BAR conditionally approves demolition of downtown Charlottesville building

The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review has approved the demolition of a former gas station on West Market Street that has been the home of Brown’s Lock and Safe, but it will take some time before the structure is removed. 

“Built in 1935 and was renovated sometime in the mid 1960’s,” said Jeff Werner, the city’s historic preservation planner. 

The building is a contributing structure to the Charlottesville and Albemarle County Historic Courthouse District, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in July 1982. The BAR must weigh in on demolition requests as well as whatever use may take place on the site. (read the nomination form)

“There’s nothing about the building that is remarkable in terms of craftsmanship or materials,” Werner said. “It could easily be duplicated. A cinder block building in Charlottesville is not unusual.”

There are no plans for what would replace the building, but it’s next to 218 West Market Street which will be demolished to make way for the Market Promenade residential building. 

“The demolition is requested in order to facilitate redevelopment of the site and I don’t know what the plan is for this and the building may well remain in use until that time.”

Werner said that with the case of 218 West Market Street, a building permit was required to be issued before demolition could begin. That permit has not yet been issued, according to the city’s building permit database

Jeff Dreyfus of Bushman Dreyfus Architects represents Heirloom Development, the developer of Six Hundred West Main and what be known as Market Promenade at 218 West Market Street. He said Heirloom wants to possibly include 210 West Market as part of that project. 

“The current owner signed the application [and] there is an agreement to move forward with sale of the property under a number of conditions,” Dreyfus said. “One of them is if the building can be demolished.”

Dreyfus said his client would be willing to places conditions on their demolition permit.

“We wouldn’t take the building down until we were ready to move forward with the construction project,” Dreyfus said. 

Dreyfus said design of Market Promenade is still in the works and has been delayed by the COVID pandemic. 

BAR member Cheri Lewis said she would support a vote to demolish, but not without some sadness.

“I think this application does satisfy all of the criteria for demolition,” Lewis said. “I wouldn’t say that I don’t have another twinge of regret seeing another little blast from the plase like the watchmaker’s building on Water Street gone from the landscape.”

Lewis noted that all of Vinegar Hill was razed on a speculative basis by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority in the 1960’s.  She said she was glad of the condition to require a building permit before this structure and the one next door at 218 come down. 

“We demolished an entire community in Charlottesville and had nothing to replace it with and I think we need to learn from that and never do that again,” Lewis said. 

The motion passed.

Two photos of 210 East Market Street from two different eras (Credit: City of Charlottesville) 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the August 25, 2022 edition of the program

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