Charlottesville and other college towns (Richmond, Blacksburg: transplants, real estate, renting)
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We live in expensive Massachusetts and have a fantasy of moving to Virginia to a progressive college town such as Charlottesville. We are looking to find out what it's really like to live there or in other similar towns, how expensive it is, and what the quality of life is.
Oh, you will probably really like C'ville. It is considered expensive- relatively- but no where near what you in Mass. are used to, I know you have wicked property taxes there too. You could prob sell what you have up there and do great down here.
UVA is a beautiful campus in the start of Blue Ridge Mt area. The downtown mall is nice, lotsa restaurants, stores, live music, very progressive. People are generally more educated in the area. It's a beautiful location with many national forests, hiking. Definitely worth seeing for yourself.
I am a Charlottesville resident and love it here. It truly is a wonderful place to live, especially for outdoor enthusiasts. I must caution you though, living in Charlottesville is NOT cheap. In fact, you may find it comparable to your expensive Massachussetts residence.
I went to grad school in Charlottesville and would have stayed if I could have found a job, but at the time there was nothing. I haven't been back much in the last 5 years, but every time I go back, it seems like they've built it up more and more. You know, sprawly. Of course you can still live in a more countrified part, or in the downtown area. I've heard that traffic there has even gotten pretty bad. While it's certainly progressive compared to everywhere around it in Virginia, it's probably not as progressive as many places in Mass. - Amherst for example. I'm sure it's still a great place to live, but now that I've been in Northern VA for so many years, C-ville does seem a bit "provincial."
My wife is from Charlottesville and my in-laws are still there. On balance, it is a wonderful place to live. It is much as has been described - progressive (especially for Virginia), beautiful natural setting and amenities, excellent quality of life.
While I think you could be happy there, please be aware that Charlottesville has been "discovered", especially after it's "Number 1" ranking in the "Best Places" list. MANY people from up north, from Northern Virginia, DC, New York, etc. have moved to Charlottesville, which has had the side effect of significantly raising the property values. It is likely cheaper than Massachussetts, but it may not be as cheap as you think (especially in the City of Charlottesville itself, which is the true progressive core, but with the most real estate appreciation). Traffic has been increasing, and the sprawl of DC/Northern Virginia is marching its way down on US Route 29 though Culpeper. This is in addition to Charlottesville's own sprawl towards DC and Richmond (which is to the east). If/when you travel down US 29 into town, you will see a long commercial mass of strip malls, fast food chains, and big boxes before you get into the city. This growth will only continue so long as the local economy and job market remain strong. Do not be shocked if in 10 years or so that you may be bemoaning how Charlottesville isn't what it "used to be". The city itself may be like Amherst or Burlington (VT), but don't expect everything in the greater region to be like a southern version western Massachussetts or Vermont (i.e., small towns scattered across green, rural regions). At least not for long.
That being said, I still think it could be a good mood for you, if you keep an open mind that the region is rapidly growing and will likely effectively merge in 10-20 years with the DC and perhaps Richmond metropolitan areas.
I'm actually relocating to Charlottesville for school.
I plan on moving there next fall and I'm interested in buying a place rather than renting. Can anyone give me any sort of insight into the areas I might like (mid-30s) and the price ranges? Going through the web I have no idea where any of the town are located.
Just a thought...I've read many similar posts on this forum (fill in the blank with city/state). It never ceases to amaze me that people are unable (or unwiling) to make the connection that their views/lifestyle might have contributed to the things they are now escaping from. For example, I have read many posters from the more liberal states (NY, MA, CA, etc.) say they wanted to move away to a more rural environment with an old-fashioned quality of life, but then are quick to add that it must also be "progressive" in either attitudes, places to eat, cultural amenities, etc. Hello? Maybe being liberal/progressive isn't conducive to the quality of life or lifestyle you are looking for? Maybe it is because of liberal politics/social mores that your current town has become somewhere you don't want to live anymore. Things don't happen in a vaccum - there's a reason for the "problems" many of these states have, and maybe we have only ourselves to blame for supporting a system which has created it, and instead of rebelling against it, we run away. Sorry if this sounds too preachy, but I just wish people would give more thought to why a place/state/city is the way it is, and think about what they could do to contribute positvely to the next place they end up living so it doesn't become just like one of the places they just left.
We moved to Staunton, VA three years ago and just love it. Staunton is on the other side of Charlottesville, in the Shendandoah Valley. We live in one of the five historic districts in this wonderfuly preserved city of about 25,000. Is Staunton progressive? It's moving that direction and went for the Dem candidate for Governor in the last election. My husband and I are both quite liberal and have found no difficulty whatsoever finding like minded people here.
The city government is quite good. We have a re-creation of the Blackfriars Theatre here and a wonderful performing group. The Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and soon to be built Presidential Library is right around the corner from us. We have wonderful music festivals from chamber, classical, to blue grass and jazz. We also have wonderful restaurants. Shopping isn't the greatest, but people here dress mainly in a country tweedy way.
We no longer have children of school age but others we know with children are very happy with the schools. Stuart Hall is a wonderful boarding/day school and we have many friends with children there. But many of the teens bound for the Ivies transfer to the local public high school and are finding what they need there. There are many, many programs here for children, whether sports, art, music, or theater. I wish I could have reared our son here, but with my husband at the State Dept., there was no way he could commute each day!
Staunton is the county seat of Augusta County. Mary Baldwin College is here, as well as the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, one of the oldest of its type in the country. There is a large group of professional adults fromt he former two institutionas as well as a major psychiactric hospital and a rehabilitation center. Crime is VERY low, and it is safe to enjoy the public park at night.
You would find housing prices VERY low here compared to Mass. And compared to Charlottesville. And as I mentioned before, there are five historic districts here and national, state, and local tax incentives for restoration. Historic Staunton Foundation is a very active group here.
The city is very up and down hill and is most compact. It takes us about five minutes to get to virtually anywhere in town. But we are also in the country in about five minutes!
We chose to move here, and are delighted that we did. Staunton is not only welcoming, but accepting. And the population here is a mixture of Old Virginia and transplants from all over the US. Everyone seems to get along very well.
We initially thought we would be going over to Charlottesville and down to Lexington for a change of pace. Both are about 45 minutes away. But we stay so busy here and there is so much to do that we don't want to leave Staunton. And BTW, Garrison Keillor was here the end of September :-). What a treat!
Charlottesville is all the neat things that people say it is. But we much prefer Staunton for the managability of the place and the ease with which we can enjoy the cultural amenities. And it is such a friendly place. Do a seach on Staunton!
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