Not forgotten: Mall façade demolition settled for $16K

Two and a half years after the art-deco glass storefront of the old Victory Shoe Store on the Downtown Mall, now home to SweetFrog Frozen Yogurt, was unceremoniously demolished without official approval, the owner of the property has agreed to pay $16,000 to fund an effort to determine which properties on the Downtown Mall have historic value.

Downtown property owner Joe Gieck, the legendary athletic trainer at UVA, claimed the old facade was broken and unsafe, and while he understood why preservation loving folks would be upset, he decided to "err on the side of safety."

Asked via email if he thought the settlement was fair, Gieck says he thinks it was. So, were there any lessons learned from the ordeal?

"Bureaucracy overwhelms," Gieck deadpans.

To appease that bureaucracy, Gieck embarked on a renovation of the façade that his architects determined was more historically accurate than the demolished one. According to architect Kathy Galvin, in her pre-City Councilor days, the demolished store front was part of a 1947 renovation that altered an original 1921 design.

That logic didn't sit well with some historic preservationists, who pointed out that the whole point of preservation is to preserve what is.

"It is lost forever," noted former Board of Architectural Review member Eryn Brennan, "which is a tragedy.”

Gieck's payment was part of a deal worked out with the City Attorney's office, which had been pursuing him with a civil lawsuit at the request of city officials.

That may be small consolation to Ethel Crowe, whose Russian immigrant grandparents, Isaac and Freda Kobre, opened the Victory Shoe Store in 1921. As Crowe told the Hook at the time of the demo, her grandparents oversaw the 1947 remodeling and for the next 60 plus years, including the time that Crowe's parents, Bernie and Tillie (“Miss Tillie,” Crowe says people called her), ran the store.

Crowe and BAR members had argued for a restoration of the art-deco design, with one BAR member calling the replacement design that Geick brought forward a "fishing expedition." BAR member Brian Hogg demanded that Gieck "put back what you took out or come back with a design that better captures the original." Gieck ran with the latter.

"Obviously, it's impossible to replace a lost historic resource, says City preservation planner Mary Joy Scala. "We're pleased that a settlement has been reached and that the matter is finally resolved."


Maybe a framed photograph of the lost facade can be put up just inside the building, and people entering can be forced to look at it.

Yet at the other end of the Mall the hypocrites that run this city allow the totally out of place, ugly piece of crud that is the Pavilion. If you don't think it is hideous, look at the first thing one sees coming across the LOVELY Belmont Bridge. It belongs out in a field surrounded by hills so it can't be seen by passing traffic. I know, it's a big money maker for the Mall, but what can we expect from Dems who blame Bush for everything.

Do people still call the pavilion the "lobster trap", or are we done with that?

Wow. The city sure knows how to lure businesses downtown. Am I the only one who thinks the current design looks infinitely better than the "art-blech-o" facade that used to be there?

""It is lost forever," noted former Board of Architectural Review member Eryn Brennan, "which is a **tragedy**.”"

Hahahhhahaaa. You guys crack me up.

"I know, it's a big money maker for the Mall, but what can we expect from Dems who blame Bush for everything."

Huh? What does this mean, Mike? Democrats have bad taste in architecture? Democrats are overly fond of making money? I just don't get the relationship between architecture and Democrats blaming Bush. Or was that just a gratuitous slam that had nothing to do with the rest of your post?

If it was worth keeping in some condition, it was worth paying for. Did Eryn Brennan or Ethel Crowe buy the store to keep in in a conditon they liked or did they just want to make the aesthetic decisions and let someone else foot the bill in the name of "historical preservation"?

Thanks for the feedback Harry Landers. Since the Hook doesn't have a thumbs up or down rating system it's hard to know if anyone reads what one writes. Nobody gives a rats behind what you or I think, so I stick an opinion into what I comment on that's out in left field just to see if anyone is paying attention. To stay on topic of this article, how about if I wanted to put a double wide mobile home on the mall in front of the Post Office and sold coffee and doughnuts (a big favorite, I understand of the gang busters, of which we of course don't really have here in sweet town) Gangs I mean.
Now suppose I was to donate all the profits to the area food bank to help feed the hungry. Well Harry do you think the Dems would let me do that? You bet your fanny they'd reject that in a New York City minute. Oh and coming across the Belmont Bridge the Pavilion would still look more hideous than the double wide.

If historical accuracy were so important on the mall the bricks would come up and the original road would be restored. Not with the new fangled macadam of 1820, but with the original dirt road when Charlottesville was founded in 1762 along with the ample horse manure.

Knid of ironic when folk stand atop a mall brick and preach historical accuracy.

If you really wanted historical accuracy you would bulldoze the mall and return it to the trees that were growing before 1762. How can you be more historically accurate than that?

I was told a few years back by a City librarian (who said don't repeat their name) that the City had its original building permits/ licenses going back to (date unknown) and (unknown City department, Permit department?) destroyed them as legally they only had to keep them X amount of years. I do know they destroyed/lost the Maplewood Cemetery burial book sometime after 1963 when Alderman library copied it and had proof in a letter they sent it back to the City. Basically while one department of the City fights and fines for historical misdeeds other departments in the City itself throws out historical records. (If rumours are true).

Mr. Gieck finds himself another victim of legalized extortion having to pay retroactive Baksheesh for mistakenly thinking he owns that property..
Real Estate Law refers to a "bundle of legal rights" as being what you actually get when you buy real estate since the real ownership resides with the govt.
These days with insulting absurdities like the BAR in your way, that "bundle" is way smaller than it was back when the original owners had "Carte Blanche" to remodel as they saw fit back in 1947.
The downtown mall is a classic Potemkin Village.