elevation at street level, as the land slopes away downhill. The land has been transferred to SOCA, with the stipulation that they need to build within 5 years or it reverts to Belvedere.

The entire final SOCA plan consists of the indoor fields and SOCA offices (to be developed first), a lighted outdoor turf field, which will be open to residents, and a set of fields on the floodplain.

8) Community Building

This will be located next to the SOCA indoor facility. This would house the HOA office and Stonehaus is also hoping to attract a preschool (Montessori?) to anchor the building, and they are committed to building a general-purpose community room that could be used for events like Cub Scout meetings, parties, etc.

9) Landscaping

Stonehaus reiterated its commitment to fulfilling the landscaping outlined in the initial plans. As the community develops and cash flow improves (the banks are still very reserved about lending to developers) the various elements will be done as money and the surrounding areas permit - for instance they cannot finalize the water drainage area near the railroad tracks until the erosion control ponds are filled, and that cannot happen until the plots around them are developed to the point of not needing erosion control...

There were various other issues discussed, and a sales report which I was unable to stay for. But overall, Kate and I are encouraged by the progress and plans - we always know that Belvedere was too good an idea and location to not be finished to some extent, but it was heartening to have these plans presented, and hear the commitment on the part of the developers.

It must be spring...

The hot-air balloons are back!