Every crowd... Has Silverman in it

Talking to Gabriel Silverman must parallel, in some way, train hopping. One never knows where one will end up. But like many trips, the journey can be as compelling as the arrival.

"I am only concerned with the core of the city," says this semi-permanent fixture on the Downtown Mall, a developer easily recognizable in faded jeans and well-worn t-shirts, sometimes with a filterless cigarette dangling from his lips.

Silvermanknown as Gabe to legions of locals– can barely get 10 feet down the Mall before he's engaged in another conversation. That convivial manner hides a deeper agenda, though, one that ultimately might be the pivot point upon which the success or (gasp!) failure of the Downtown Mall rests.

As a long-time champion of individual contributions to creation of a self-sustaining community, Silverman lets loose a long stream of invective to describe the current power-wielding committees and councils that "aren't competent enough to make sh*t."

Even UVA gets slapped. "This is ours," he says of the historic Grounds, alleging angrily that UVA has become a "gated community."

Using his lone wolf tactics at energizing downtown, he reiterates the idea that individuals can't look to others to help, but must themselves do whatever needs to be done.

"We need a town composed of people willing to help individuals make it a community," he says. "Decisions should come from the taxpayers who balk when that revenue is used for bullsh*t and more useless studies."

Concerned these days with resurrecting the Frank Ix building– a former textile factory– into viable 21st century space, Silverman produces blueprints that bring his vision into focus. The most outstanding feature is that he has already contracted with a landscape architect team for the green space. Usually only an afterthought– or a no-thought– these spaces often become the hub of a successful environment. All he says of the interior is that there will be 90 "real" lofts, a jab at a Belmont development sporting that New York-inspired moniker.

Despite these occasional outbursts, Silverman loves to laugh and tell stories. His conference room, its floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lined with a dizzying array of games and playthings, looks like Toys 'R' Us circa 1950. He claims it's more a testament to his unshakeable belief in children than an indication of his ongoing adolescence.

Yet Silverman continues to play. He says he wants to level the field so that everyone has a say. When asked what would be best for the future of the Downtown Mall, he quickly responds, "Ask the children– they know what it needs."

Age: Old

What brought you here? A shining light

What's worst about living here? The politicians

Favorite hangout? The woods

Most overrated virtue? Virginity

What would people be surprised to know about you? Not much

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Stay awake longer

What accomplishment are you proudest of? Being part of a community

What do people find most annoying about you? Being part of a community

Whom do you admire? All little kids

Favorite book? The Solitaire Mystery by Justine Gaarder

What subject causes you to rant? Ineptitude

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? Louise Bourgeois' "Spider" [A vast sculpture in London's Tate Modern art museum]

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? Mosquitoes

What do you drive? Whatever I can find

What's in your car CD/tape player right now? Na'ara Ushma Kineret by Ofra Haza

What's your next journey? Beacon, New York

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? "Get your f**king clothes on!"

What do you regret? Nothing

Favorite comfort food: Chocolate covered ants

What's always in your refrigerator? Greek yogurt

Must see T.V.? All of them to be destroyed

Favorite cartoon? Crusader Rabbit

Describe a perfect day: One that never ends

Walter Mitty fantasy: Dressing up in women's clothing at Prada in New York City

Who'd play you in the movie? Anybody could try

Most embarrassing moment: "Get your f**king clothes on!"

Best advice you ever got: "Don't listen to any advice."

Favorite bumper sticker: Where's Ix?