The cost of living...well: <I>La dolce vita</I> in Charlottesville


They're here among us. You see them strolling the Downtown Mall on a Friday night– chatting, laughing, and generally acting like everybody else.

They blend in so well that unless you get a glimpse of their portfolios, you'd never know their little secret. They're millionaires, that's what they are, and they're out spending their money– lots of it. But thanks to Charlottesville's casual vibe and "everyone drives a Volvo" mentality, those Richie Riches manage to slip in among the little people, making it easy for us to forget that all local bank accounts are not created equal.

While officially the median Albemarle County family income is about $66K– which ranks us just 16th among Virginia localities– a look around suggests that income may not be a prerequisite for luxurious living. Maybe it's wealth.

This year, nearly 100 area properties will change hands above the $1 million mark. And last month, a New York money management firm opened a branch here– its first office outside Gotham– because its research shows Charlottesville-Albemarle rife with millionaires.

Real people are buying those million-dollar properties– and not even blinking as the zeros multiply. Sure, it's not cheap to live here, but clearly high prices are a non-issue for plenty of our neighbors.

Just how much does it cost to live well really well– in Charlottesville? For those high-end, desirable demographics, The Hook has thoughtfully provided the prices for some key elements of the good life– not that they're worried about cost, of course.


6,200-square-feet near Garth Road: $1.495 million

This Georgian at 1125 Old Garth Road sports an exercise room, wine room, pool, spa, and three rolling acres– close to town.


Weekly visit from Victoria Scott to clean those 6,200-square-feet: $250-$300

That's just once a week. A full-time maid, naturally, is more.


Keswick horse farm: $10 million

Tall Oaks is 98 acres of Southwest mountain views, a lake, stables, riding trails, and an antebellum manor with eight fireplaces and an art studio.


Furnished rental: $4,500 a month

Too busy to get involved in the seller's paradise of the current house-for-sale frenzy? Try 437 Wellington Drive on the prestigious near west side of town in Ednam Forest.


Volvo XC90: $50,000

What would Jefferson Drive? Maybe a fully loaded Volvo SUV from the only dealership conveniently located within shouting distance of Farmington Country Club.


Vanishing-edge gunnite pool from Charlottesville Aquatics: up to $80,000

Remember high-flying international thief Terry Dowdell? After taking investors for a $120 million ride, he lost his freedom and his Ivy-area house– which included a custom pool from this company.


A year at St. Anne's-Belfield: $17,100

Tuition for 11th and 12th graders rivals that of some colleges. (Kindergarten, however, is $8,050.)


John Paul Jones skybox: $65,000 a year

For that, UVA will throw in tickets and elusive and exclusive on-site parking at the still under-construction John Paul Jones Arena. (Scott Stadium skyboxes– if there were any available– max out at just $57,000.)


Membership in Farmington Country Club: $27,800

And that doesn't include the monthly dues and fees, which can top $400 a month for a family. The good news is that if you decide to quit, you get back $1,000. Oh, membership by invitation only.


Insta-lawn from Snow's: $24,000

In a hurry? That's the price for acre of sod. Installation's extra.


Dinner for two at Fleurie: $250

Squab baked in puffed pastry with foie gras, washed down with an $87 bottle of Champbolle-Musigny. Save room for dessert.


Private jet at CHO: $6.2 million

The Piaggio Avanti is the world's fastest turbo prop and this one belongs to Massanutten-owner Dice Hammer. The Charlottesville Airport recently had to add another "general aviation"– i.e., private plane– terminal to keep up with demand for wings for those hops to the islands.


Board your horse for a year: $9,000 plus

That's an average among several local stables that includes feed, stall, water, daily turning out, and use of an arena. Not included: shoeing, veterinary bills, supplements, and lessons.


Farmington Hunt Club: $1,200

That's just an individual membership. If you're a family, it's more.


Kluge Estate Limited Edition 2000 New World Red: $495

Comes in a Lord David Linley-designed walnut box trimmed with ebony. Each of the 289 bottles available is signed by Patricia Kluge and wine consultant Gabriele Rausse.


New flip-flops from Scarpa: $275

Delman puts a quilted footbed and rhinestones– not diamonds– on its "Ursula" flip– er, thong sandals.


Your name on a museum: $15 million

The late Mr. Bayly gets to keep his name on that elegant edifice on Rugby Road, but UVA's seeking a name for the new Art Museum planned for the corner of Emmet and University.