Privatizing the Downtown Mall

In the current week’s Hook, columnist Peter Kleeman decries the loss of public space on the Downtown Mall, now that it’s being leased for the exclusive use of not just caf├ęs, but to the ever-growing Charlottesville Pavilion. The agreement between the city and the pavilion allowed them to occupy a certain amount of space, which was extended down the Mall a bit while the transit center was under construction. Construction is finished, but the pavilion wants to continue to cordon off the Mall beginning at the end of the free speech monument, completely blocking the entrance to City Hall. The city is considering allowing the pavilion to continue doing this permanently, any time that they hold an event.

Henry Graff picked up the story for NBC 29, interviewing local blogger Sean McCord, who was recently surprised to be halted at the barricades while taking a walk.

It was only two years ago that Rich Collins was arrested while campaigning on private property. He decried the loss of public space to privatization, a concern that looks downright prescient now.

9 thoughts on “Privatizing the Downtown Mall”

  1. Rediculous…..i’m with peter. Save our public spaces from the
    creep of the pavilion. Their events seem to work fine without the extra space of “our mall.”

  2. This is nothing new at all – not even remotely. Before the Pavilion, CDF also blocked off Main Street just beyond the Post Office, and did that for many years. For Fridays, they’d put the security gate there, and for ticketed events you couldn’t get beyond that point without a ticket (unless, of course, you had a key to City Hall or the Annex – those who did typically attended events gratis and rarely paid the admission fee – and of course had access to real restrooms – I’d be surprised if that weren’t still the case).

    It only makes sense, really – space is needed to properly ID people, and the beer ticket sales have to be secure and protected. If they didn’t want to close the public street, they shouldn’t have put a big honking amphitheater there.

  3. Oh, heck, no, this isn’t new. But, of course, CDF was a 501(c)4, a community organization that existed to bring people downtown when nobody was coming. Nobody was blocked, up until the last couple of years — it was totally free, and people could stroll through as they saw fit. And there was no goal to expand. I’m not sure we ever even talked about it, whether during the summer that I worked there (’95) or the year I was on the board.

    The pavilion is now a private interest, looking to pack in as many shows as often as they can and, apparently, looking to physically grow. It costs money to walk through there. Now that we’re hurtling down the slippery slope, I want to know what our limit is going to be. What percentage of the time are we willing to privatize this very public property?

  4. While I don’t like the pavilion creeping into the mall’s public space, I dislike the road crossings even more. It’s not much of a walking mall now that you need to check for cars, especially those of us who aren’t there that often and aren’t sure which intersections have car crossings.

    They aren’t much of a time saver for drivers either since the cars have to travel very slowly to avoid pedestrians. Better to remove them entirely and ensure better parking.

  5. What’s this have to do with Rich’s mall, which started out under private ownership?

  6. There are so many other things going on in the world that deserve our attention then worrying about a few feet of public space for a venue that provides millions of dollars to our economy. Let’s chat about the war, poverty, gangs etc… that is worth our time.

  7. What perhaps you don’t understand, Bill, is that by privatizing the public square, we’re losing space to chat about the very topics that you describe. In a great many places in Virginia and the U.S., the places where people gather are private property. That means that people cannot distribute petitions for or against war, or hold protests pertaining to poverty or gangs.

    Without the right to free expression, we cannot talk about any of these things.

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