According to The Daily Progress, State Farm has added a green roof to its regional heardquarters in Charlottesville. State Farm’s 367,000-square-foot building on Pantops will have Creech and Weinstephaner Sedum on a small 1,500 square foot corner of the roof. The green roof will reduce rainwater runoff, cool the building in the summer, warm it in the winter, and increase the longevity of the roof.

A few months ago I berated State Farm for releasing a commercial that poked fun at people riding bicycles to work. It look as though they are using the green roof to clean up the agency’s image among environmentally conscious people. It’s a good start, but I’m not buying it. I don’t know how many levels the State Farm building is, but it seems as though the 1,500 square foot green roof will only cover a small fraction of the building’s roof. I’ll be impressed when they cover at least 50% of their roof.


Yesterday I wrote a letter to the editor at the Daily News Leader with the hope that it would be published in today’s paper. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard anything from the editorial staff, and my letter was not published. Nevertheless, my message will be heard today…

The Frontier Culture Museum has done an excellent job of preserving the culture of our ancestors, and the Museum exemplifies Staunton’s ideals and values. However, the Frontier Culture Museum’s new retail development, The Centre at Staunton, seems contradictory to the Museum’s preservation efforts as it threatens the City’s economic, environmental, and cultural fabric.

The Centre at Staunton is a clear case of private benefits versus public costs. The Frontier Culture Museum will benefit from its property leases and the influx of patrons to the Museum. The City will benefit from the increase in retail sales and the rise of tourism. Local residents will benefit from the variety of new shopping and employment opportunities.

Unfortunately, the long-term costs of the development will be shifted to the general public and future generations. The new stores will increase traffic and greenhouse gas emissions since it is only reachable via car. The new rooftops and parking lots will increase the stormwater runoff into our local streams and stormwater drains. The new retail center will be another piece of the haphazard strip of development which visually disconnects Richmond Road from the rest of the City. The retail center will detract from downtown Staunton as shoppers abandon the local businesses in favor of the more familiar national chains and big-box stores.

The City and its residents have invested endless amounts of time, money, and energy into the renovation of downtown Staunton, and we should work to protect our investment. In an age of rising energy costs, global climate change, and economic turmoil, does it make sense to develop in areas that lack infrastructure and people?

In the memory of our forefathers and Independence Day, I would like to see the Frontier Culture Museum engage the citizens of Staunton in an open, democratic forum to discuss the issues of the new development. We owe it to ourselves, our predecessors, and future Stauntonians to evaluate the best land use for the Frontier Culture Museum’s property.

Great tips on how to avoid being sweaty at work.

The following is the complete editorial from this morning’s Daily News Leader. The editorial staff defends the Frontier Culture Museum and The Centre at Staunton.

Staff writer Lauren Fulbright’s story on a retail center proposed for what are now rolling hills in front of the Frontier Culture Museum had people talking when it appeared Wednesday morning.

Why does Staunton need another large retail center, viewers asked? What about the beautiful vista? And oh, no, they’ll have to tear down the beautiful old DeJarnette Center buildings!

Whether a fan of green space or upscale shopping, we each have a voice in this battle — and that’s a sign of a healthy community. We remember well the first run the Frontier Culture Museum board of trustees took at leasing a chunk of its land.

It was in the late 1990s. Sheetz Inc. was in negotiations with the museum board to lease part of the 40-acre parcel granted to the museum as state surplus in 1997. The lease made sense for the museum, which seemed to have stalled as a destination with its heritage farmsteads. Sheetz would pay $90,000 a year to lease the three acres. It was a 10-year lease, and in the end, Sheetz made the following promises:

  • Make contributions to the American Frontier Culture Foundation.
  • Help support promotions of museum programs.
  • Advertise the museum and its events on its own signs, such as those on gas pumps.
  • Include architectural, signage and landscaping agreements.

You might remember the vocal community dialogue that went on about those promises made, some of them kept.

But also consider this: In America we have the right to do with our property as we please — within zoning regulations and other relevant laws. And also consider that after Sheetz finally was constructed in 2001, the museum board went back and forth with developers on proposals to redevelop the empty former DeJarnette buildings — and after years of wrangling, couldn’t even find someone to buy them and tear them down.

So here we have Petrie Ross Ventures willing to lease the rest of that 40-acre piece of ground and build the retail center. Centre at Staunton is what it’s called on the company’s Web site.

Don’t like it? Don’t shop there. But understand that plenty of shoppers probably will. The economy, we hope, will turn around, and tour buses will be able to pull off Interstate 81 or 64, line up along the streets and, we also hope, tool on down to downtown Staunton — after a few hours at the Frontier Culture Museum.

Plastic city. Cookie-cutter development. It’ll look like Anytown USA. We’re sure we’ll hear more complaints about the development, and that’s fine.

But when Waynesboro went box store and Wal-Mart opened there, Staunton sure didn’t like its sales tax revenues dropping while Waynesboro’s went up.

Opinions expressed in this feature represent the majority opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board, consisting of: Roger Watson, president and publisher; David Fritz, executive editor; Cindy Corell, community conversations editor; and Jim McCloskey, editorial cartoonist.

Earlier today Lauren Fulbright of the Daily News Leader reported that the Frontier Culture museum is negotiating a lease agreement with Petrie Ross Ventures, an Annapolis-based development firm, to build a shopping center on 40 acres of land owned by the Museum.

The new development, if it passes several stages of approval, will be called the Centre at Staunton. The property in question is situated along Route 250 and next to the Sheetz gas station. Eight and a half acres of this land has already been leased to a company called Awasawa, which plans to build an artisan center on the site. The DeJarnette Center is also located on this parcel (a historic landmark I have discussed many times in the past), and it sounds as if the development firm will have to knock it down to make room for their mixed-use development with “retail, banking, restaurants, theater/artisans center, museum and hospitality.”

Translation: big-box stores, chain restaurants, and parking spaces.

I’m not shocked by this announcement because the Frontier Culture Museum, including former Mayor John Avoli, has tried to entice other developers to purchase this parcel of land. According to Fulbright “the museum spent three years negotiating with a company called Dierman/Regency to put a retail center on the site, the deal fell through about a year and a half ago.”

However, I must say that I’m disappointed in this news for several reasons:

  • The DeJarnette Center will be demolished: I’m an advocate for historic preservation, smart growth, adaptive re-use, and infill development. Historic buildings, including the DeJarnette Center, can teach us about the past, and help us find ways to build a brighter future.The DeJarnette Center may have a sullied reputation, but its architecture is astonishing and unmatched by anything we build today. Plus, the building has already been constructed (although it could use a few touch-ups) and the infrastructure is in place so the developers and the City don’t have to spend additional money on new materials and utilities. The developers want to build a hotel on the property — why not leave the DeJarnette Center and turn it into an attractive and unique hotel? Just look at how attractive the Villages at Staunton will be!
  • The new development will mar the entrance corridor: Local officials for the City of Staunton have been working on an Entrance Corridor Overlay District that will restrict the types of development that can occur in the City’s entrance corridors. The Overlay District is intended to beautify the City; protect cultural, scenic, and natural resources; and promote sustainable development. The Frontier Culture Museum is situated along Route 250 and Interstate 81, one of the biggest corridors in the City. This area is already dominated with big-box retailers and chain restaurants. The open green space on the Museum’s property served as pleasant reminder of the area’s rural character, and it was a great entrance because it clearly delineated the City’s boundary. Tourists and motorists knew when they were leaving the County and entering the City. The new development will blur this line and deminish the land’s ascetic values.
  • The development will pull business away from Downtown Staunton: The Centre at Staunton? First of all, we’re in the United States not the United Kingdom. We say “center” not “centre.” Petrie Ross Ventures completely ignored the local (actually national) vernacular. However, they were very clever in their attempt to use British terminology to disguise the fact that they are adding to Staunton/Augusta County’s sprawl and haphazard commercial strip. The “Centre at Staunton” is laughable because it is not located in the center of the City, and if this development is built it will only draw business away from the City’s center, its historic downtown. The development should be called the “Periphery at Staunton: On the outside looking in.”

The City of Staunton is fortunate to have a vibrant downtown district with beautiful buildings, thriving businesses, and a strong sense of community. It takes decades for areas like Staunton to develop organically, and once it’s gone it’s difficult to replace. City officials, local residents, and developers should make stronger efforts to protect this unique area. If I could impart one message to Petrie Ross Ventures and the City of Staunton it would be: Grow in not out. We should try to reinforce the City’s urban core while conserving the periphery.

Plus, in a time of rising gas prices doesn’t it make more sense to develop more walkable communities?

I will write more on this issue later in the week once I’ve had more time to examine the developer’s proposal and think about the pertinent issues.

A few weeks ago a reader linked me to‘s website showing renderings of the University’s current and future athletic projects. I’ve covered several of these projects in the past (Bridgeforth Stadium expansion and baseball stadium), so I thought I share some of these renderings with you.

Bridgeforth Stadium Football Expansion
  • The demolition of the existing west stands (Home side) of Bridgeforth Stadium and the re-construction of a two-tiered complex in its place.

  • Construction of 4200 permanent seats, restrooms and concessions in the north end zone.
  • Additional phase I seating will total 9,100 bringing total capacity to 24,878.
  • New premium seating such as suites and club seats
  • Additional seating that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Increased fan amenities such as concourses, concessions and restrooms.
  • Relocated press box in the west stands.
  • Increased stadium lighting.
Memorial Hall Baseball and Softball Fields

  • A redesign of the stadium.
  • The baseball/softball piece of the facility is currently in design and construction is scheduled to begin in late 2008.
  • Both programs will open their respective facilities for play in spring 2010.
  • Finalized plans and architectural drawings will be available in late spring 2008

New Convocation Center
  • A potential expansion of UREC and the enclosure of the existing synthetic mult-purpose field.
  • The creation of additional synthetic recreation fields.
  • A new convocation center to be located on the site of the current softball field.
  • A reconstitution of the current Convocation Center to serve both athletic and recreation needs.
Port Republic Intramural Fields
  • Shared stadium/press box for field hockey, soccer and lacrosse.
  • Practice fields for field hockey, soccer and lacrosse.
  • Space for the track and field program.
  • Office and locker room space for a majority of athletic programs.
  • Recreation space to serve existing off-campus student housing.

President George W. Bush will make an appearance at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, for Independence Day and a naturalization ceremony! Surprise!

Bush’s Monticello visit will be a fourth by a commander-in-chief to Mr. Jefferson’s house. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first in 1936, followed by Harry Truman in 1947, and Gerald Ford, who chose to celebrate America’s 1976 bicentennial at the home of the Declaration of Independence’s author on July 5.

Love him or hate him you have to give Bush some credit for his taste in architecture. Monticello is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world as it is a World Heritage Site.

Alright, I know what you’re thinking — I don’t want to wash my hands with the water I use in the toilet. But why not? The water we use in our toilets is actually the same water we drink out of the faucet (unless you’re into bottled water).

We have a toilet sink at my work and I think it’s great. You save water and it forces you to reconsider how you use water for other daily chores. Why do we use clean drinking water in our toilets? Why do we use our clean drinking water to water our gardens?

Even if you’re not a fan of the toilet sink, you have to admire it because it makes you think about your daily water consumption.

Eight colleges have been awarded U.S. Green Building Council grants for programs that teach about sustainable construction:

  • Cornell University received a grant for a program in which students will go out of the classroom to understand the broad scope of green building practice.
  • The Eastern Iowa Community College District received a grant for a green-construction-technologies program it is creating within its Renewable Energy Systems Technician program.
  • Grand Valley State University received a grant for its comprehensive campus sustainability program, which is intended to engage students and the community.
  • Santa Fe Community College received a grant for an online course to visually document the entire process of building an energy-efficient house that generates its power off the grid.
  • The University of Maine at Farmington received a grant for a program that uses sustainable buildings on the campus to teach students about green building.
  • The University of Texas at Austin received a grant for a program in which students will create innovative and sustainable housing located in Austin’s alleys.
  • The University of Virginia received a grant for a program in which students create sustainable, modular, affordable housing units.
    • ecoMOD: A multi-year research and design / build / evaluate project at the School of Architecture, in partnership with the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science. Over the next several years, UVA students and faculty are designing and building several 400 to 1,500 square foot ecological, modular and affordable housing units.
  • Yavapai College received a grant for its residential-technology building program.

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