CVS to replace Plan 9, Satellite Ballroom?
Six months ago, when the Hook learned that developer Hunter Craig had added the Chancellor Building to his list of Corner purchases (in 2006 he purchased the former Eljo's building for a reported $4.7 million, and paid $2.6 for the Chancellor, home to the White Spot, Freeman-Victorius frame shop, and the Corner Market), we wondered if there might be some big changes in store for the Corner. However, it wasn't Craig who confirmed our suspicions ( "I like the Corner just the way it is," said Craig), but long-time Corner property owner Terry Vassalos.
"I think it's a turning point," said Vassalos, who owns the the Corner parking lot, the College Inn, and the Anderson Building (the latter the site of Plan 9, the Satellite Ballroom, Higher Grounds, and Just Curry), speculating that the construction of the Grandmarc on 15th Street and 225 14th Street, which would add 265 new residential units to the area, would revitalize the area with more pedestrians. "I'd like to see fewer restaurants and more retail," he said. "I think a big chain retail store would be great for the Corner."
At the time, Vassalos insisted that he had no plans for placing a chain retail store in the Anderson Building.
However, for nearly two weeks now, the rumor that a CVS Pharmacy will be moving into the Anderson Building on The Corner, displacing its current tenants, has been circulating in the blogosphere and on email lists.
Indeed, Vassalos indirectly confirms he's in talks with the pharmacy chain, mentioning that "they have studied the location," but he's not yet naming them as the new tenants. He does confirm, however, that he's in negotiations with Plan 9 concerning its lease agreement. "It's very complicated," he says.
"It's about to come to a head," says Plan 9 owner Jim Bland, who, understanding how upset some folks might be about Plan 9 and the Satellite Ballroom getting the boot, promises to let the media know what happens. "We're very closeÂ¢Ã¢â??Â¬ÂŠ.it could be before the week is out."
Vassalos, however, says it could be another month before things are worked out.
What those negotiations involve, if Plan 9 is trying to get an extension on their lease or Vassalos is trying to buy them out of it, neither party is willing to say.
"We're concerned, first and foremost, with our employees and the other tenants," says Bland, who admits that some Plan 9 employees heard the rumors before they heard it from the company.
Oddly enough, Rob Hargett of the Richmond-based Rebeeke Company, which is the developer for CVS in Virginia, says he's not involved in the Corner project. As you may recall, Hargett tried to propose a CVS for the corner of West Main and Ridge/McIntire, where the RSC Rental building is, but it was shot down by the Board of Architectural Review.
In fact, Hargett accused the BAR of not "understanding economics" and said he was going to "take a week to get over my anger" before deciding what to do next. Eventually, he walked away from the project. (In February last year, another Richmond-based developer, Bob Englander, proposed a plan to build a 9-story mixed-use building on the same corner, sans CVS, but the Planning Commission denied a request to rezone the property last August,
effectively killing the project. Update: as Sean Tubbs over at Charlottesville Tomorrow was kind enough to remind us, "City Council approved the project a month later, after the developer kicked in another $100,000 in proffers to affordable housing, for a total of 300K. That project is also what has triggered the City to reevaluate its proffer policy Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬“though that conversation is on hold pending the whole SB768 issue.")
"I'd be surprised if rumors about a CVS on the Corner turn out to be true," says BAR vice chair Syd Knight, though he thinks a pharmacy would be good for the Corner. "That location doesn't fit the standard CVS model. It's difficult for the non-UVA population to reach and it has no parking or truck access for deliveries. Those are some of the problems they cite when they talk about the shortcomings of the Downtown Mall store. Why would they want to recreate them on the Corner?"
Again, Vassalos says "they (CVS, presumably) have studied the location" and determined that the ever-increasing foot traffic on the Corner could sustain a store.
Mike DeAngelis, national director of public relations for CVS, neither confirmed nor denied the company's interest in the Anderson Building site, but emphasized that CVS only makes public comments if there is a signed agreement for a site.
Vassalos says he understands that some people might be upset about Plan 9, Satellite, and Just Curry loosing their leases, and points out that he's been a steward of small business on the Corner for years. "But as a business man...," he says with a shrug and a smile. Indeed, considering that CVS would probably pay a hefty price for the space, and would likely renovate extensively, a deal with the chain might be too good to pass up.
"Besides, I don't think the Corner should be all bars and restaurants," Vassalos adds, echoing his past statements. "Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬ÂŠmore retail will be good for the Corner."