These fellows were not having a good day.
A vacant restaurant building that has vexed the University of Virginia Foundation for the past five years brought additional headaches Thursday, December 29 when a piece of heavy machinery toppled while razing the structure at 1250 Seminole Trail. On-site interviews suggest that the man operating the excavator emerged unscathed in the morning incident, but the site's financial hemorrhage may be significant.
The University of Virginia paid $2.5 million for the vacant structure on 1.4 acres in 2006, a million dollars more than Jim Morris, an occasional business associate of music mogul Coran Capshaw, paid in 2002, the last year the place held an operating business, a restaurant called Asian Buffet.
County real estate records indicate that the structure– which had previously served as a Western Sizzlin' and as a Wood Grill Buffet– was built in 1976. As recently as last fall, there was a prospective tenant in the form of renowned chef Peter Chang, but he ultimately landed in Barracks Road.
The firm handling demolition is Greensboro-based D.H. Griffin. On-site personnel declined to speak with a reporter, and phone calls to firm's Richmond office went unreturned. A call to the Foundation was returned by UVA spokesperson Marian Anderfuren.
"The building is considered an impediment to the sale of the property," said Anderfuren, though she was not immediately able to provide an asking price or a planned asking price. However, an expired online listing touts an average pass of 55,000 vehicles and a 89-space parking lot to justify a $2.6 million asking price.
"It's a great property," says commercial broker Lane Bonner, who is not connected to the sale. "It needs to be marketed out of town."
Back to the accident, an examination of the scene suggests that the track-driven excavator– a Hitachi Zaxis 350– may have toppled after crawling on top of some debris. While the tumble plunged the excavator's dipper arm into the parking lot to crumble part of the asphalt, it wasn't clear whether the machine sustained any damage, but Anderfurn didn't think so.
"It will be tipped back and work will continue," she said.
Public records show that the Emergency Communications Center received a call about the industrial accident around 9:25am.
–4:59pm: story updated with time of incident and Western Sizzlin' as additional former tenant
–6:41pm: story updated with call-back from Marian Anderfuren
–2:44pm December 30: story updated with ownership clarification and quote from Bonner