Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Oliver Kuttner: Hero to downtown baristas and guitar-slingers?

Local developer Oliver Kuttner dropped a mini-bombshell in last week's C-ville Weekly that really deserves more notice. Tucked away in this article about his architectural vision for the old Boxer Learning building on the Downtown Mall (formerly home to Central Fidelity Bank) was this passage:

What will be in the building? Kuttner wants several floors of retail by opening up the basement as a courtyard along the side street and creating a second floor of retail fronting the Mall. He plans four apartments above the retail in a first phase of redevelopment. The second phase will be a larger structure closer to Water Street that nears the nine-storey limit, which will contain either a 72-room hotel—or affordable apartments at around $500 a month. “In Charlottesville, you can’t rent anything cheap any more,” says Kuttner. “I think that with clever design I can do it.”

Let's hope he does figure out how to do it. Think of all the retail clerks, office workers, baristas, artists and musicians who are being increasingly priced out of housing anywhere near downtown. Many of them contribute mightily to the downtown business and cultural "scene" and many of them are currently paying an arm & a leg for parking everyday because they have to commute in from elsewhere. Wouldn't it be great if they had access to affordable rental housing within a short walk of where they work and play? Must downtown housing all be upscale and high-priced? Can't we have at least one oasis of residential bohemia amidst the Caspari Condos that are popping up all over downtown these days?

If you see Oliver, please sing his praises for thinking of the working stiffs and the starving artists. It's their town too.


TrvlnMn said...

February Follow up:

I think in todays Daily Progress, Kuttner has proven this was all just "lip service" to the issue of affordable housing.

With a few comments he got great publicity for a week or so, painted himself as a caring concerned beneficent businessman who favors liberal causes. Then after it's all died down chooses profit$ instead.

I have to wonder how much that comment to Cville Weekly lowered the resistance level to his hotel plans.

And the Daily Progress missed an opportunity to do real reporting by not following up and asking him about what he said a month earlier to the C-ville weekly.

From the article:

"There is a need for an upscale hotel on the Downtown Mall, both Kuttner and Hornberger said."

Uhm- so what's the Omni? Cville's version of "Motel 6"?

Lip Service Liberal.

Anonymous said...

Well my friend, it has to do with the money that is (or isnt) out there.
In Lynchburg I have brought over 50 units on line at or under $400.-- per month. In Lynchburg the city brings city water to your site for free. In Charlottesville they want an additional $100k after you have upgraded the city water main. When that came up I said this is stupid and sold to the only other person who would have bought it. So now it is a hotel. I know why I work in Lynchburg but under the city management of the mid to late 90's the cheap apartments would have happened. I just do not have an unlimited checkbook. Oliver Kuttner lCharlottesvi