Charlottesville Breaking News

Retail migration: Could Stonefield threaten Barracks?

Last week, we looked at store vacancy data for the Downtown Mall, completed in July by the City's Office of Economic Development, but what about the City's other retail centers? And what effect might the coming shops at Stonefield (known for some time as Albemarle Place) have on our existing centers?

Long-successful Barracks Road enjoys a zero percent vacancy rate, with only the former Quiznos sub shop unoccupied, and not counted because it has been closed for only a few months. Vacancy rates on the Corner and Preston Plaza are also now at zero with the arrival of the Java Dragon coffee shop in Preston, which replaced the Blue Ridge Eco Shop (which moved to the Downtown Mall), and clothing store Jack Wills on the Corner, which replaced the Corner Market. 

Seminole Square continues to have the most vacancies of the studied districts. In January 2011, the rate was 13 percent, but it had fallen to 9.4 percent by the time the July study was completed. Currently, there are five empty stores in Seminole Square.

So how might Stonefield affect the shopping center next door with the historically high vacan...

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Oh, Snap! Halfaday gym ownership claim refuted

Back in the spring, after James Halfaday announced a run for City Council, he met with a reporter at Snap Fitness and acted like he owned the place, and, actually, claimed he did. Halfaday's alleged co-ownership of the 24-hour gym on Zan Road went unchallenged from April until September.

Photos of the gym appear on his election website, and local media, including the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, and the Hook, reported it; and he's listed in Cvillepedia as the co-owner of the fitness center. It was only after a story in the September 8 issue of the Hook "Quake casualty? Council candidate claims knock-out blow"– that an email from attorney Brad Young showed up in a Hook reporter's inbox on behalf of Mike and Nancy Hamdani, owners of The Long Run Inc.

"Mr. and Mrs. Hamdani are the sole owners of Long Run, which in turn is the sole owner of the Snap Fitnes...

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Buffetted: Weschler to invest for Warren's shareholders

An owner of the Hook is Omaha-bound. And this isn't a baseball story.

Ted Weschler, 50, until now a quiet giant in the hedge fund world, has been hired as part of a new generation of talent to run key investments for Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the publicly-traded company best known as the brainchild of legendarily-savvy investor Warren Buffett.

Earlier this year, when discussing the first little-known member of the two- or three-member investment team that will eventually replace him, octogenarian Buffett noted that the goal was finding "a 2-year-old Secretariat, not a 10-year-old Seabiscuit."

This reporter has long known that Weschler is a Buffett fan but had no idea about the hiring– or about the $5 million worth of meetings that led to it. The series of curious events are detailed in a story in Fortune.

"It's an incredible accomplishment," says Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel. "I would liken it to a good college quarterback all of a sudden being picked by the Superbowl team."

In Charlottesville, where Weschler will continue to live part time, according to Fortune, Weschler has created a highly successful fund called Peninsula Capital by taking large positions in a select few firms and occasionally getting involved in corporate affai...

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Street cred: West Main relaxes

West Main– from the infamous cop-hits-wheelchair man intersection to the one just before the once-controversial dusty Amtrak parking lot– was the site of the second annual Midtown Street Fair Saturday, September 10. There were thumb-wrestling contests sponsored by the ladies of CLAW (Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers), face painting, fake mustaches, a strong-man swing-the-hammer-ring-the-bell challenge, karaoke, live music, funny bicycles, a BBQ cook-off (Orzo won), and kids and families and local hipsters everywhere.

According to organizers, the 35 vendors on hand welcomed close to 4,000 people during the day long event, raising awareness of 'Midtown' as a restaurant and retail destination, and money for such charities as the FOCUS Flea Market, the Music Resource Center, and the Jefferson School rehabilitation project.

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W'boro spectacle: After sparks, Cline memorial sparkles

The installation of a dramatic memorial to 9/11 caused a spectacle of its own Friday afternoon after a support cable touched a live power line, sending up sparks and plunging several businesses in downtown Waynesboro into darkness.

"We're all a little bit shaken up," said Mark Cline, the Natural Bridge-based showman who planned the memorial. "We're just lucky that no one was touching the cable."

According to witnesses, the incident occurred around 1:45pm as a team was hoisting four soft plastic panels to cover one face of a former cold storage building. The idea was to create a representation of the twin towers of the World Trade Center with patriotic images of a flag and eagle in the background.

While power was restored in about an hour to the nearby Kroger grocery and other businesses along Arch Avenue, the fate of the memorial was uncertain at the original time of this posting. Cline, aka "Professor Cline," has been working on the project for a recently-assembled group called 9/11 Tribute.

The incident created a harrowing moment for Scott Balsley. A childhood friend of Cline's, he took a day off work– his birthday– to help raise the tribute. He and Cline were harnessed and hauling up panels at the roof's edge when wind caught a panel "like a parasail," says Balsley.

He says he saw the flash of electricity churning through one of the...

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