COVER SIDEBAR- Whole Foods connects with Connector
Some architecture and history buffs are mourning the leveling of the Terrace Theater next to Kmart. "I loved the tile detail on the exterior," says architectural historian Christine Madrid French, " something you don't see today in new construction." But to others, the demolition of the rounded 1970s structure signals progress and means the arrival of the Hillsdale Connector is one step closer. That new road will join Hydraulic with Greenbrier and extend to Rio Road– and goes right through the site of the theater.
The Hillsdale Connector is unusual in an area where every new road is eyed with suspicion. Even folks who usually object to laying more asphalt support it, and green-friendly Whole Foods is putting its new store on the site to take advantage of the connector.
City planners are working with Whole Foods to make sure the connector doesn't go through the new store– and to encourage the donation of rights-of-way.
The connector "is quite expensive," says VDOT program manager Jeanette Janiczek, and has not been funded. "When you take rights-of-way out of the picture, it makes it easier. Throughout the corridor, we're working with business owners to get them."
That includes owners of businesses in the way of the connector. Chuck Rotgin, whose Great Eastern Management owns Seminole Square, is on the Hillsdale Connector steering committee. "It goes through the north wing, but I'm not sure where," says Rotgin, so he doesn't yet know which businesses will be affected. "My understanding is the final design is being worked on."
Although the connector seems imminent, Janiczek says a start date depends on funding. "I don't do politics," she says. "That's up to City Council."
"In my view, it's the only road the city ought to be focusing on right now," says City Councilor Kevin Lynch.
Says Mayor David Brown, "It's close enough you can smell it."
After: The Terrace Theater is leveled to make way for the long-awaited Hillsdale Connector
PHOTO BY WILL WALKER