Charlottesville developer Gabe Silverman has died.
While in New York City a few weeks ago, he was hospitalized with chest pain, and required a lengthy operation to repair what turned out to be a torn aortic artery. He had been recuperating ever since, with family and friends visiting him, and seemed to be on the mend when he passed away yesterday.
With his business partners, he owned real estate throughout downtown Charlottesville (the Ix building, the Main Street Market, the Amtrak station, and dozens more properties), and was the first developer to invest towards a revitalization of downtown, starting with his 1990 purchase of the Old Michie Building. Famously cantankerous and unpretentious, Gabe clashed on ideological matters with city officials, especially when he felt that he was being prevented from serving larger community needs through his work. To his partners’ constant exasperation, Gabe regarded his real estate holdings as venue for improving Charlottesville and righting societal wrongs. In any discussion, his constant refrain was “OK, but how do we use that to—” as he tried to redirect mundane ideas towards addressing problems of poverty, racism, classism, sexism, and other societal ailments.
His wife, artist and teacher Karen Shea Silverman, died of brain cancer in 2004. Gabe is survived by his two daughters and his grandson. He was 73 years old.
The last discussion that I ever had with him, just six weeks ago, began with me telling him that I needed a small office space for a new business, and concluded with him having persuaded me to use that business to anchor an incubator-style coworking space that he’d provide the space and funding for, in order to establish a downtown hub for socially aware tech firms. He had that sort of effect on people. Before we parted, he emphasized that he didn’t just want to make a small change in Charlottesville: “I’m going to die, you’re going to die, so how do we use this to create a lasting change in Charlottesville?”
I thought there was more time.