Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Downtown Mall in the News: Minor v. Danielson; Victory Shoes and the B.A.R.

It's been a big week for news about the Downtown Mall:

1. Yesterday in Charlottesville Circuit Court, Judge Hogshire granted demurrers dismissing Halsey Minor's claims of fraud and breach of fiduciary duty against Lee Danielson and his development entity.

In a small victory for Minor, Hogshire did give Minor's attorney 21 days to amend his complaint and re-file, and did not grant the demurrer on Minor's breach of contract claim. According to the reports in The Hook (by Hawes Spencer, here) and Daily Progress (by Tasha Kates, here), Judge Hogshire was pretty emphatic in telling the parties that they need to arrive at terms for arbitration of their claims against each other.

In a detail that surpised me, Hawes Spencer reports that there were only 3 spectators at the hearing. We walked over there but got there just after the hearing had ended. I had expected there'd be a bunch of people, curious like me, who would show up.

The Landmark definitely looks bad. It has now been more than a year since construction stopped, and I keep thinking a picture of the half-finished project will show up in one of the national photo essays about the recession. And yet, there's surprisingly little protest by Mall owners asking the City to become involved in compelling a resolution.

2. Several weeks ago, Joe Gieck had the display area in front of the old Victory Shoes store demolished, and the City is alleging that the failure to obtain pre-approval from the Board of Architectural Review may have been a violation of the historic preservation ordinance. They have put a stop-order on the project.

Dave McNair reports in The Hook (here) that Gieck's property manager Bill Rice contends that the City did not object to other display area repairs/removals. Yet Rice concedes that the BAR approval process is a pain, which implies he and Gieck knew they were violating the BAR requirements when they tore down the display area without having first obtained approval.

The comments sections at the bottom of McNair's article, and on Waldo's blog at cvillenews.com (here) have made for fantastic reading this week. Commenters have taken both sides as to whether the City and BAR should enforce the Code and fine Gieck (the Code imposes a fine of 2x assessed value!!). Several commenters have brought up Gieck's prior moment of infamy, when he moved to trip a Hokie during a UVA/Tech football game a few years back.

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