Squash the spiders: Consultants want new Mall lamps

Seven years ago, the City provoked a lawsuit with its ardent defense of "spider lamps" on the Downtown Mall. Now, its consultants recommend ditching them.

"Great decision," says Lee Danielson, the developer of the Charlottesville Ice Park.

Danielson was at the center of the last spider lamp controversy when he surrounded his Ice Park with several reproduction gas-style Victorian lamps.

In January 1997, City Council unanimously sided with the Board of Architectural Review in telling Danielson to lose the Victorians. A month later, Danielson sued. The two sides settled by allowing some of the lamps to leave and some to stay.

Now comes Wallace, Roberts & Todd, a Philadelphia-based consulting firm that's earned about $1.2 million for conducting several studies for Charlottesville, says the city's top planner, Jim Tolbert.

Those plans include a makeover for West Main Street, opinions on the new zoning ordinance, and various schemes for the Downtown Mall including a transit center and a bigger amphitheater. And those spider lamps.

At a series of public meetings in April, WRT unveiled its Mall proposals for review. Two taller "accent lights" featuring metal halide bulbs would replace four spider lamps at each intersection. WRT suggests using the Hestia model by Lumec-Schreder.

How does Danielson feel about that?

"It has been seven years," says Danielson, "and I am only looking forward, not backward."

The California-based developer says he hopes to break ground on his planned 100-room hotel– at the site of the former Boxer Learning building– in July.

Out with the spider and in with the Hestia?