Charlottesville Breaking News

Refenestration: Old Cola-Cola plant invites the light

For the first time in decades, natural light will flow into the former Coca-Cola bottling plant on Preston Avenue, as the new owner has ordered a tear-out of the brick panels that have darkened the former industrial site.

"It's kind of a demonstration project," says the building's owner, Martin D. Chapman, explaining that workers will replace the six front windows to show the state's Department of Historic Resources that it's serious about reviving the 1939 art-deco structure.

Chapman– who paid $2.5 million for the nearly two-acre site a year ago after Coca-Cola moved its bottling operation to Richmond– reveals that he plans to renovate the historic building as the headquarters for his company, Indoor Biotechnologies Inc. Currently located on industry-heavy Harris Street, his firm provides an array of environmental allergen products and tests.

Moving to Preston means not only a higher profile for Chapman's company, but he also plans to build an incubator space for smaller bio-tech firms as well as creating a new event/office facility inspired by Open Space, a collaborative workspace that opened near the downtown Atlantic Coast Athletic Club in 2009.

"We're moving ahead," says Chapman, who hopes his CityCampus Biotechnology Center will have over 30,000 square feet of space under roof by June 2013, "if the stars align."

Chapman says the...

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Innocent kid? Davis clemency petition inches toward governor

While Michael Hash recently was freed after a judge's ruling of police and prosecutorial misconduct, another Central Virginian controversially convicted as a teen remains in prison, waiting for his clemency petition to reach the governor.

Nine months after a special prosecutor was appointed to look into his case, 27-year-old Robert Davis still languishes behind bars, passing a grim ninth anniversary for a brutal murder he says he didn't commit. Since last year's media attention, his claim of innocence has been bolstered by a legal clinic at Northwestern University Law School, which considers the Davis conviction a textbook case of false confession.

"We have seen the videotape and the transcript," says Laura Nirider, co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth. "To all of us, it stands out as one of the most intense police interrogations we've ever seen."...

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Beautiful kill: UVA doc takes aim at deadliest cancer

Glioma is the most common and deadly kind of brain cancer. Each year, 10,000 Americans are diagnosed, and only half survive beyond a year. Only a quarter after two years. But research at the University of Virginia has led to the discovery of a toxic molecule which targets the disease and might also be used to target other cancers.  

"The potential of this research is extremely high" said Dr. Benjamin "B.J." Purow at a recent fundraiser for his research.

Since 1997, the owners of Hamilton's at First & Main restaurant have held a fundraising dinner for the UVA Cancer Center, and the seven-course affair on March 6 raised $10,000 for Purow's research. The restaurant that night was a veritable brain trust, filled to capacity with doctors, researchers, grad students, cancer survivors, those who had lost loved ones to the disease, and those simply willing to pony up for a good cause. 

"Cancer is immensely complex," said Purow, a physician in UVA's Neuro-Oncology Center, "and we have had to lift up the hood and look at the circuitry of cells." 

Purow's research focuses on toxic microRNAs, a newly discovered molecule in cells that has the potential to target cancerous cells without damaging the normal ones. Purow earned a $375,000 grant in 2008 for his glioma work. 

He explained that current...

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Water wasters: Worrell decries waste, centralization


The latest UN-designated World Water Day, according to a panel of environmental experts gathered at McGuffey Arts Center last week, was not a particularly happy one. Among many startling things learned at the March 22 forum sponsored by a new locally-based non-profit were that 900 million people around the world don't have access to fresh water, that every 17 seconds a child dies of a water-borne illness, and that ever bigger centralized systems for water, food, and waste are depleting our resources.


"We are still building centralized infrastructure as the Romans did," said former Daily Progress owner turned water management visionary Tom Worrell, "just under a new regime. Our goal is toward decentralization of our waste/water systems."

As our local water debate heats up again with the recent filing of a lawsuit to block construction of an approved but controversial dam project at the Ragged Mountain Natural Area, the panel of experts gathered at McGuffey criticized gluttonous world water use and emphasized the need for more conservation and innovation.

"We've got to stop living in denial," said Worrell, who, also with several panelists,...

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Early spring: What's wrong with this picture?

A typical April in Central Virginia: Tulips are abloom. So are redbuds, cherries, and dogwoods. Grass is a vivid green after the winter's brown, and trees are a paler, spring green as they start to get their leaves. The thing is, that's been happening the past week, and it's still March.

"It's pretty extraordinary," says Peter Hatch, Monticello's director of gardens and grounds. "It's three weeks ahead of schedule, which is unprecedented on my watch. Things are blooming like Scotch broom, tree peonies... things that normally bloom in April."

This area is big on April celebrations of spring. By the time the Dogwood Festival holds its parade April 28, those dogwood blossoms will be long gone. Historic Garden Week runs April 21-28, but the flora that normally blooms in April aren't waiting.

"[W]ith this crazy weather, we’re wondering whether there will be any flowers left by the end of April!," says Holly Maillet, who's working on Albemarle's April 21-22 Keswick-centered Garden Week tour.

The ...

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