Downtown Renovations continue

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There’s just no accounting for the pace of redevelopment on the Downtown Mall. Some things move fast, and some things move slowly. Eager ‘villeans will just have to wait to see what’s behind the drop cloths and scaffolding once a few highly visible downtown landmarks are refurbished.

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Behind door No. 1 lies Lee Danielson’s property, the former Boxer Learning building, at 200 E. Main St. Danielson said in early January that demolition to make way for a new hotel would begin by the end of that month. Four months later the structure with the black granite façade still lies vacant and intact.

In mid-April Danielson headed to Charlottesville from his home in California to consult with his contractor. The ever-optimistic Danielson now says construction of the nine-storey, 99-room hotel should begin by July 1 and finish by October 2006.

When the curtain rises on the building, it will be The Landmark Hotel, a high-end boutique lodging operated by Windsor Capital Group, which runs chains like Embassy Suites, Marriott, Hawthorn Suites, Radisson and Renaissance. The project was originally rumored to be partially financed by leading developer and Dave Matthews Band manager Coran Capshaw. Danielson says Capshaw is not involved.

Finding a hotel operator held up the start of construction. “We just had some changes in the financial make-up of the project, in terms of who the operator would be,” Danielson says. “I interviewed many, trying to find the right one that would fit within the guidelines of what Charlottesville deserves. I will tell you that I found out hotels are not easy to do.”

Other Downtown redevelopment projects have proven much easier. Ludwig Kuttner’s Terraces building at 100 W. Main St. is undergoing a partial facelift. The former Foot Locker site is being remodeled as the new home of a high- end Parisian paper store, Caspari, and other unrevealed commercial ventures. Lexie Boris of Monticello Associates, a real estate development firm, says a building permit was issued March 3 and construction started almost immediately. The contractor, Caliper, has a permit to block the sidewalk until June 30.

“Things are just falling into place,” Boris says of the pace. “It’s probably going to be a little ahead of schedule at this point, knock on wood. I should never say such a thing.”

Caspari’s first-ever U.S. boutique should open this fall. Their product line includes paper plates, invitations and napkins printed with designs copped from museum collections. “Napkins look like linen, plates like pocelain,” a press release promises.

Behind door No. 3, at the Fourth Street corner of the Mall, construction on the old SNL building is wrapping up. The exterior of the building was mostly finished in mid-April, and work crews are now focused on the interior. Real estate agent Stu Rifkin says the space is mostly rented and should be ready for occupancy by the end of the month. It’s rumored that Capshaw will move his music management business, Red Light, into the space along with the management group running the Charlottesville Pavilion (nee Amphitheater) for Capshaw, who also owns the building. Other tenants will include bead store Studio Baboo and possibly Blue Ridge Internetworks.—Lacey Phillabaum

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