Our mall will be botched

A certain part of the building boom makes me mad. [August 19: "Boomtown Flats: Downtown's Building Frenzy"] Seeing the pictures of the planned Presidents Plaza re-ignited my ire.

What's wrong with the form-makers in this town? First they make an incredibly long pedestrian mall with a "Central Place" that has no "place" space. Then at the low end they stick a wedge of Omni Cheese that gives equal emphasis to the hotel chillers as to the hotel's front door.

At the high end of the mall, there's a hole under a road for the Michie Mice to dash out for their furtive lunch at the Cheese. Now this world class city is getting an amphitheater that looks like a vacuum attachment.

I guess this is to suck in all those entertainment dollars. Even with the amphitheater's top removed, the patrons will feel like they've been sent to stand and face the corner. If any of those patrons try to escape, the wall of the transportation center will slice across the Mall to keep them in.

This project is not a turning point in the style of architecture for the Downtown Mall. It's the final wasted opportunity to make the mall a truly world class urban space that builds upon the legacies that put Charlottesville on the map.

All the chances to bring people together, guide their attention to things of importance, or to elevate their spirit have been missed. Thus, no sense of arrival.

Visitors now have an easy walk down to the Mall. Soon they will have to trudge up an intimidating set of stairs after being dropped under a dark bridge. When they go to the amphitheater, they will look down into a corner, not a beautiful backdrop or landscape. The wall of the transportation center will funnel their attention down to the old train station, which is now private offices, not a museum or other cultural destination. There is not an urban space formed there either.

Well, at least the music should be good.

John Rhett, AIA