The Dell at the University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA

The Dell is an 11-acre landscape transformation that resurrects a buried stream, turns neglected lowland into a state-of-the-art stormwater management system, and establishes diverse wildlife habitat. The park functions as a demonstration landscape and Virginia-native ecobotanic garden.

This multi-faceted collaborative project transforms the Dell valley in several ways: it converts a neglected landscape into a beautiful retention pond surrounded by meandering walks and contemplative sitting places; it creates a native Virginia botanical garden; it restores a section of piped stream to a naturalized profile; and it provides an innovative stormwater management system for downstream projects. Thomas Jefferson recognized the Dell stream as an important source of water for his new university and purchased the land including the hill above as part of the University’s original holdings. The sylvan landscape became a recreational haven for the University community. The stream was piped during the 1950s – a common practice. Back in daylight, the 1200 linear foot section of stream now cascades into a precisely calibrated pond whose geometries reflect the order of the University grid established by Jefferson and the meander of Piedmont stream morphology. Referred to as the “New Dell,” the park attracts people from the surrounding University and community neighborhoods for a wide range of recreational activity. Wildlife sightings have been numerous and the New Dell is emerging as an exemplar of innovative regional stormwater management.

Collaborators: Biohabitats of Virginia and Maryland, Nitsch Engineering, VMDO Architects