Hotel homeless? Police investigate Landmark squatting

news-norris-mallLooming presence: Mayor Dave Norris at the dedication ceremony for the Mall re-bricking project last year.
FILE PHOTO BY DAVE MCNAIR

City officials had once hoped the Landmark Hotel would attract wealthy and sophisticated visitors to the Downtown Mall with luxurious accommodations and spectacular views of the City, but since the project was unceremoniously halted over a year ago, the unfinished structure appears to have attracted a different clientele.

Already dealing with nine months of construction on an $800,000 streetscaping project, Chas Webster, owner of The Box on Second Street SE, says that homeless people squatting in the Landmark have created another headache for his restaurant.

“They shout at people and throw beer bottles down in the street at night,” says Webster. “We’ve called the police about it a number of times.”

Webster has heard reports of flashlights and the light of a cook stove as high as the sixth floor of the 11-story structure and that construction workers on a streetscaping project have told him they’ve found bedding and camping equipment in the mornings.

“I don't doubt his word,” says Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo. “But they don't appear to be leaving debris behind. The only discernable debris I saw was on the first level, where I only saw a few beer bottles."

“They’re up there all the time,” says Downtown Mall resident Steven Martin, whose top floor apartment in the Jefferson Theater affords him a clear view of the Landmark’s upper floors. “I can’t make out their faces, but I’ve seen people up there with flashlights late at night.”

“It was just inspected, and nothing like what you describe was noted,” says Landmark Hotel owner Halsey Minor in an email, after being told about Martin's observations.

"I had heard that people were going up to the upper levels of the building,” says Longo, who investigated the hotel structure Wednesday. “I had to see for myself.”

However, Longo says that continuing a police presence there presents a challenge.

“There is no way to readily patrol the interior of that building without compromising officer safety,” says Longo. “This is particularly the case at night.”

news-longo-landmark-webCharlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo investigates reports of people occupying the upper floors of the Landmark Hotel.
PHOTO BY LISA PROVENCE

As for better securing the hotel, neighborhood development chief Jim Tolbert says the City has no immediate plans to do so, “since we don’t own the building we can’t do so unless we have a valid property maintenance issue.

"If the Chief reports evidence of a problem, then we will look into it,” he says.

After looking into it himself, Minor was told by city officials that police have gone to the building three times in the last few weeks and have found no evidence of people occupying the building.

“Based on the police reports, I think we have the makings of an urban myth,” he says.

Urban myth or not, might the answer to the nagging question of what to do with the Landmark Hotel be staring the City in the face? With the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority examining proposals to create more high-density public housing, and costs rising in the City’s effort to care for the homeless, the Hook asked Minor if he would consider a joint venture with the City to turn the hotel structure into housing for the homeless.

“I would love to discuss making it low income housing with the City,” says Minor. “Never hurts to discuss an idea. Maybe the mayor wants to talk.”

Responding to Minor’s invite, Mayor Dave Norris said he thought the Landmark hotel wouldn't make a good candidate for low-income housing.

“I have to assume he was speaking tongue-in-cheek,” says Norris. "The Landmark Hotel site was approved for a hotel and in that capacity will help boost the downtown economy with visitor dollars. We hope to see the litigation brought to a quick conclusion so the project can be completed. As it is now it's a major eyesore."

Updated 6/22/2010 3:16pm

59 comments

Thanks whateva. Maybe if we all scream loud enough someone will hear. Oh and joe pantops... if you are so interested in low income housing, go make a million dollars, buy a giant house and let all the homeless stay at your house instead of trying to fund your fake altruism with everyone else's tax dollars. And as far as being like Chicago, why would anyone ever want Charlottesville to be like Chicago. If it's so great.. move there.

jr, I think Joe Pantop was being sarcastic.

Read his reply again. The part about lottery tickets, alcohol and tobacco.

Turning Minor's decrepit pile of crap called a "hotel" into homeless housing is unnecessary. The city already has a homeless shelter where the unmotivated can drink, do drugs, sleep the day away, be fed in the mornings, showers and have their clothes washed. All they have to do is turn themselves over when their arms and legs fall asleep from laying on them. It's called The Haven on Market Street.

Now that Halsey Minor's moods seems to have swung from free-wheeling, domineering, overly-optimistic, and manic into economy-induced depression, the City should jump on the opportunity his weakened, listless and uninterested mood has produced. Use whatever legal means are necessary to force his self-centered butt into action. Make him complete the hotel or tear it down at his own expense. He should be grateful his wealth is the only thing that's keeping him from being one of the self-medicated, unemployed and homeless masses and stop his whining about having to finish what he started. Google him and all his lawsuits and you'll see what I mean.

Morris,the group of people you are talking about never call the police because they know there are too many questions asked before they will respond.Any self respecting lowlife pulls the fire alarm because the firefighters respond without question.

if this turns into low income housing I will never go to the downtown mall again

The city and feds need to step in an turn that hotel into a high rise housing project. Just like they have in Chicago. This would give much needed housing for our low-income people who depend on welfare, but can't afford to live in the city. The merchants on the mall would all benefit from the increased sales of lottery tickets, alcohol, and tobacco products. It is a win win for C-Ville. I am going to city council to propose my idea.

Could'nt we just call it art in place?

"...An urban myth"

Now the city government can spend tax money to attract tourists who will be fascinated to hear the tale of how Charlottesville obtained it's own urban myth.

The NEH and NEA can grant the city millions of our Federal tax dollars to convert the Landmark Hotel into the 'Charlottesville Myth Museum'.

It is a real win-win opportunity.

#
Tear Down The Facade June 19th, 2010 | 8:00 am

”Š.and leave the rest.

If we can live with 1920’s monuments to slave-economy pride,

we can live a well-built structure for a few decades.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

What are "1920's monuments to slave-economy pride"?

Actually, why not just leave it the way it is, and put a plaque in front of it, trying to make it look like it was INTENTIONALLY constructed like that?

It could be the largest piece of modern art sculpture in the world. It can be a tourist site and people from all over the country would come to see it. It would get tourism dollars to the downtown mall.
Call it something like "War Torn" or "Bombed" or "Missing Landlord" etc.

Sounds great to me!

It's a FINISHED product.

...and, jr, I'd much rather live in Chicago than in C'ville, which is just an overgrown suburb.

Taxpayers won't pay to make it a housing project. That's NOT going to happen. I don't see that happening.

At least somebody is using the building. I bet if the homeless folks who sleep there were all notified that they're going to be kicked out if the ones throwing bottles don't stop, they would police themselves.

jr - agreed totally! But I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you...the cop eating the ice cream cone may be slightly inconvenienced into doing his job.

Why does it take FOREVER for the city to react to anything. News flash, the average person does not want bums in the street, unfinished buildings in the landscape, or drug addicts passing out in the public area. As far as I know at least 2 of these things are already illegal. We pay taxes so that the police and local government ensure these things don't happen. So GET TO WORK.

"I was very scared and confused during the interrogations and wanted to get away," the paper quoted him as saying. "In my blind panic, I signed everything, but didn't even know what it said."

$35 a night? Forget all of this, I'm on my way to central Asia!

I am so angry that when I get home I type in angry comments and blame everyone I can think of for everything in every white rectangular box on readthehook.com blah blah...blah! Blah-Blah. BLAH!!! Blah...blah? Blah, blah, blah...blah! Blah, blah, blah. Blah-Blah. BLAH!!! Blah...blah? Blah, blah, blah...blah! Blah, blah, blah...blah! Blah-Blah. BLAH!!! Blah...blah? Blah, blah, blah...blah! Blah, blah, blah...blah! Blah-Blah. BLAH!!! Blah: blah, blah...

You have a pocketbook. You are fortunate to be in a position to vote with that pocketbook. How is that an attack?

I read that article when it first appeared 7 years ago. It is disturbing, but I also think the boxcar kids are a very small percentage of what we're experiencing on the Mall. Your family and mine are unsafe for many different reasons. Among them: serial killers, home accidents like fires and carbon monoxide poisoning, drunk or distracted drivers, carcinogens etc in our food and water supply, predatory insurance companies, the bums you've mentioned, and one of the biggest dangers of all-- ignorance. I'd hazard a guess that bums are statistically near the bottom of the list of potential dangers you'll face in your lifetime. Possibly more likely you'll be bonked on the head by a random chunk of something falling off of Minor's erection.

if they're in there (and I wouldn't be surprised if they were), they'd be stashing their bedrolls somewhere.

In NYC, on the old World's Fair site (near the Unisphere) I walked into the NY Pavillion, a largely open structure resembling a king's crown with an enormous mosaic map of NY State. I was there as a child and remember it as magnificent, but t's decrepit now. It chilled my blood as I looked up around the rim from inside and noticed blankets and then eyes staring down at me.

The homeless hanging about Charlottesville's downtown is an absolute disgrace and one of the reasons I will continue to spend my time and money elsewhere.

vor, what percentage of the population do you suppose is living three or four weekly paychecks from being homeless? You shouldn't condemn the homeless until you have walked a mile in their worn out shoes. Contrary to popular belief, most homeless are not there by their own choice. Sure, rags to riches is the American Dream. But the reality lately is riches to rags.

he was major
now he is minor
the mayor may want to shout
if asked to talk
tearing it down will be cheeper
taxes tells us its not a keeper
no doubt

js

Low income housing on the Mall...yeah, that ought to go over in a "World Class City". Halsey just wants to finish the project at the city's expense...poor little rich boy ran out of liquid cash...too bad. To the Mayor...got a bulldozer? Need a demolition squad? Just tear the thing down and leave a vacant lot. Beats the heck out of all the hype from Minor and the squabbling about the "unfinished project". Give Minor a deadline and penalize him for each day it goes uncompleted or maybe HE wants to talk about giving up the property completely to the city...

Many--I will venture to say most--street people want to drink and do drugs. They call it their freedom. Public housing has rules: no alcohol no drugs. No freedom, by their definition. They go to a shelter when it rains, they'll go for a free lunch, but then back out on the street. By choice. On purpose. So they can drink and do drugs. Duh.

Put 'em on a bus.

Halsey Minor is a worthless punk. He's the one that should be homeless.

Vor - don't take that attitude to your grave.

Yep, the "homeless situation" is challenging and a scary mystery to many. The homeless are first, people, with stories and needs, just like you and me. Many are generous, kind people who ask very little.
All of them were children once, intended for better lives.

I hope you find love and love finds you, the poor will always be with us. That's a promise, i.e. you will always have an opportunity to reach out in love to another human being without any expectation of return. How liberating.

The mall as it has been for years is another instance of "Moral Hazard" in operation. This city (and many others I might add) seems incapable of mounting any sort of law enforcement effort against what I prefer to call "basic civility" issues. The Mall has been over-run with assorted maggots whose uncivil conduct makes many people uncomfortable, especially the elderly who might otherwise enjoy the place. While driving away decent people, the toleration of uncivil conduct attracts more people who seek out the freedom to behave in an uncivil manner. It is the misfortune of many that vagrancy laws and anti-loitering laws have vanished from the pallet of options.

I myself would love the convenience of living in the city so i'd not have to commute, but have learned that the city provides no backing for people whose lives are disturbed by the uncivil conduct of a certain group of people.

I think there is room for everyone's opinion on this. I won't demonize the homeless, but then again, I am ot convinced these squatters are homeless due to unfortunate or victimized circumstances. In any case, vacant unfunded buildings are going to be attractive nuisances, we do have a serious civility problem in Charlottesville, and our society these days, the time has come for people to stop rolling over for loud talking big developers, and I think the restaurant owner is telling the truth.

What's happening to them is what happened to people in Belmont, and in other parts of the city before. The City doesn't want to deal with it.

Very Old Timer, I would like to see some references to those attractive nuisance laws, because we might be able to use it to get this Minor Danielson PO Garbage thing dealt with once and for al.

they're loose cannons, imo. Most of us don't have much of a safety net, true. Our retirement's gone, we struggle to tend our own garden. The ugly situation downtown is not fair to those of us who hang tough and it's not fair to those who are laying about not to give them a real hand up - I'm not talking about enabling their antisocial behavior by giving them money for beer. Read the interview with the train bums a few years ago in the Hook. Scary stuff.

You can't make them take their medication and the system fails them since Reagan closed the asylums in 1980. You can't hardly complain about it either, or complain about the bad boys terrorizing the good people of Charlottesville again without the bleeding hearts come out of the woodwork to shut you down. I've got compassion, but it's just one man's opinion and I vote with my pocketbook.

There goes that elephant again.

Lily said "erection" hehehe

Meant to say "Minor's partial erection." It's most definitely not a functioning erection. (Lack of cojones, perhaps...)

figures for norris not to respond to you. good luck to anyone who can get him to respond to you. as for the hotel, tear that m@!$&*#$%! down!

The City should pass a law that requires developers of significant projects such as this hotel to file a completion bond. This would kick in if the developer fails to complete the project and provide funds to complete the project.

Seems to me that all it would take is a witness to one bottle thrown from the 6th story to cite the buildings owner under the attractive nusiance laws.

Perhaps the city needs to do like the federal government did with BP and look the other way until a bottle hits and kills somebody.

The laws are on the books. Use em. Make them secure the building. If the city were ignoring people throwing bottles off the avon street bridge they lawyers would line up to sue.

Maybe the city should spend a little less time chasing down people with satelite dishes in their own front yard and spend more time figuring out how to condemn that building for blight and aucton to someone that can actually cash the checks that his ego writes.

The mall merchants and half the population in the city know the city mortons will finish this hotel with taxpayer funds. Seems these merchants might be trying to speed up the process now with all these urban myths.

Best thing Halsey Minor can do do is sit back and relax until the city is ready to make a move. :)

Homeless is one thing, bums is another. here's a link to an interview - do you really think this sort of thing is acceptable? Not for the sake of my family's safety, and thanks for the personal attacks, so much for people being entitled to their opinions!

http://www.readthehook.com/stories/2003/06/19/coverBoxcarWilliesModernHo...

"The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good." ââ?¬â??ââ?¬â??Samuel Johnson

There are precious few true men posting on this thread, and rather an unfortunate number of bullies and half-wits. The word "civilized"is an important one. Look it up in a dictionary or even online.

Pathout, Gasbag, and Scott-- thank you.

Wow...the Puritan vitriol directed at the homeless is pretty amazing! Not all the homeless are substance abusers or homeless due to some kind of moral failure - many are self-medicating folks with genuine mental health issues.

That said: the shame and moral reproach ought to be directed at Minor and Danielson - children of privilege both - who are just waiting for the city to step in with funding to clean up this huge mess they've created. That's the model: the bigger and more expensive the mess, the better the leverage you can exert on the taxpayer for a bailout - the Omni project showed how this works in Charlottesville.

Yes, the city needs to take legal steps to force either completion or demolition - at minimal cost to the city. We never needed this hotel, and permitting it as a means of preserving the Central Fidelity bank facade was far, far too high a price to pay for preserving a storefront.

I agree with Boo. most homeless are harmless

I walk past the homeless on the mall every day and don't see what the big deal is. Yup, they sit around on the benches and they hold up signs asking for money. So long as they're not attacking anybody I don't see what the big deal is. I think it's kind of funny when people take it so seriously when some of the homeless people start getting boisterous and yelling things out from the benches. Who cares, just ignore it. I think the bigger problem is the roaming restless youths with nothing to do who start harassing people and actually committing crimes. I'll take a homeless begger, drunk or sober, medicated or not medicated, any day over that. Some would say there's not much difference between the two, but I've never felt endangered by a homeless person on the mall. However I have encountered the roaming gangs of restless rowdy guys trying to make trouble and found myself making sure my pepper spray was in my hand when I had to walk past/through them.

And thanks to booo!, as well. Old Timer, I appreciate your measured tone, and your comment re developers and the city. All I ask is that the homeless not be demonized. People are obviously allowed to have an opinion on their behavior. I'm just stunned when they are treated with more contempt than, for instance, the head of BP.

What are the homeless NOT doing? They're not destroying the ecosystem of a gulf. They haven't plundered your retirement fund. They haven't turned your wife down for that lifesaving cancer treatment she so desperately needs. They haven't stepped all over your constitutional rights. They didn't fire your 55-year-old butt from your job in favor of hiring their brother-in-law. They didn't erect a blight on the Mall, then walk away cavalierly when things got tough.

Great, vor, you vote with your pocketbook. How fortunate that you have a pocketbook to vote with!

"an Urban myth" someone who professess to have wealth but in reality has none and is being sued by people on both coasts, someone who professes to have intelligence but acts like a spoiled brat when he doesnt get his way and never apologizes for his mistakes which hurt many people, someone who professes to have business savvy but no one will hire him or lend him any money, yes, that is a true "Urban Myth"

This is another fine example of this town being one of extremes. Extreme poverty, extreme wealth. When the two meet both are appalled.

an 11 story homeless shelter. now there's a great idea. increase the homeless population on the downtown mall by 1000% and watch all the businesses run away to 29N...again.

quote: "Seems to me that all it would take is a witness to one bottle thrown from the 6th story to cite the buildings owner under the attractive nusiance laws."

If this was true, all the parking garages in the entire city would be condemned by now. Loose change, water, golf balls, human saliva and urine have been tossed down from parking garages onto citizens for years. And I can't honestly recall one single apprehension or conviction whatsoever.

how long will it be before we know what they going to do with this big naked eye sore building taking too long to make a decison i will love to see it gone in three months.

The last thing we need is more dirty, rude, pathetic, drug and alcohol addicted homeless poeple hanging around the mall begging for pennies. The city should set a deadline for the property owners to finish the project--it is unsightly and a detriment to our beautiful downtown area.

The taxpayers shouldn't have to pay a cent to have it torn down.
The taxpayers shouldn't have to pay a cent to have Minor complete it.

But, here it is, partly-built, probably built as much as it's ever going to be built, and now a horrible eyesore!

So now what?
_________________________________
It looks like Minor can't be sued, because he has no money.
And it looks like there's no bank or insurance company that
can be sued, because there's no money there.

Can the land and worthless shell of a building be auctioned off?
Given away for free?
Would anyone want it all for free it that were possible?

I wouldn't!

It all seems fitting!

Millions of dollars of taxpayers money was "loaned" to the Omni Hotel as it competed against privately-owned hotels and probably put the privately-owned hotels out of business! Were those "loans" ever repayed? I certainly doubt it.

Millions of dollars of taxpayer's money have been wasted on the downtown mall to "attract" businesses and tax dollars for the city. And what good has it done? What businesses have been "attracted" to the downtown mall?

Take a look at the towndown mall and tell me: Coran Capshaw built the concert hall. Good for him! And what else?

It's fitting and just that this joke of a shell of a hotel is now there. It's an honest result of the sham that has been pulled over the taxpayer's eyes on the mall for the last 20 years!

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....and leave the rest.

If we can live with 1920'2 monuments to slave-economy pride,

we can live a well-built structure for a few decades.

....and leave the rest.

If we can live with 1920's monuments to slave-economy pride,

we can live a well-built structure for a few decades.

They get at least 12 years of free education (bums and ghetto kids). It's a shame if they don't do more with it.

btw, I'm not so sure that we're statistically safe amidst a subculture of bums.

Hahahahahahahaha,

Just do what the terrorist do”Š”Š”Š”Š”Š”Š”Š blow it up!

@ OMG:

By terrorists do you mean Mossad, in conjunction with the U.S. military industrial complex?

I'm surprised Hilton or another chain wouldn't want this prime piece of hotel real estate

I second the high rise public housing idea. We need more affordable housing for single mothers and their children. Most of them do not have cars, and they location would enable them to do all their shopping, while their baby's daddys stay home with the kids. Cops love responding to calls in high rise projects as well, as once you get past having stuff thrown down on you. All you have to do is walk up several flights of urine and syringe coated steps, to get to your domestic dispute calls. CPD will love it!! Plus they will get great aerobic exercise to boot.

The Hilton??? Are you joking, why would people pay a lot of money to be panhandled and listen to foul mouthed teens every time they walk out the door?? I will bet in the end the city had to demolish it, after ten years of litigation. Meanwhile it will serve as a bird sanctuary.