NEWS-Pizza to go? Landmark Crozet pie building threatened
Despite what some may call the "romance" of tiny downtown Crozet, one developer says he'd like to help it grow.
Architect Bill Atwood, along with property owner Sandra Everton, hopes to transform the Crozet tracts that currently contain the IGA Shopping Center, Three Notch'd Grill, and Crozet Pizza strip into a new mixed use complex that would demolish the whole shebang to create "Crozet Station."
Atwood (who recently unveiled a nine-story building proposal for Charlottesville) and Everton made their preliminary Crozet proposal to the Albemarle Planning Commission on May 30.
"This is not really the neighborhood model," said Atwood. "This is the reinvention of a Downtown that has been left behind."
Atwood has some history in Crozet. He's the guy who designed the fanciful, copper-roofed Dairy Queen, a structure widely praised at the same meeting. He says commercial//retail space on the site would climb from its existing 49,000 square feet to about 56,000 square feet– with the addition of 72 residential units, and the site might have about 270 parking spaces.
Not everyone is pleased with Atwood's plan– particularly the thought of losing beloved landmarks like Crozet Pizza. "There's a lot of chagrin about the possibility of demolition," said longtime Crozet advocate Mike Marshall. "I think there would be a lot of sadness," said Marshall, adding that the site contains "romance."
"Nobody ever considered in the course of the master plan that there would be the demolition of these buildings," Marshall said. "It was discouraging to learn that some of them are pole buildings, frankly, because we understood that they had foundations."
Numerous Planning Commissioners expressed hope that the project would find a way to preserve the facades or at least– as one of them put it– to pay "tribute" to the demolished structures.
"I'm a little worried about mandating that those exact structures on Route 240 be rebuilt," said one Commissioner, who hoped to see "some tribute to their visual impact."
Founded by Bob and Karen Crum in 1977, Crozet Pizza had the distinction of becoming the only pizzeria we can recall that required reservations, but that policy was dropped in the mid-1990s. A call to the current manager of Crozet Pizza found Mike Alexander, son-in-law of the founders.
"I do support some of it," says Alexander, an admitted fan of his landlord. Still, he worries that the project might resemble the Downtown Mall and push parking away from the storefronts and make take-out order difficult.
"I want to go to Atomic Burrito," says Alexander, referring to a Mall eatery,"but I'll go to Zazus where I can drive right up to the front door. If they do this like the Downtown Mall, then we're in trouble."
Hayden Berry, who, with his wife Cathy, has been operating nearby Three Notch'd Grill since October, says he has no plans to worry. "You never know what's going to happen with the County," says Berry. "It's way too early to get too concerned right now."
Charlottesville Tomorrow, a growth watchdog organization, summarizes some of the Commission discussion and even includes a podcast of the meeting (the source of this story) at its website, www.action.cvilletomorrow.org.
Atwood says the development could be built in stages over five years so that existing businesses wouldn't have to leave the site. "You shouldn't try to draw in a Harris Teeter," said Atwood. "The IGA's fine."
Depending on market conditions, Atwood said, the one or two stories over the shops could be apartments or offfices– "we're flexible on that," he says. Whether he's flexible on preserving Crozet Pizza, which stands on an old stone foundation remains to be seen.
"I hate to see it torn down," says Crozet Pizza's Alexander. "When you see an image of Crozet, you see Crozet Pizza."
One pieman's trash is another man's treasure.
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO