Mall kiosk surfaces, British Corner invasion, and is the Mall okay?
The journey of the Downtown Mall's iconic kiosk continues. Three years ago, the City had it removed from the Mall with plans to demolish it. But after the Hook wrote about its demise, some folks showed an interest in saving the old structure. So the City put it up for auction. In the end, three bids were submitted, and Keswick resident Richard Hewitt, who said he had always admired the Mall artifact, walked away with it for $2,011.
"I'm happy it found a good home," he told the Hook. Three years later, however, the kiosk needs to move again. As some citizens may have recently noticed, Hewitt has it listed for sale on cragslist.org for $4,000.
"I bought it to rescue it from destruction," says Hewitt, "but we're moving, and there's no room for it."
Built in the early 1990s as a newsstand by SNL Financial founder Reid Nagle, the solid wood-and-copper structure, designed and constructed by Gaston & Wyatt, features electrical hook-ups, heat, and a working clock. It reportedly cost nearly $20,000 to build, but Nagle ended up donating it to the city. The kiosk has also seen service as a gift shop, a brochure spot, and a flower shop, and was proposed as a site for a bar and eatery before it was removed from the Mall.
Asked about the price, nearly double what he paid for it, Hewitt thinks it's reasonable considering the construction cost.
"I don't really want to sell it," he says. "We've enjoyed having it as a garden gnome for a few years. I think it's a great price if you consider the cost of replacing it."
Now wouldn't it be interesting if the old kiosk ended up back on the Downtown Mall?
From Corner Market to English Country House
When the Corner Market closed its doors in May after 30 years, the student district lost one of its most iconic stores.
When developer Hunter Craig purchased the Chancellor Building for $2.6 million in 2007, he said he had no plans to develop the property or lease space to any big retail chains, saying he liked the Corner "just the way it is." In July, however, after an $80,000 storefront renovation, British clothing chain Jack Wills University Outfitters has opened up in the spot, transforming the dingy market space into something that resembles an English country house.
According to company literature, the "brand exudes a sense of excess, adventure, and a hint of youthful arrogance." But we'll call it "floppy formal."
Is the Mall doing okay?
As a reporter walked the Downtown Mall with a visitor in 2009, the visitor was struck by the many empty storefronts. "Is the Mall doing okay?" he asked.
According to a City government vacancy report completed in July, there were nearly 20 empty store fronts (a 9.0 percent vacancy rate) on the Mall that year. However, things seem now to have improved.
According to a report released in July, there were just 14 empty storefronts on the Downtown Mall in January of this year, and by July the number has fallen to just 9, making it the second-lowest vacancy rate (4.7 percent) since the studies began in 2008.
The storefronts still vacant, the report says, have been that way for an average of almost two years, and most are the properties of two owners: Keith Woodard and the duo of Gabe Silverman and Alan Cadgene, whose property at 215 W. Water Street (formerly Oxo Restaurant) has been vacant for 2.5 years.
Woodard, however, wins first and second place for his row of dilapidated storefronts across from the Jefferson Theater, where he once tried to erect a 9-story structure, and which has been empty for well over a decade. However, Woodard has lately been renovating, having most recently overseen the reopening of 107 E. Main Street as as a clothing store named Verdigris– adjoing lingerie store Derriere de Soie.
Just off the Mall, there's a burst of activity on Fifth Street (which will see the opening of Tiempo at 117 5th Street SE, the Downtown Deli at 110 5th Street SE, and the Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar at 422 E. Main). The lengthy storefront at 300 East Market will soon become home to Vintage Vixen, "clothing with a conscience and attitude." And on August 1, Roxie Daisy, a home furnishings store, opened at 101 East Water Street.
So, is the Mall area doing okay now?
If last Friday's Paint the Town Orange celebration was any indication, the Mall may have to expand to accommodate its fans. With the Beatles tribute band Abbey Road playing Fridays After Five, and UVA's marching band pumping up the volume as it snaked down the middle of the Mall, there was barely a place to stand from the West end to East end on September 2. Outdoor café spaces were packed, beneath the ominous presence of the skeletal Landmark Hotel The Box was bursting at the seams, and belly dancers and other street performers were all around.
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story we said that Roxie Daisy, a home furnishings store, would open at 101 East Water Street in the fall. The store actually opened on August 1.Read more on: Downtown Mall