Feeling tipsy: Excavator topples while razing building

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


Wow... that's kind of sad to see that building go. That restaurant, when it was operating as Western Sizzlin, was where my family and I ate dinner on our first night ever in Virginia back in 1992, pretty much fresh off the airplane.

I wonder what the UVA foundation has up their sleeve for that site? If they plan to sell the lot they will be taking a huge loss.

Why pay someone from out of state to tear down a building? I'm sure there are local companies that would have appreciated the business. Not to mention the unemployed looking for work

I guess everybody from out of town is an expert?

photos show contractor side door with a richmond, virginia base

Dale@it appears that out-of-town contractors bid a lot less for C-ville -area work just to keep their crews working,whereas local contractors want to make a killing and force employees to accept significant paycuts and losses of accumulated vacation time.Hell,I can think of one well-known local excavation contractor that made little effort to get snow-removal work during that treacherous winter of 2009-10.

You get what you pay for. Remember that when they build the dam.

@ RL, that's nonsense. If work is given to out of town contractors, local contractors aren't making anything.

You have to hire local around here. I tried to hire cheap out of town labor once, and my foreman got his arms broken by some dudes in polyester leisure suits driving cadillacs from New Jersey, and my dog got shot. So I just build in the extra costs of the "no shows", bribes to code enforcement, and what not when I bid on a contract. The customer pays the costs and everyone is happy. It's the way things are done.

The contractor is Griffin from NC, they have a $700,000 contract for a 10 story 100 room hotel in downtown danville [ source - lynchburg ch. 13], hope they do not tear up any more then just the building ! In this time & business low bid wins , but after things like this , things might change , bet UVA has a "deal" with griffin !