Outgassed: Chevron operators stunned by UVA buy

By Mythili Rao

To spruce up one of its more prominent entrances, UVA has bought and intends to demolish the gas station at the corner of Ivy Road and Emmet Street.

In late June, the University of Virginia Real Estate Foundation, which already owns many buildings adjacent to the site, including the Cavalier Inn, paid Anderson Oil Company Inc. $297,519 for the 0.19-acre lot.

Currently occupied by a Chevron gas and food station, the property is under lease through the year 2011. When the lease expires, University officials plan to demolish the building and re-landscape the concrete corner into a grassy patch which will merge with the playing fields next to it.

Mark Anderson, president of Anderson Oil Company, says that the University has been eyeing the property for roughly a decade.

Still, the sale seems to have caught his tenants off guard.

Vasantha Thaliyil, who operates the Chevron station with her husband and a third business partner, Ramesh Patel, said that the sale was unexpected.

"We just read it in the newspaper yesterday," she said on July 12. "This is a surprise for us."

Thaliyil says the trio makes monthly lease payments to Anderson Oil and earns profits from gas sales. Thaliyil and her partners were aware that their lease would expire in 2011 but had no idea that the station would be sold and eventually demolished.

Anderson confirmed that Thaliyil and her partners had no role in the decision to sell the property, but maintains that the company had informed them of the sale by certified mail.

As of July 15, Thaliyil said, she had not received Anderson's letter.

"We get out from here with nothing," says Thaliyil, who immigrated from India six years ago. She and her husband have not yet determined their plans after 2011.

Until then, the Real Estate Foundation will pay taxes on the lot. According to the Three-Party Agreement, a document signed by university, county, and city officials in the mid-'80s, the Foundation property will remain taxable real estate as long as it's a business.

Currently assessed for $256,000, the lot annually pours $2,841 in property tax into city coffers, in addition to sales and business taxes.

University of Virginia spokesperson Louise Dudley calls the lot a "prime location" as one of the University's "gateways."

The Master Plan posted on the website of the Office of the Architect for the University of Virginia shows a mini waterway running through the lot, but UVA officials say specific plans for the land have not been finalized.

"It will just be a more attractive entrance to the University," says Dudley.

The University currently has no plans to use the lot in the proposed Groundswalk, a unifying pedestrian passage planned to cross Emmet Street and connect UVA's north and south campuses.