The parcel of land at the intersection of Emmet Street and Ivy Road has evolved with the times, from barely developed land to a cluster of small businesses situated on the outskirts of the University. Now it’s scheduled to become part of a corridor that beautifies and unifies the Grounds.
As UVA has expanded to the north and west, the intersection has moved ever closer to the center of its life. In September, UVA’s Board of Visitors authorized UVA to proceed with a framework for redeveloping the land. The first phase of the multiphase plan calls for streetscape and landscape improvements and for demolition of the Cavalier Inn, which has stood at the intersection since 1967. The inn is part of a larger 14.5-acre parcel of land that will be redeveloped. The architect for the University, Alice Raucher, will present a recommended schedule for the future of the inn to the Board of Visitors in June.
“This parcel is a strategic connection between North Grounds and Central Grounds,” Raucher says. “That distance seems so far because there’s really nothing in between. So this space is that connective tissue.” Raucher says that the project, which UVA plans to develop in partnership with the city of Charlottesville, will involve dedicated bike lanes, widened sidewalks and landscape buffers to separate vehicles from pedestrian traffic.
From the early 20th century until the construction of the Cavalier Inn in the late 60s, University Dry Cleaning Works occupied the northwest corner of Emmet and Ivy and was operated by the Eddins family, who lived next door.
The University of Virginia Foundation bought the Cavalier Inn and much of the surrounding land in 1998. Across Emmet Street stood Buddy’s restaurant, which operated from the late 1930s until 1964 and was the site of sit-ins during the civil rights movement.
The sit-ins were “one of the most notable civil rights demonstrations in Charlottesville in that era,” says Coy Barefoot, a media studies instructor and local historian of UVA. On Memorial Day 1963, UVA history professor Paul Gaston, who was participating in a demonstration at Buddy’s, went to use a phone across the street, where the Cavalier Inn now stands, and was pulled out of the booth and beaten by opponents of the sit-in. “I remembered all of my instructions in nonviolence, and I certainly was not going to be violent, not with this gentleman,” Gaston wrote in a 1985 lecture, “Sitting In’ in the Sixties.”
In 2011, the University demolished the building that housed Buddy’s, which had later housed the University’s Natural History Museum and then the UVA Institute for Environmental Negotiation, and turned the area into a small park. Planners conceived several uses for the rest of the land over the years, including a residential college, a performing arts center and an art museum. None of those ideas came to fruition, but plans are now moving forward to transform the land into a green space that capitalizes on its increasingly central place in the evolution of UVA.
Barefoot notes that the project reflects a distinct shift in thinking about land use since the UVA Foundation bought the property nearly two decades ago. “The conversation has always been, ‘What should we put there?’” he says. “It’s fascinating that we’ve landed on putting green space there. I think it’s beautiful.”