A New Home for the Humanities in Virginia
Announcing Plans to Open a Public Humanities Center in Charlottesville’s Historic Monticello Dairy Building
Virginia Humanities has announced plans to relocate its headquarters in early 2021 to Dairy Central, Charlottesville’s historic former Monticello Dairy building at Grady and Preston avenues. More than an office, the new Virginia Humanities center and headquarters is being designed as a welcoming space for public discussions, programs, exhibitions, and educational opportunities.
“We take pride in bringing people together—right now, virtually, and one day, hopefully soon, in person again—to talk about issues facing all Virginians, building resources that highlight inclusive histories, and documenting and sharing Virginia’s rich cultural heritage,” says Matthew Gibson, Virginia Humanities’ executive director. “In this new location, we will be better able to engage Virginians with this work.”
The new center will be fully ADA compliant, accessible by public transit, and centrally located closer to Charlottesville’s downtown. The public will be able to more easily attend grant-writing workshops, talks by authors and visiting speakers, and more, once those activities resume. The new location will also help Virginia Humanities expand its paid internship program, especially for local students of color interested in careers in cultural grantmaking, documentation, and preservation.
Dairy Central is located in 10th & Page, a historically Black neighborhood that includes Westhaven, a public housing community built in 1964 for residents displaced after the City’s decision to raze the thriving Black neighborhood of Vinegar Hill. “We’re conscious of this history and we are also aware of the positive and negative impacts that a development like Dairy Central can have on a neighborhood,” says Gibson. “We want to be an asset to the community and be good and collaborative neighbors.”
Mary Coleman, executive director of City of Promise, is looking forward to having Virginia Humanities as a new neighbor. City of Promise works in the 10th & Page and Westhaven neighborhood to increase access to community resources for local youth. “We envision a partnership with Virginia Humanities that could certainly include use of the physical space,” she says. “But more importantly, we hope to work with them to promote learning and elevate community voices.”
The move, originally planned for early fall 2020, was postponed due to COVID-19-related delays. The newly remodeled, multi-use development is managed by Stony Point Development Group and will also feature restaurants, retail, and residential apartment housing.
SMBW Architects, a Richmond-based firm, is working in collaboration with the University of Virginia to design Virginia Humanities’ new office within Dairy Central. “The vision for Virginia Humanities’ new workplace resonates deeply with our own values as a community-minded design firm. We are incredibly excited to be on the team,” says Tamara Van Meter, Principal of Interior Design at SMBW. “The new location will provide agile meeting spaces, recording studios, and a dynamic, collaborative workplace for the Virginia Humanities staff.”
Thanks to individual donors, the University of Virginia, and foundations including the Cabell Foundation, Perry Foundation, Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, and the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, Virginia Humanities is already three-quarters of the way towards completing an ambitious $1.7 million capital campaign to finance the move.
“The new office will dramatically improve our visibility and accessibility, and make it easier to work with our local and statewide partners including the University of Virginia, all of which will substantially deepen our impact to support and amplify the stories of Virginians from across the state,” says Gibson.
About Virginia Humanities
Virginia Humanities is the state humanities council. We aim to tell the stories of all Virginians—or, better yet, find ways for people to tell their own stories. We want to connect Virginians with their history and culture and, in doing that, help bring us all a bit closer together. Virginia Humanities is headquartered in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia, but our work covers the Commonwealth. Founded in 1974, we are one of fifty-six organizations created by the National Endowment for the Humanities to make the humanities available to all Americans. To learn more visit VirginiaHumanities.org.
About Dairy Central
Dairy Central is a new mixed-use urban district within walking distance of downtown Charlottesville and the University of Virginia at the corner of 10th Street and Preston Avenue. The centerpiece of the multi-phase project features the adaptive reuse of the historic 1937 Monticello Dairy facility. A destination food hall with unique local restauranteurs, national retailers and a craft brewery will anchor Phase 1 of the neighborhood hub and create an amenity for 50,000 SF of new Class A office space. Future phases include up to 300 residential apartments, additional retail and structured parking on site. Dairy Central is being managed by Stony Point Development Group. John Pritzlaff and Jenny Stoner of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer handled the lease negotiations with Virginia Humanities on behalf of Dairy Central.