Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

All about Community

One real estate company that opened on the South Side during the recent boompainted its back wall with lots of friendly and encouraging terms that seemlike core values of an ideal company as upstanding member of a community. Infact, I think "Community" is one of their catch-terms along with such other novel concepts as "Integrity," "Passion," "Commitment," and "Family."

Walking by their storefront operation, I have always wondered if those terms are intended as reminders to their staff of core values that their employer honestly and demonstrably espouses, or if those are simply some words a focus group found gets people "in the mood" to buy overpriced real estate.

Given the almost entirely deleterious effect of the rampant and often predatory speculation that has transformed the neighborhood, I would doubt the former. Also given the ubiquity of equally admirable but transparently meaningless terms such as "authenticity" in real estate advertising, I imagine they must believe that it pays to seem like one really, really cares. Or perhaps they think they don't fit the stereotype and want us all (or at least their customers) to think they're a different kind of realtor; one that is more interested in building communities than in laundering hedge fund bonuses.

I really, really want to think the best of people, but some make it so much harder than it needs to be. One small thing this particular enterprise could do to help fool me into thinking they care about the neighborhood is simply shoveling their sidewalk, as they are legally obligated to do.In fact, they're almost always the last business on the Southside not to performthis small civic duty--and the Southside is not exactly known for its commitment to clean streets. If I recall correctly, they have sat out just about everysnowstorm this season.

What makes it more pathetic is that of all business ventures out there inthe world, one would think that a realtor would have a thick rolodex ofhandymen and maintenance-types they could call upon. They ought also be well versed in the laws--formal and otherwise--that govern storefront sidewalk maintenance, not to mention the ways of smart business. One would equally suppose they ought to have a clue about what it means to be part of a community.

At least their wall says they're all about it.

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