Mall blues: East end loses another business

Sage Moon's Morgan MacKenzie-Perkins remains a downtown booster, even as she shutters her gallery.

December's First Friday will be Sage Moon Gallery's last First. The five-year-old art gallery plans to turn in its keys December 15, and its space joins the neighboring empty storefronts on the 400-block of the Downtown Mall's east end.

"We're sorry, we're very sorry," says co-owner Morgan MacKenzie-Perkins. "We're having to walk away from a big dream."

The gallery at 420 East Main was formerly Grand Piano & Furniture. "This location is large and quite costly," says MacKenzie-Perkins. Rent on the Chuck Lewis-owned, 8,200-square-foot space is over $8,000 a month, she says, and with utilities, comes close to $10K a month. "We can't afford to dip into our pockets any longer," she sighs.

MacKenzie-Perkins blames the economy for shrinking art sales. "People who can afford to collect are holding on," she explains. "It's called fear. We're in a fear mode."

On the upside, "If anyone wants to buy fine art, now is the time to buy," advises MacKenzie-Perkins. Sage Moon will be selling art through December 10.

Vacancy: Obama headquarters/former A&N, Sage Moon and Order from Horder all are for rent.

Despite the Pavilion, Transit Center and controversial 4th Street mall crossing, for which MacKenzie-Perkins was an advocate to help people more easily navigate the mall, the east end has struggled.

Except for a stint as Obama headquarters, the A&N building on the corner of East Main and Fifth Street SE beside Sage Moon has been empty for three years, and in May, Order from Horder across the street at 425 East Main closed its doors and remains unoccupied.

"I never could figure out how that gallery could pay for that space," says developer Oliver Kuttner. As for the east end of the mall, "I don't think it's the beginning of the end, but hard times are coming."

In particular, the city plans to rebrick the mall, which closes outdoor cafes until the work is done in May. "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard," opines Kuttner. "The city is almost amplifying the negative impact on businesses."

Despite the barren storefronts on the mall– and Kuttner reminds that three buildings beside Wachovia on the west end of the mall have been empty for eight years– "I do know people want to be on the mall," he says. "I get phone calls at least once a month."

Certainly MacKenzie-Perkins intends to return to the mall. For now, she'll hang art at Siips and market through her website. "I think it will turn around," she says. "I believe the whole mall is going to be vibrant when we get through this."

And she urges those who love the mall to shop downtown. "Unfortunately, I think people don't realize they have to spend their money here," she says. "If everyone said, I'm going to do my Christmas shopping here, that would help."


It's a shame to see another business leave the mall. I still don't think Charlottesville knows what a gem it has in the pedestrian mall. Just go visit the one in Boulder if you want to see what it can be...

if you dont want this or that what do you want...turn the mall into a nightlife spot like it should be...police get easy collars and the smart ones {whove mastered late night cuban party nose dives and drunken girl panty raids get to co ntinue their 216 boxer and brief short be smart the economist werent...

If they had keep the cross street that end of the mall might have had a better chance. The city really screwed that up

Those businesses aren't dying because of a cross street or the lack thereof. It's just a fact that the businesses on the east end of the mall just aren't as inviting, attractive, or hip-happening-now as the businesses to their west.I've walked up and down the mall for 15 years and bet I haven't stepped foot in any of the stores more than once - except for the copy shop that used to be in the garage (is it still there? Haven't noticed).

Is the gallery around the corner from Sage Moon closing, too? It's on the corner of 5th SE and Water. I believe its name is Migration Gallery. Don't forget to count the space in the Market Street parking garage facing the Mall called the City Space as empty. That large space has been used as a rent freebie by the city for years now. Of course the rationale for placing the amphitheater-now-Pavillion and the transit center at the west end of the Mall was to guarantee an increase in business traffic on that end, as if thousands of people do not go in and out of City Hall every month. And we will continue to spend millions of tax payers' money trying to prop up downtown business because the city hasn't learned that there are other forces that have a tremendous impact on business other than government intervention.

The City has done more to promote art than any other town in the state. The blame should not be placed at their feet, George Bush's economy is the culprit.

"The City has done more to promote art than any other town in the state."...

That's a laugh! Look closely in the annual budget and try to find any significant amount of money that goes to promoting the arts. Then look at other areas in VA where the municipalities OWNS the performing art centers, and museums or make significant contributions to them in order to better their cities and towns.

It's an embarrassment that Charlottesville is not one of those cities.

The city owns the MLK Performance Arts Center and the buildings that house the Discovery Museum, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, the Francis Brand Collection of Firsts, and the McGuffey Arts Center. It also provides hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to pay the real estate taxes for the Paramount Theater (lifetime tax exemption)and the Live Arts and Second Street Gallery complex. Other art groups receive grants when they apply for them. That's a lot on the plate for a town of less than 11 sq. mi.
It is certainly more preferable that the city does not control our art venues or we would have a lot of censorship. The way it is now, art venues can display what they please by any artist they choose.

"George Bushes economy" George Bush didn't tell people to buy their 16 year olds a BMW for their Birthday. George Bush didn't tell you to spend all of the equity in your house on vacations and big screen tvs. The reason a lot of these businesses fail is because the cost of running a business is too high. Start with the rent 12.00 a square foot for that place is at least 20% too much. Add to that all of the burdens of insurance and compliance and the numbers don't crunch. If the city supplied free parking they would more than make it up in sales and income tax. The problem is those taxes don't go directly to the city so there is no motivation. The mall needs lower rents easier parking and more tourist type attractions like a mini musem of Central Va history

It also provides hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to pay the real estate taxes for the Paramount Theater (lifetime tax exemption)and the Live Arts and Second Street Gallery complex."

You'd better do your homework on this issue my friend. That is downlevel information. The Paramount PAYS the city, not vice versa...

During the terms of Kay Slaughter and David Toscano on council the city voted to ignore its moratorium on granting real estate tax exemptions and granted a lifeterm real estate tax exemption for the Paramount Theater. In addition, it gave the organization $35,000 from the Historic Preservation fund to restore the marquee and another $500k to help jump start its fundraising campaign. Now, IF the Paramount has decided to pay its real estate taxes, it does so voluntarily. Perhaps you are confusing this tax with the tax on tickets. When it came time for Live Arts to move, Blake Caravati championed its receiving a lifetime real estate tax exemption also. Council instead voted to assess the tax, then give annual grants to Live Arts to help cover it. Of the $40k assessed the first year, the city covered $10k.

Your facts are impressive, but as I mentioned before a bit outdated. The Paramount is paying its property taxes and not because it has chosen to do so.

Sales Tax on ticket sales is not required under state law I believe for any organization. I could be wrong on that one, I'm not an accountant...

As well they should.

I'm sure the people who ran Sage Moon, or Migration Gallery are very nice people, but Sage Moon in particular didn't have an especially impressive collection of art on display, and the space was huge and uninviting. Orange in an art gallery? Bold maybe, but not high end. It seemed like it was aimed at a unsophisticated middle class first buyer. Not that there is anything wrong with being middle class, or a first time buyer, it just means that business was inevitably going to get tough once the economy took a slight dip. A space one third of that size with focused exhibits might have had a chance. The real deals in art are about to happen when the people who "invested" in art in the last few years realize it is worth only a fraction of what they've paid and try to unload it for anything they can get.

While Sage Moon and Migration are physically close to one another and both sell art, they are very different in character. Migration is small, focused and sophisticated. They show and sell the works of a limited number of artists. Migration seems to place a particular emphasis in helping their customers to understand the art and the artist. They spend time educating and cultivating collectors.

Harry Landers, I agree. I still don't know if they're closing, moving or re-stocking inventory?

Colorado Fan, you're right, the Paramount Theater has given the city money, $221,000 it was assessed as an adjoining property owner to 3rd St. NW, for its share for undergrounding utilities. In 2004, however, then-councilor Kevin Lynch asked if the real estate tax exemption granted by the city to the Paramount coulc be rescinded and was told "No." Can't rescind if not granted.

You're getting warmer...

Oh, did it give the city the rest of the $535,000 that the city gave to it?

Colorado Fan: please simply state what you know of believe you know rather than attempting to poke holes at what someone else is stating. If Cville Eye has incorrect facts/figures, then please tell us what the correct ones are and how we can be sure of your figures rather than Cville Eye's.

I know virtually nothing about the details of any tax arrangements the city has with any of the arts outfits mentioned, but I'm curious. "You're getting warmer..." doesn't help anyone learn anything, though. Granted, perhaps its not your role to educated anyone, but then why post here at all?

Its a crime that the owners of the property charge eight thousand a month to lease the Sage Moon Gallery space. Let it stay vacant. It can't be worth more than two or three thousand, maybe in time the landlords of Charlottesville will quit gouging small business owners and home renters.

GLO, it's not a crime, it's the high cost of paying a mortgage on a multi-million dollar property, real estate taxes, and insurance.

Hey Dr. Hook,

Good review – I like your style in writing. All the clichés` work nicely with the content!! My question is this:

Sugar is the enemy of most diabetics. I am a Type 1 (since 1985) and I'm trying to find a suitable sweetener that will require as little insulin as possible. What are you thoughts on the following: stevia, splenda, and xylitol?

Thanks for your column. Great job!!

Allie Beatty