Ix nixed: New location for City Market?

onarch-ix-demo-aThe Frank Ix Building along Monticello Avenue comes down. But what will take its place?
PHOTO BY DAVE MCNAIR

For years, the old Frank Ix building has been one of the most unusual, interesting spaces in the downtown area, but as you may have noticed on your way down Monticello Avenue, demolition on the Ix is well underway.

"We're tearing it down because we just can't insure it anymore," says Ix complex project manager Fabian Kuttner. After the demo, Kuttner says the owners plan to pretty up the lot and perhaps build a pond at one end of the 17-acre property, which also includes an office park. He also hopes the Charlottesville City Market might be interested in locating at Ix. More on that later.

The circa 1928 building, which until 1999 was home to a fabric factory called Frank Ix & Sons, has held several spectacular parties in recent years, including the Second Street Gallery's first Artini dance in 2006 when 500 people danced into the wee hours as lightning flashed outside and torrential rains came through the cracks in the roof.

In addition to serving as the site for later galas such as Shentai and the "Charlottesville Wunderkammer," the building also held the following year's Artini which featured bikini-clad painted dancers serving 5,000 drinks while circus performers spun fire and whirled hula hoops.

Unfortunately, the same industrial decay look that made it such an ideal event location also led to its downfall. Following the Artini in the summer of 2007, the city put the kabosh on events at the Ix, citing safety concerns.

A building code official said then that various leaks had weakened the interior wood flooring and floor supports, and because the windows had been removed, the building was exposed to continuing storm damage.

Kuttner says the owners–- his father, Ludwig, as well as Allan Cadgene and Gabe Silverman–- spent around $40,000 trying to bring the building up to code, but that there was just too much expensive work to be done to satisfy the building official, the fire marshal, and the insurance company. For example, Kuttner estimates that it would have cost $3 million to install new windows, and he expresses regret that a former Ix partner made the decision to remove them in the first place. And there's really no development money out there now, says Kuttner.

Kuttner floated the idea of leasing the property to the City Market, which has been lobbying for a new location, if they can come to some kind of agreement.

"It's a great location, large enough, and there's parking," says Kathy Kildea with Market Central, a non-profit organization assisting the popular farmers market in finding a home. "But the biggest issue with that location is longevity."

Kuttner mentions that the Ix partners would be interested in a short-term leasing arrangement for the City Market, maybe 4 to 6 years, but Kildea points out that flies in the face of the desire for a permanent home. Indeed, Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris echos the same sentiment.

"I think it's safe to say that the City would not be interested in a short-term lease at any site," he says.

City Council appointed a Task Force to study potential sites for the City Market, and work will begin in January, says Norris, with the Task Force given 90 days to come back with recommendations.

"Permanence  and affordability are some of the criteria we set forth," says Norris.  "If the Ix property is made available for this purpose on a long-term or permanent and affordable basis, then I'm sure the Task Force will consider it closely."

Another idea, Kuttner says, is one that his light car-making, X Prize-winning brother, Oliver, has put forward: closing off the nearby section of Monticello Avenue near the Ix and putting the Market right on the road. The Avenue has four lanes, a tree-lined median, and sidewalks on both sides, and traffic could be routed along Garrett Street when its closed.  Indeed, using networks of city streets, parks, and donated parking lots for farmer's markets are a common practice in places like New York City, Philadelphia, and Portland.

"Monticello Avenue is an intriguing possibility," says Norris, " and the Task Force will be looking at the pros and cons of that site as well."

Kildea thinks the Monticello Avenue idea is worthy of consideration, but her ideal scenario involves finding a home with a few "creature comforts like running water, electricity, and a real bathroom."

Still, when the last of the bricks of the old Ix are salvaged, it'll be a tempting space for the 111 vendors at the City Market just a few blocks away, many of whom have been crammed into a parking lot on a hill for the last 17 years.

17 comments

Originally the City Market was in the Jefferson School parking lot but issues involving parking brought about a move. It was my understanding that the grocery store in what is now Staples objected to people taking up their parking spaces to shop at the market.There may have been other problems too.

SHUT UP SLAVE!!!!

I would think more than one bathroom for males and females would be needed.

first off who cares what kathy kildea thinks she is just the (not )owner of a non -profit business that wants to find a home for the market ,we the market vendors ,myself and many other people that do not care for mrs.kildea ,but are afraid to speak up about her ,really dont like her or what she is trying to do. my
family has been trying to seek a home place for 38 years I think the city would be wise to accept the offer but then they dont profit from the rent of the land I say CO_OP the market remove it from the hands of the city, form a members group make a farmer the manager and get the market away from the two EVILS (city ) & ( market central ) The people running this city really dont care about alot of things and the city market is just a small % of things they do not care about . FIND A HOME FOR THE CITY MARKET AND STOP WASTING PRECIOUS TIME AND MONEY city market previously located at the midway school,jefferson school,and now the PARKING LOT ON THE HILL what a great city we live in. So,the city can build a road through a city park ,but they can not find a place to build the city market that generates a large sum of money a year WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE

Do fries come with that bilderburger?

To be clear about my comments on the Monticello Avenue suggestion, what I said was that it's easy to see how closing an adjacent street on a regular basis might help with adding some elbow room to an established, honest-to-God location. But, to suggest that closing a street as 'the' location for a large, weekly market??? Not so much.

I hope they do not put a pond there. It would put too many small children at risk of drowning.

I would suggest that Oliver sit on my front porch on Monticello Ave and see how "underutilized" that stretch of road is.

Don't worry, the Food Safety Act banning the sharing of prepared food will shut down farmer's markets nationwide! It was just approved by the Senate with the exception for farms earning less than 500,000 removed! Awesome!

Tell me about it somebody! I'm just so glad that the people of Charlottesville still love drinking poisoned tap water. If it weren't for their fluoride-induced-docility, we wouldn't be able to train them to be helpless and put up with anything like banning bake sales, because their natural instinctual fight response would still exist in their pineal gland instead of fluoride crystals! Ha ha ha ha ha!

is that you, John Guliano?

Is that you, arpal?

What about all that space around Friendship Court. You know the part that has the garden on it? Instead of a garden, couldn't you put vendors there once a week? Who owns that land? Folks could park up Monticello Ave, downtown and still walk to the Market. Either way good luck. once you have a more accessible space, you will have more vendors and more customers. Imagine how many folks that aren't coming to the Market b/c its in a difficult location (limited space/parking).

I for one do not want to go near anyplace called: Friendship Court. Sounds scary.

How about the parking lot of the Jefferson School? It's big, walking distance to the Mall, has infrastructure (electricity, bathrooms, etc.) and would get traffic and attention towards the school and it's renovation. (I think most of the school is in line to be a history & cultural center, or something like that.)

Or the parking lot of the Albemarle county office building?

No matter, I sincerely hope the city doesn't end up spending cash just to reserve or rent space like the former Ix building - there are too many free options (CHS?) that there's no reason to spend $$$ so Kuttner can recoup some of his bad Ix investment, or to pay any other landowner.

Bob, You're showing evidence of Subliminal Distraction exposure. You really need to get out of your cubicle a bit more often.