Refenestration: Old Cola-Cola plant invites the light

For the first time in decades, natural light will flow into the former Coca-Cola bottling plant on Preston Avenue, as the new owner has ordered a tear-out of the brick panels that have darkened the former industrial site.

"It's kind of a demonstration project," says the building's owner, Martin D. Chapman, explaining that workers will replace the six front windows to show the state's Department of Historic Resources that it's serious about reviving the 1939 art-deco structure.

Chapman– who paid $2.5 million for the nearly two-acre site a year ago after Coca-Cola moved its bottling operation to Richmond– reveals that he plans to renovate the historic building as the headquarters for his company, Indoor Biotechnologies Inc. Currently located on industry-heavy Harris Street, his firm provides an array of environmental allergen products and tests.

Moving to Preston means not only a higher profile for Chapman's company, but he also plans to build an incubator space for smaller bio-tech firms as well as creating a new event/office facility inspired by Open Space, a collaborative workspace that opened near the downtown Atlantic Coast Athletic Club in 2009.

"We're moving ahead," says Chapman, who hopes his CityCampus Biotechnology Center will have over 30,000 square feet of space under roof by June 2013, "if the stars align."

Chapman says the plant was designed by an architect named Doran S. Platt, who designed the Winchester Coca-Cola facility in a mirror image of Charlottesville's. Possessing only two archival photos of the structure, and neither particularly clear, Chapman invites any members of the public to contact him with any images from their own attics.


I remember watching the bottles whizzing by as we passed the plant on the way downtown. One of the great joys of youth to see technology in action.

That building doesn't have nearly enough columns or domes to be worth saving.

Anyone who would like to learn more about the Coca Cola building project and the state of biotechnology in our community should plan on attending a panel discussion on May 2nd starting at 7 in the evening. The conversation will be one in a series of four panel discussions (Wed evenings from April 18 through May 9) on the state of place-based innovation in our community and is free to the public. Come learn about some big ideas that are starting and staying in Charlottesville.

When I was in 6th grade at Jefferson, Me, Albert Moore, and Ricky Skruggs were walking home past the bottling plant and some guy ran out and gave us each a stack of Sprite stickers with a race car on them.

How bizarre is that?

Like that some businesses are revitalizing old buildings around here rather than rebuilding new ones.

@Jim, you are obviously a building snob. Even TJ had respect for all ...