Monday, August 2, 2010

Did Coca-Cola's Historic Designation Cost Charlottesville Jobs?

Neil Williamson, on the Free Enterprise Forum Blog, suggests so.

Two years ago, the Planning Commission voted in favor of designating the Coca-Cola Building on Preston Avenue a historic property, despite initial objections from a representative of the owner. At the time, I was one of three Commissioners to vote against the designation (the vote included other properties). My reason: the City had never before imposed architectural controls with a historic overlay against the wishes of the property owner.

Last week Coca Cola Bottling announced that its offices in the City of Charlottesville would be closing, resulting in 42 jobs that would be lost or moved to Richmond. Michael Harvie, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development (TJPED) said he got no advance notice from Coca-Cola about the closing and layoffs.

What I find even more disappointing than the demise of another old-line business in the City is the loss of the business presence on Preston Avenue of this building. Preston is one of the only boulevard-looking roads in the City and is a designated Entrance Corridor, allowing for density and mixed use development. It serves as an important connection between the University neighborhood to the north of central Grounds, and Downtown. Yet we seen very little renewal or redevelopment on Preston.

Whether the historic designation was part of Coca-Cola's departure may never be determined. But it's time to start a discussion of whether City zoning regulations, which in some cases require two levels of review (Historic Design Review by the BAR and Entrance Corridor by the Planning Commission) are hindering the vitality and improvement of Preston, High Street, West Main, and other arteries in our City.