Potbelly Sandwich Shop will join a string of chain restaurants to open on Charlottesville’s West Main Street, joining World of Beer, Kung Fu Tea, and Pizza Hut.
The restaurant will rent space on the ground floor of the Standard, a luxury student apartment building going up at 853 W. Main St.
On Tuesday night, Charlottesville’s Board of Architectural Review approved changes to the Standard’s façade pursuant to the restaurant, including air vents and furniture for a side patio.
More controversial than the vent was a vinyl curtain, which would shield customers sitting on the patio from winter temperatures.
“I just don’t think [the vinyl curtain] is appropriate,” said BAR Chair Melanie Miller. “It detracts from the building, and once it gets approved, there’s no teeth in saying, ‘They said it would be up November to April, but now it’s July,’ and it just becomes a permanent thing.”
The BAR allowed Potbelly to return at a later date with alternatives to the vinyl enclosure, such as windows that could fit into or roll between the patio columns in the winter.
David Duke, franchisee for the proposed shop, said he was pleased that part of the application was approved. Duke has already opened two Potbelly locations in Richmond and is planning a third.
“We just want to go ahead and get the store approved and up and running,” Duke said. “In these situations, you have a lot of money that goes into it, and any delays with getting open really hurt you and cost you tens of thousands of dollars.”
The Standard is still under construction, but is leasing apartments for the upcoming academic year. Along with apartment buildings like the Flats at West Village and hotels like the Quirk Hotel, the six-story complex is part of a new wave of development along West Main.
(Blake Hurt, who is leasing the Standard to Georgia-based Landmark Properties, is married to Carol Hurt, a member of Charlottesville Tomorrow’s board of directors).
“I like how the whole West Main Street corridor there, from the Corner all the way to the train station, seems to be in fairly high development right now and going vertical,” Duke said. “You see a lot of cranes.”
The increased density began in 2003, when City Council rezoned the corridor to connect the University of Virginia to the Downtown Mall.
“We do a pretty decent amount of catering business, too, so that should hopefully help us with downtown Charlottesville being pretty close by,” Duke said. “Even when the kids aren’t there in the summertime, we’ll still have enough business to where we’re not losing money in those months but at least staying afloat.”
Incorporating retail helps the Standard meet the BAR’s vision for West Main.
“This particular area is gaining a lot of height, so having businesses that will bring the context back down to the street is certainly a way to help with that,” Earnst said.
Features of the patio previously approved by the BAR include a bike rack in the patio and a metal canopy facing West Main. The patio itself will face West Main neighbor Asian Express.
Landmark Properties paid $664,777 to Charlottesville’s affordable housing fund in 2016 in exchange for increased height and density at the Standard.
In 2018, the city assessed the land and building at $25,235,700, a 570 percent increase in value over last year.
“Trying to alleviate the growing pains and trying to help the transitions between neighborhoods that are not growing at the same pace is really what we’re trying to do here at the BAR,” Earnst said. “So for the Quirk Hotel, on the back side that faces Commerce Street, it lowers down to be in scale with the neighborhood behind.”
Meanwhile, Duke is considering extending shop hours and serving beer from local breweries at the Charlottesville location, if Potbelly Corporation approves.
“You never know what you’re going to get into until you’ve been in operations for about a year,” Duke said.