BAR approves demolition of Main Street Arena, Escafe sites for innovation hub
The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review on Tuesday unanimously approved demolition of the Main Street Arena. In a separate vote, the board also approved the destruction of the building housing Escafe, though that vote was not unanimous.
The connected properties are located within the Downtown Architectural Design Control district and, as such, require BAR approval to be demolished.
Though it sits in the control district, the arena was erected in 1995, said Camie Mess, a historic preservation planner with the city.
“The applicant is requesting approval for the demolition of the existing surface so that the property can be used for a mixed-use retail and office project,” Mess said. “The Main Street Arena is a newer building in the downtown ADC district, and it is a contemporary building with no historic significance in terms of the standards of demolition.”
Architect Fred Wolf represented Taliaferro Junction, the limited liability corporation that purchased the building earlier this year from Mark Brown for $5.7 million. He said the structure will remain for some time.
“There’s absolutely no demolition that is going to be happening any time before next year,” Wolf said. “If something were going to change, I think we would come to you with some sort of phased plan.”
Wolf said there is no design for the future building.
BAR Chairman Melanie Miller asked what would happen to the solar panels that were installed on the roof in 2012.
“We haven’t gone that far in terms of planning,” Wolf said. “I know there are ongoing discussions about other parts of the building and how those might be recycled and repurposed. I have a hard time believing that a product with that value would not be captured and reused.”
City resident Rebecca Quinn pointed out that City Council recently designated the section of the Downtown Mall outside the arena as the future Vinegar Hill Park.
“I am sure I am not the only one to see an opportunity between a new design, a new building and the intent of Vinegar Hill Park,” she said.
Quinn asked the BAR to keep this in mind as they consider what replaces the Main Street Arena.
“The arena is squarely on land that was formerly occupied by African-American businesses,” Quinn said. “I am sure that the architects and the historic resources people see lots of creative opportunity to help this city do more justice to Vinegar Hill.”
Wolf, a former BAR member and current member of the PLACE Design Task Force, said he appreciated Quinn’s comments.
“The new owner has the interest in actively trying to engage that and to see if there is a partnership,” Wolf said. “The dynamic nature of this site is a great spot and a critical one in terms of connecting the mall, Water Street and West Main.”
Many members of the BAR said they did not mind losing the original building.
“I will be sad for its loss, but it is not historic,” said BAR Member Carl Schwarz.
“I’ll miss the rink, but not the building,” said BAR member Tim Mohr, who has played hockey there. “The opportunity to really make this more urban and deal with buildings like the Omni [Charlottesville Hotel] that [aren’t] very urban makes this an opportunity to really change the nature of that end of the mall.”
It was unclear Tuesday how many board members had voted against razing the Escafe restaurant.