Battle ready: Seven-story West Main transformation begins

Seven stories right on West Main.

Work has finally begun on the massive $141 million, 180,000 square-foot Battle Building at the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital, which will take three years to build and set the tone for future development between the Corner and the Downtown Mall. On April 27, Richmond-based general contractor Kjellstrom and Lee got the building permit for $12.8 million of foundation work on the former parking lot between the Blake Center and the building housing the defunct 12th Street Taphouse. Construction barricades went up earlier this month.
Architect for the University David Neuman has called the structure a "prototype" for West Main, the central road whose redevelopment has been discussed for at least two decades.

Named after Barry and Bill Battle, longtime champions of children’s health, the structure will serve as outpatient surgery and rehabilitative care facility for children and their families. Bill Battle, who died in 2009, was a former chair of the Ivy Foundation, which donated $15 million to the project– $45 million in all to the UVA Health System. The building will also include a Teen Health Center, a children’s therapy garden, and park-like green space around the building.

Eventually, the Battle Building will take over the corner at West Main and Jefferson Park Avenue, as the similarly tall Blake Center– which currently anchors that corner– will get demolished to make way for additional green space. But Neuman says Blake won't fall for several years.

Originally, Neuman said he was be shooting for a "gold" LEED certification (the system by which the quality of the sustainable construction is measured), but that has been adjusted to a "silver" goal. The project required special-use permits to deviate from City's goals for West Main, which allow by-right building heights only to 70 feet. Under the permit, the building's total height was raised to 90 feet and four inches (to accommodate six above grade stories plus a mechanical equipment penthouse), while the sidewalk-hugging exterior wall was lowered to 32 feet from the allowable 40. In keeping with other aspects of West Main planning, the Battle Building will feature pedestrian-friendly retail spaces along the sidewalk.

The building is being designed by Richmond-based architecture and design firm Odell, which specializes in medical buildings. The firm– which claims to create "environments of healing for mind, body, and spirit"– will be handling the landscape design as well. Their most striking design element: multi-story walls of glass on the front and north-west side of the building.

"It's evolved a bit since our original discussion," says Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review vice-chair Syd Knight. "The facades have been simplified. For example, the short, vertical fins that extend perpendicular to the façade are now gone. Still, it's going to be a very nice building."


I hope everyone will note the matter of orientation featured in the third image accompanying this item. That image shows the Battle Building casting a shadow to the south and the buildings on the north side of West Main casting corresponding southward shadow. But that's hardly the whole story.

In fact, this huge structure pushed up against the sidewalk on an east-west running street will, for close to half a year, cast the sidewalk on its north side into relentless shade. Among other things, that cool-to-cold season sunlessness will mean that any ice and snow accumulation on that sidewalk -- one that has never once been properly cleared in the last dozen years -- will freeze hard and constitute a treacherous, near-block-long obstacle course for pedestrians.

Of course, the same would be true for the sidewalk in front of any other behemoths arrayed along West Main's south side if this one does indeed prove to be a "prototype." And that means that all those viewing the world from the north side of the street -- office workers, walkers, et al. -- would have to buy postcards to remind themselves that a beautiful mountain range rises immediately southeast of town.

So much for taking the long view literally or figuratively.

Maybe they are planning to run hot air or water under the sidewalk to deter freezing. Or maybe they will employ some type of geothermal heating to keep the sidewalks clear.

Cville Eye:

"They" -- if that refers to U.Va., the builder in this case -- do not own the sidewalk. It's a City sidewalk. The City doesn't practice even basic maintenance on sidewalks, much less incorporate innovative technologies into them.

Wow, the Hook writers really need to learn how to spell. "Accomodate"??? Really?? What a bunch of amateurs.


That's what you have to say about this story??? Really? ??? Jeeze, get a life.

Where did UVA get $141 million for this building? I think the Battle's donation, while substantial, was only in the $10-$15 million range. This being built despite the fact that the medical school is pushing to cut faculty salaries.....

@Antoinette W. Roades, "The City doesn't practice even basic maintenance on sidewalks, much less incorporate innovative technologies into them." Maybe that's why the city gave its money to UVA.
@yigdee, "This being built despite the fact that the medical school is pushing to cut faculty salaries....." Maybe UVA hospital realizes its primary obligation is to its patients rather than to its faculty? A hospital doens't exist to pay people.

Cville Eye:

I have no idea what you refer to by saying, "Maybe that's why the city gave its money to UVA." Whether the City of Charlottesville has subsidized the University of Virgnia in some way or not, the City still owns the public sidewalks and has the responsibility of maintaining them and/or seeing that other public and private entities that hold some responsibility for maintaining them -- as under the snow removal ordinance -- meet that responsibility.

In my experience and observation as someone who walks at least 20 miles in Charlottesville weeikly, City government is reprehensibly lax in all City responsibilities vis-a-vis sidewalks.

And a footnote: About six years ago, Neighborhood Development Services orchestrated a multi-hour meeting of two adjacent capital-N Neighborhoods with the supposed goal of turning us ordinary folk into Citizen Planners charting our own fate. On hand were myriad maps and a bristles of push pins. Page after page of large paper sheets were filled with Magic Marker scrawls and taped to walls. "Wow Lists" were required. No dream was too big, no idea too small.

One thing was off limits, however. At the outset, we were told that we could NOT ask for sidewalks. Wow.

If UVA runs heat underneath the sidewalk will the city have to remove the snow?