Demo d'oh! Downtown building falls sans permit

This apartment building on South Street, seen here last April, was recently demolished to make way for the Blue Moon Fund's new conference center.

As mentioned in an aside yesterday, contractor Alexander / Nicholson Inc. applied for a permit to demolish a 14-year old apartment building at 220-222 South Street, making way for a new 6,800-square-foot conference center for the Blue Moon Fund. There's only one problem: the building has already been demolished.

Despite developer Oliver Kuttner’s offer to buy and move the building to property he owns next door, the Blue Moon Fund elected to demolish some rare affordable housing downtown (the building had five two-bedroom, two bath apartments with rents from $850 to $1,050) to make room for the new conference center. Because the building is in a historic district, the Fund had to seek approval from the Board of Architectural Review approval to demolish it, which it received last year.

At the time, a representative of the Fund, which counts supporting new approaches to urban development to “improve the human condition” as one of its initiatives, justified the demo by saying the existing building was energy inefficient and that the Fund didn’t want to “perpetuate that kind of construction.”

"This is the first I've heard of it," said City building inspector Tom Elliott after being informed about the demo. "They should have gotten a permit before they took the building down."

However, City permit technician Lisa Barmore, who processes demo and building permits, appeared to be familiar with the project, calling the demo application a "formality" and saying "they were supposed to have gotten one beforehand."

"This sometimes happens when a contractor thinks a building permit covers demolition," says Elliott, speculating on the mix-up, but said it's usually when something like a garage comes down or there's a partial demolition of a property. "For as long as I've been here, that's the first building of that size that has come down without a permit," he said.

City preservation planner Mary Joy Scala said she found the situation "unusual," but did not sound alarmed by the news.  "The part I care about is that the BAR reviewed the project and approved the demo," she said.

Still, Elliott says that demolishing a building without a permit is not permissible, and can prompt a stop work order or a lawsuit. However, Elliott says that if the building isn't historic, any kind of real punishment in these cases is rare. Even when a contractor goes before a judge, he says, the judge usually approves the demo if the contractor has a permit in their hand, even if it was applied for just days before the court date.

Elliott says he plans to speak with Barmore and look into what happened. Calls to Alexander / Nicholson Inc. had not been immediately returned by the time of this post.


The rents on that building probably didn't even cover the property taxes let alone the mortgage.

It appears I really need to get out more often. I wouldn't classify $850 to $1050 rent as "affordable housing"!

And what's up with $50,000 to $60,000 rent a year not even covering the property taxes? What does the city have the building appraised at, $6 million dollars?

Let's see... 5 apartments x $850 = $4250 a month. That translates to $51,000 a year. You actually believe that the yearly taxes were higher than $51,000 on a property assessed at $1.3 million in January? What do think the tax rate is in Charlottesville anyway?

No, I didn't believe it. I think user name "reality" did though.

He/she is the person who said above that the rent wouldn't even pay the property taxes.

That's who I was responding to, but you posted in the meantime. Sick, I know you're smarter than that! :)

I remember when a property owner was finded $50k in the nineties for tearing down a building in the 1000 block of W. Main even though it had to go later in order to build the 9th-10th Connector (Roosevelt Brown Boulevard). Also, a man was fined $5,000 for tearing down a tree in the front yard of a house in Fifeville. Also, didn't a developer get fined for tearing down a tree a couple of years ago on University Circle or University Way or did the city let him off? I didn't follow that story because I thought it was ridiculous.

A no-confidence vote for the City. The real solution is to disband or greatly reduce Neighborhood Development Services. They are the development arm of the city. Virtually very private sector developer has shrunk either in staff or gross revenues. Its time to have a serious conversation about the really fat NDS department. They are telling cops to ride bicycles and do more foot patrols to save gas. Time for NDS to go on a diet, as shown here, we can do just fine through individual property rights.

I really enjoy the food but with the latest price increase I think I'll be throtling back my consumption of this good food. :(

The main problem with Sticks (and it may prove to be a fatal one) is that there are no photos either outside or inside their restaurants that show what their dishes look like.

Even on the menu boards above the counters.

(And those menu boards are almost impossible to read, due to their “creative” font choices and their confusing mix-and-match configuration.”

The food is great! But the place makes it very difficult for new customers to navigate the ordering process.