313 East Main St. - Storefront to be renovated for Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen Credit: Photo: City of Charlottesville

The former location of the Blue Ridge Eco Shop on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall will soon be home to a Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen.

The franchise will join two other chocolate-oriented shops on the mall, but first the owner of the building at 313 East Main St. wants to flatten the storefront’s angled windows and move the entrance doors closer to the face of the mall. [click to see proposal]

The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review held a preliminary discussion on the matter Tuesday.

“We want to remodel, and we want for you to approve it,” owner Charlie Kabbash told the Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review. “We want to know if anyone has an objection to straightening the windows out.”

The board must weigh whether the existing storefront is historically significant enough to require preservation.

Bill Bailey of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate said the existing storefront would not work for the intended purpose. “The ambiance and beauty of this product [come] partly from watching it being made,” said Bailey. “With the storefront pushed in,” passers-by wouldn’t be able to see the chocolate-making process.

The franchise, which has been around since 1947 and has 100 stores, adapts each store to the requirements of its location, according to Joe Benney from Kilwins Chocolate.

As for “demolishing” the storefront, Kabbash told the BAR that the term was too extreme.

“We are not demolishing the storefront; rather, we are remodeling it,” said Kabbash.

Board member Carl Schwartz agreed and said he sees no problem in making the changes.

Kurt Keesecker, a planning commissioner who also serves on the BAR, said that Kilwins’ design team would have to address the integration between old and new on the Downtown Mall.

The board agreed to consider a formal application to reconstruct the storefront, to be heard at a future meeting.
 

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