A planned office building that would transform the western end of the Downtown Mall is expected to be under construction soon — and owners of nearby businesses are watching closely. The project team for the Center of Developing Entrepreneurs on Thursday gave the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville a briefing on the mixed-use project at the group’s annual meeting. CODE will replace the Main Street Arena and some adjacent buildings on the Downtown Mall. The project is owned by Jaffray Woodriff, co-founder of Quantitative Investment Management and an angel investor in many local technology startups. Woodriff’s Quantitative Foundation recently donated $120 million to establish a new school of data science at the University of Virginia.
CODE is designed as a sloped, triangular building that rises from a two-story entrance on the Downtown Mall to seven stories as it approaches Water Street. The center of the building opens into a courtyard with a sunken water feature and amphitheater. The rooftop is divided into a series of terraces with greenery and outdoor workspaces. Andrew Boninti, president of CSH Development, said the interior of the building is designed to facilitate “collision of people” and the exchange of ideas. “You’re going to have people from all different businesses coming together and running into each other,” Boninti said. “It brings together the young person who is just getting started and renting a little booth … with the CEO that has one of the more successful businesses in our community.” CODE has reserved space for several retail businesses, including a bar in the main lobby of the building. Boninti said CODE will have several lunch windows that will allow local food entrepreneurs to test their concepts in a shared kitchen space. CODE includes about 170,000 square feet of office and retail space, along with an auditorium that can seat up to 225 people. The building is expected to host more than 600 people in early-stage technology startups, co-working spaces and larger business headquarters. While CODE has yet to announce its first tenant, Boninti said several local businesses have expressed interest in relocating to the facility. Fred Wolf, a principal at Wolf Ackerman Architects, said CODE needs only a few more administrative approvals from the city of Charlottesville in order for construction to begin. The project is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2021.
A fence recently was installed around the Main Street Arena in preparation for its demolition. Brickwork is starting to be removed from the arena and some portions of the former Carytown Tobacco building. Mike Castle, a project executive at Hourigan, said both lanes on Water Street will remain open during construction, although seven parallel parking spaces near the former Escafé restaurant will be lost temporarily. The pedestrian entrance to the Downtown Mall near the Omni Charlottesville Hotel also will be kept open, Castle said. Several business owners at the DBAC meeting asked about the parking that would be provided for people working at CODE. Boninti said CODE will create 74 parking spaces in a new underground lot. He said his team has secured access to additional offsite parking but did not specify where or how many spaces it would offer. “There is no requirement for parking if you are building on the Downtown Mall,” Boninti said. “We think we did a pretty good job.” Roy Van Doorn, treasurer for DBAC, said he welcomed the arrival of CODE and the business it could bring to the Downtown Mall. “It’s exciting when a local company and a local owner really looks at what the community needs,” Van Doorn said.