Beta House forgotten already?
How quickly we forget. In a Daily Progress story today about the new $21 million Jefferson Scholars Foundation headquarters (photo bottom right), a 25,000-square-foot complex to be built on the site of the former Eugene Bradbury-designed Beta House/Compton House (photo left) on Maury Avenue, it's mentioned that the "project drew criticism over the past year from several local historic preservationists who denounced the foundation's decision to demolish a 93-year-old house to make way for the new structure."
And that's it.
In fact, Charlottesville's own preservation and design planner, Mary Joy Scala, called the demolition of the Beta House "a lost opportunity to demonstrate that preservation is the cornerstone of sustainability." Former mayor David Brown suggested that City Council was misled by the Foundation, pointing out that there was no mention of a possible demolition while the group was seeking $18 million in bond financing for the project. Brown told the Hook in January that Council members believed that a foundation bearing Jefferson's name and associated with UVA would surely be dedicated to historic preservation. "Who would have thought it was their intent to tear it down?" he asked.
During a January 7 City Council meeting, Dave Norris, Satyendra Huja, Holly Edwards, and Julian Taliaferro all appeared to be in favor of better protecting historic properties based on the city's experience with the Beta House demo.
Responding to disgruntled preservationists in the crowd, Brown said, "I deeply regret we didn't take a closer look."
The incident also prompted the city to develop a new category of historic oversight, a kind of "historic district lite" to provide a better level of protection for buildings like Beta House. In fact, during that January 7 Council meeting, Scala presented a list of over 100 historic and architecturally significant properties to be considered for protected status, such as the Coca Cola bottling plant on Preston Avenue and the Fry Springs Service Station. "A successful historic preservation program must rely on regulation to prevent worst-case scenarios like destruction of the Beta House," she told Council.
Meanwhile, work is scheduled to begin on the new Jefferson Scholars headquarters this summer. The Foundation is also seeking the coveted gold-level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, a nationally recognized standard of excellence for environmentally friendly construction.