A lot of trouble: Could Amtrak parking lot stymie new rail service?

onarch-amtraklot-grade2Despite recent attempts to pretty up their Amtrak parking lot property, local developers Gabe Silverman and Alan Cadgene are still under fire for the condition of the lot.

West Main Street restaurant owners and City planning officials aren't the only ones upset about the unwillingness of two local developers to pave the gravel Amtrak parking lot. Now they've raised the ire of Meredith Richards.

"The condition of the parking lot at the West Main Street station has caught the attention of the State Rail Department and Amtrak, and they are concerned about its potential to disrupt their plans to extend the Cardinal service seven days a week," CvilleRail founder and chairman Richards told a group of UVA and County policy makers, reports NBC29.

According to Richards, Amtrak has to present new service request to Congress, outlining the pros and the cons. The gravel parking lot, she said, would definitely be a con.


Well here we have another example of someone who uses the guise of doing nothing but good for the city and then not willing to fulfill the promise. Gabe is a nice guy but no follow through and his partner Gagne lives in San Francisco and wouldn't spend a dime to help Charlottesville. This is similar to Halsey Minor who loves his community enough that he can go spend money elsewhere (at least say he is doing so) and leave Charlottesville high and dry. Neither of these "do gooders" gives a damn about Charlottesville.

would anyone be happy if they put in an automatic sprinkler system to keep the dust down or would that freak out the water wonks?

Slate has miniscule dust and buckingham slate is right down there in buckingham county...

"What Liberal stands in line to hand away public resources or use the power of government to make great deals for pathetic developers? That’s what conservatives do."

No it's not. Liberals do this all the time and use rhetoric to transfer blame to conservatives not in power to do what they're accused of. I haven't been down to the courthouse at 315 E. High St to research this lot but I have researched others and published that research, much to the chagrin of city leaders.

According to the Historical Society, this West Main parking lot is the site of Jefferson School 1866-1894. Surely liberals value history. Huh, no historical marker? Huh, no mention of this history by liberals who value history and who have been informed of this history? Huh.

Antoinnette, does your research confirm this parking lot as a former location of Jefferson School? Or has the Society, infiltrated by liberals, made a mistake?


The Jefferson School record, well researched in the recent past by the indefatigable Gayle Schulman for Magazine of Albemarle County History, puts its late-1865 establishment by the Freedmans Bureau in the Delevan Building (aka the Mudwall because of its construction style),then on the property of Gen. John Hartwell Cocke.

Gen. Cocke had built the structure shortly after U.Va. opened as a temperance hotel, hoping to give the young men of the school he had helped found somewhere to gather without the temptation of alcohol. During the war years, it served as an adjunct of the multi-facility Charlottesville General Hospital. Then, in 1868, two years after Gen. Cocke's death, it was purchased by the local African-American congregation founded in 1864. And it remained that congregation's sanctuary until the current First African Baptist Church was completed in 1883.

I don't know (though someone may) exactly where the Mudwall stood reletive to the current church, Seventh Street, and the current station house. But I do know that the railroad and some depot structure had been in place there for over a decade before war broke out. The fact that Charlottesville was served by not just one but two rail lines was the reason, of course,that Confederate hospital facilities were set up here.

You asked about my research. When I look at the current train station lot, the history that my own work conjures most vividly is that of July 22, 1865. The Battle of First Manassas had been fought the previous day. By early the next morning, train cars loaded with wounded -- both Confederate and Federal -- had spread its bloody residue far to the south of Bull Run.

Anyone who has seen the movie version of "Gone With the Wind" will remember the scene that begins in the railyard of a falling Atlanta. At first, the camera frames only a single wounded man and a doctor. Gradually, however, it draws up and up and back and back until it reveals a sea of bodies -- some frantically busy, many chillingly still. Well, that scene played out here on that rainy Monday morning when blood and mud and misery mingled at Union Station.

Antionette you know this who debacle is why I die lauging when folks try and call the City run by Liberals. What Liberal stands in line to hand away public resournces or use the power of government to make great deals for pathetic developers? That's what conservatives do. And time and again the City and the Taxpayers get burned- residents and business owners.

I think the City Market is an example of how the City can do something for a profit, and actually benefit the community. This is just one more reason why I am absolutely opposed to the nonsense of giving away McIntyre park to the Y, or any other group.

Yeah, I would like the Transit system to be better about getting over to Amtrak, so I can ride it more. We have already proven there is a real demand for train service out of C-ville, and my bet is it will grow. If it's there, and reasonably accessible, people will use it.

It's time for this City and the County to stop rolling over the developers.

@Antoinette, you are correct that Silverman/Cadgene bought the property for dirt cheap. Might I add that despite getting the property for that price and doing essentially nothing to it, the owners now have the property on the market for $13.5 million - the most expensive property selling in the City. Sure, it's legal. But that doesn't mean it's ethical.

@Cville Eye, interesting article. So it costs $300,000+ to pave the lot, which is no small price. But as I just mentioned, the owners are selling the lot for almost 20x what they bought it for. I wonder if (a) the lot would be much more likely to sell if paved, and (b) the lot's asking price will go up if it gets paved. Just some thoughts...

Yes, I remember. Then the City refused to build a parking deck solely for the sole use of the on-site tenants. Then, the delapidated buildings were renovated, at what cost I don't know; however, I doubt if that project has been a money-making venture for the owners. That's probably one of the reasons why it's up for sale. So far the renovation/revitalization of West Main Street has been a disaster

I suspect like many owners of West Main St. properties, these folks are just placekeeping until a huge offer for the property comes along and why should they spend a fortune paving the lot when it'll all go out with the bathwater when they sell. Look at all the other properties allowed to deteriorate while rented out to "no name" businesses or used for parking. The bets are in that West Main will be gold. People may not like it, but it's legal to do it. I'm not so sure that street will end paved with gold though. The country wide economic haircut we're getting (and will continue to get in years to come) may mean glitzy development may not happen in "geologically meaningful" time frame.

Dr. Richards is exactly right in her condemnation of this "parking lot." The resistance to civic improvements by some on this blog is astonishing. Tax payments can make Charlottesville a better place to live for all, even the cheapskates who resent paying anything. For the official record "BB", Meredith Richards has contributed her personal funds and her professional time and energy to advance improved passenger rail service in Virginia. We'll leave it to you and "eveningbat" to improve the Ukraine.

why do they block off the back entrance to that lot? i tried to pick up a friend last night and they had a chain across the 8th st. entrance. i figured they were charging for parking at the other end, but c'mon! last time i tried getting in through the 7th st. entrance to get to amtrak it took me a 1/2 an hour! not everyone is looking to pay $10 to park and go drink at maya!

You say this parking lot is nasty? Oh, you should have seen the ordinary roads in Ukraine and even the main streets in some towns. Those are nasty beyond words.

This parking lot should be "The Joke of the Century". I stopped going to the business's around there. I wear a suit and tie to the restaurants and before I can get to the place of business its covered with dust and then the sneezing begins......gheeeezzzz what a joke. But I'm not laughing!

"Perhaps a fund can be drawn up by those who would benefit most directly from a paved lot?"
Art, we in Charlottesville like to spend other people's money. As for Council members, I believe that Virginia Daugherty, Meredith Richards, Blake Caravati, Maurice Cox and David Toscano were in involved. Staffers were Gary Overrun O'Connell and Judith Mueller. They also got the city involved in selling Greyhound bus tickets at its bus station in the 300 block of West Main Street. I also believe it was reported that the Greyhound deal is not self-supportive.

It seems it was a foolish mistake to have arranged that deal for Silverman and Cadgene in the first place and in such a way that there is little recourse. Which elected official(s) made that decision, and where are they now? I hate to say it, but sometimes mistakes have consequences that cannot be avoided.

That said, Silverman and Cadgene should be continually pressured by citizens to clean up the lot. Perhaps a fund can be drawn up by those who would benefit most directly from a paved lot?


Actually, I do know where the earliest versions of the Jefferson School were located because I have a photocopy of Gray's 1877 New Map of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Virginia. It shows the Delevan building very close to Main Street but well east of the Telegraph Office set right at the point where the two incoming rail lines pass close, then diverge again. And it also shows a building labeled School House south of the tracks a little west of the Delevan site.

According to the documentation by which the later Jefferson School building on Commerce Street was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, the school building south of the tracks -- which would have been on property now completely taken up by Walker Square -- was built in 1869 to accomodate the growing student population of the initial Freedmen's Bureau school in the Delevan building. And it was also the first incarnation of that school to bear the name Jefferson.

So it would appear that neither the initial Freedmen's Bureau school nor the subsequent Jefferson School was on the current Amtrak parking lot property. But that fact doesn't leave that lot's owners any dearth of ghosts to lay along with that damaging gravel "dust."

I did not fail to mention anything relevant and do not appreciate being so accused by yet another e-masked commentator. The subject I addressed was not the many and various errors the city assessor's records include. My point was that those reocrds are unclear in respect to the train station lot. To mention all such errors would far, far exceed the Hook's comment word limit.

N.B. My house, which easily traceable records prove to have been built by 1852, was recorded as having been built in 1910 until I asked for a correction based on solid documentation. But, again, that is not the matter at hand.

@Antoinette W. Roades, you are quite right about the inadequacies of the assessor's records but you failed to mention the problem of inaccuracies. For example, my 1925 house is listed as being built in 1957.
I am surprised that the conversation is about paving rather than using a pervious surface for the lot.
Thanks for including the information that the lot has been subdivided. I had no idea. Maybe all of the subdivisions are bundled up in the price.

Folks: Before saying over and over "this lot," you might want to consult the public record -- incomprehensibly ineptly kept as it is by the city assessor's office. What the city pressured Norfolk Southern to sell was one big chunk of land with, as several posters have correctly noted, dilapidated structures thereon. Since the city-engineered (pun intended) transfer of that railroad right-of-way to Silverman and Cadgene, however, the property has been subdivided into several discrete lots. Consequently, it's a tad tough to know exactly what's actually being offered for $13-plus million.

I'd be more than happy to summarize the results of that subdivision if the online record made that possible. But it doesn't. Characteriscially, it's contradictory and muddled. So anyone who really, really cares will have to spend time in City Court Clerk Paul Garrett's loftily-governed, below-stairs fiefdom over at Circuit Court on High Street.

And speaking of kingdoms: The e-moniker-masked maker of claims who dubs him or herself "King Ralph" should try living in, walking in, doing business in, ad inf., the rather large area directly affected by Silverman and Cadgene's callous non-maintenance of what they got as a gift. Real people -- old, young, and in between -- plus real businesses and real live passersthrough are being adversely affected daily by serial selfishness that elected officials consistently enable. This is, in fact, a pressing problem.

@Anthony "...and doing essentially nothing to it..." Actually quite a bit of money went into renovating the two delapidated buildings that were on the property. One building now has been reinforced so that it can have a rooftop restaurant. "But as I just mentioned, the owners are selling the lot..." No, they are not. They can't sell it at that price if there are no buyers. Rent from the small station and the restaurant will come nowhere close to servicing that loan.
@ "What Liberal stands in line to hand away public resournces..." Dumb ones or those suffering from delusions of grandeur believing that they are playuing with the big boys. "Yeah, I would like the Transit system to be better about getting over to Amtrak..." Buses travel by there all day long. The most frequent are Route 7 and the Trolley (every 15 minutes).

The city did not own the railroad station property. But the city pressed Norfolk Southern to sell that property to Silverman and Cadgene (t/a Union Station Partners LLC) in 1997 for $707,838 -- a minuscule amount relative to the spread's size and location. At the same time, the City also secured a Federal grant of more than $700,000 for improvement of the lot.

The expectation at the time was that the property would be developed as a true city transit center connecting at one site local public transit, intercity bus service, and train service. Such an alleged "center" was subsequently built at great expense in front of City Hall -- which is, of course, far from convenient by most folks' standards to the Greyhound and Amtrak depots.

Now developer Gabe Silverman says the lot can't be paved based on a geologist's report.

"After hiring a geologist and realizing that the soil would need to be reinforced to support asphalt that would have buses and other large vehicles drive over it, the developers were forced to go back and redraft plans and contracts, Silverman said."

The Daily Progress has the story


@dumbo, When did the city ever own this property?

Some may be interested in reading this article: http://www2.dailyprogress.com/news/2010/nov/20/amtrak-lot-cant-support-p...

Why no mention by on how these two...... came to "aquire" this parcel. Was it sold on the open market? Did the city give them a "deal" because of promised development?

I suspect that the owners know that if they pave the parking lot, the city will raise their real estate taxes by thousands of dollars. Also, if they pave it, their storm water bill due to the impending TMDL compliance will add hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to the city.
@Dave, you must be a very poor driver if it took you 1/2 hour to park your car. I recently rode with an 86 year old to the train station and it took maybe three minutes to negotiate.
@Tim Brown, your driving around town with a buzz may get you into trouble.

What high wind raises in tornado-like, sky-blackening billows from the lot that Gabe Silverman and Allan Cadgene were essentially given by the City is not "dust" as in loose, dry soil. It is fine, sharp gravel. And it doesn't just dirty what it lights on. It pits paint on buildings and cars,grates the eyes of passersby, and undoubtedly scars the lungs of all forced to breathe it.

The New York Times reported not long ago on the special vulnerability of the elderly to such particulate matter. The area surrounding the station is home to a high number of seniors. One assumes that children are also highly susceptible to damage, and many of them live nearby as well. I live several blocks from the lot and regularly find its grit on my windowsills. I'm sure I've taken an equal amount internally.

We talkin bout roads in Ukraine... What are we talkin bout? Roads in Ukraine? Nah nah nah not Amtrak, not the parkin lot here in town, we talkin bout roads in Ukraine... You see me come into that lot, go eat at Wild Wings, you seen me right? I eat everything on my plate, get a buzz, then hop in my v8 custom sled and drive over them bumpy pot holes and destroy my suspension, but we in here talkin bout roads in Ukraine right now. Not the parkin lot here in town, we talkin bout roads in Ukraine. Roads in Ukraine? What are we talkin bout? Roads in Ukraine? C'mon man, how silly is that?

Irate over an unpaved parking lot? STFU mcgoof and you suit wearin db. Go park somewhere else.

good grief. Please proofread your stories Hook. It should be "ones" not "one's".

That parking lot is a joke.

Meredith Richards will be wanting me to subsidize it like I am the rail service. If she want it let her put HER money into it for a change instead of my tax dollars.

I take the Amtrak to NYC fairly regularly. That parking lot is just "nasty." When I do - and I try not to - park there... I have to go to the car wash on the way home!!! Nasty, nasty -- way too cheap, and tacky for a town like this! Also, come on Gabe, spend some of those bucks for a town that has been quite good to/for you, bud! You are way too uptight with -profits--! It is an embarrassment. Notice, I didn't even mention potholes and incompetent personal. Oh gosh, I guess I just did!