December 2009: Feeling at home in Neal Deputy's adaptive apartments

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December 2009: Feeling at home in Neal Deputy's adaptive apartments

In 1996, when architect Neal Deputy adapted the original Coca-Cola Bottling Works (CCBW) Building on 10th Street NW into four residential apartments, there wasn’t much like it for renters in town. Almost 14 years later, such “loft-style” apartments—former industrial buildings converted to residences with large open floor plans—are more common. The rage that began in big cities like New York, with its Meatpacking District-turned-Bobo-haven, has caught on in Charlottesville and other towns. Seems “adaptive reuse”—the catchphrase for refurbishing stagnant industrial spaces—has hit the mainstream.

Deputy works at the long table in the office portion of his loft.

Still, CCBW remains unique. (Full disclosure: The building is now majority owned by Shannon Worrell, wife of Bill Chapman, who owns C-VILLE Weekly.) For one, Deputy retained so much of the building’s original bones and character that from the outside it’s difficult to tell that no bottling actually goes on there any more. Two, it continues to blend with the surrounding neighborhood—10th & Page—which has experienced surprisingly little other luxury development or gentrification. 

Deputy, a Charlottesville native with architecture degrees from UVA and Princeton, went on from CCBW to establish himself as a busy designer with thriving businesses in three places—Charlottesville, South Beach, Florida, and the British Virgin Islands (he spends a third of his time in each)—and yet, he still seems a bit surprised by the immediate and continued popularity of CCBW.

“It was a great learning experience, and they’ve been incredibly successful,” says Deputy, who credits friend Wyn Owens, the building’s former owner, with the forethought to convert the bottling building.

“Wyn was interested because it was a relic of the industrial heyday of Charlottesville,” says Deputy.

Coca-Cola only used the building, erected in 1920, for a short time before establishing a larger bottling facility on Preston Avenue. After that, the building was used for milk bottling and several other industrial purposes before falling vacant until Owens purchased it in the mid-1990s.

Deputy says after demolishing the interior of the building, he reused much of the existing infrastructure and materials. All the windows are original, much of the plumbing was reused and remnants of the building’s hardworking past are still evident in the overhead ductwork, pipes and visible elevator motor that give the apartments their quirky character. Deputy admits that the heat pump that warms and cools the building and those original windows aren’t terribly efficient, however.

“At the time, we weren’t focused on being environmentally responsible,” says Deputy. “It just wasn’t the concern back then, but we were concerned with being economically responsible.”

The Coke building retains its industrial look on the exterior.

One strategy was to retain the masonry and steel frame, Deputy says: “It took us about a year and only about $20 a square foot.”

The conversion created two first-floor apartments of about 1,000 square feet and two second-floor apartments of about 1,500 square feet with additional outdoor terraces. CCBW also includes an attached commercial space and a smaller detached commercial outbuilding.

Though there’s often a waiting list for CCBW occupancy, Deputy is probably his own best testament to the good design of the place. He’s continued to rent one of the units as his own home and office during the parts of the year he works in Charlottesville. In his current spot—Unit 1 on the first floor—a working and drafting desk spans almost the entire length of the floor. Framed photographs of his many designs featured in architectural magazines over the years line the walls over his parked scooter, which he drives right into the unit. His tiny open kitchen backs up to the small bathroom, which, Japanese-style, is completely lined in tile with no doors to delineate shower from sink and toilet space. 

Deputy fit the bathroom into the unit using drywall in a curved rather than squared-off manner.

“It’s less intrusive, says Deputy. “I walk past this wall a dozen times throughout the day.”

The curve also created an area for storing a TV and entertainment center in the sleeping loft built above the bathroom. The loft, which holds little more than a bed, leaves plenty of living, working and playing space on the floor. Deputy has even opened up his unit to the public on occasion as a gallery for artist friends.

Long-term tenant

“People always ask why I don’t just buy something,” says longtime CCBW tenant Julia Bargmann, a landscape architect and UVA professor, “but I can’t find anything as nice as this. When guests come they often say I have the best apartment in Charlottesville.” 

Bargmann has rented Unit 3 since the building opened, and it’s no wonder that she finds bliss at CCBW. In her own design business, D.I.R.T. (DirtStudio.com), she specializes in regeneration of derelict industrial properties and fallow brownfield sites. 

“When I moved here from New Jersey in January 1996, there were so few industrial buildings available [for rent]. When I walked into this place, I snapped my fingers and said ‘This is it.’”

Having come to Charlottesville for a faculty position at the A-school, Bargmann says many of her colleagues tried to advise her that the neighborhood and, in particular, the Westhaven public housing development located behind the building, was “dicey.” 

Julia Bargmann has lived in CCBW for well over a decade.

“‘You live where?’ they’d ask me, but it wasn’t a big deal to me. I’m from New Jersey.”

Bargmann says she loves the neighborhood because it’s diverse and “working class.” She uses terms such as “perfect” and “just enough” to describe the compact size of her open kitchen, the square footage of the two separate but doorless bedrooms, the fact that she has so much open living space and her 15′x15′ outdoor terrace, to which she’s lent her own modern, post-industrial design sense with aluminum planters and a large aluminum tub.

“I take dips out there in the summer,” says Bargmann, who says that she’s considered bathing in the terrace tub (like all the units, her compact bathroom only contains a shower), but hasn’t actually done it. Though Big Jim’s Catering is located just under her terrace, privacy isn’t an issue. The window coverings on the bedrooms are only to shade the light and regulate the temperature in summer. 

Bargmann says her poodle loves the place too. Blanche has ample open space to work up to a full-tilt run to fetch a ball on the other side of the apartment.

CHECK BACK FOR VIDEO OF CORRY AND HILARY’S APARTMENT!

Efficiency breeds efficiency

In Hilary Ritt and Corry Blanc’s downstairs unit, the apartment’s tiny kitchen and solo storage closet have inspired the couple to design their own creative space-saving solutions.

“The kitchen just has open shelving, so we bought an old filing cabinet from the Habitat Store and painted it. That holds all of our food,” says Ritt.

Corry Blanc and Hilary Ritt say their CCBW loft has forced them to be tidy.

The couple, who previously rented the basement of a detached home in Fry’s Spring for roughly the same rent, pared down their belongings when they moved into CCBW. They also quickly learned to be more tidy—“This place definitely makes us stay on top of our chores,” says Blanc.

The compromises of living in an atypical multiunit dwelling have been worth it for the couple, however. They say they enjoy hearing their upstairs neighbor in Unit 4 playing his banjo in the evenings, and love that they can walk to shops and restaurants from their location, especially since Blanc, a blacksmith and ornamental ironwork designer, has a long commute to his Silver City Iron studio in Zion’s Crossroads. Ritt, a Ph.D. student at the Curry School of Education, says she often walks to Preston Avenue to work at Shenandoah Joe’s or shop at Integral Yoga.

As their previous basement apartment had only one window, the couple flipped for the almost-floor-to-ceiling vintage glass along two of the unit’s 12′ walls, which has them bathing in natural light. The extensive windows also admit the fluorescent glow of the traffic light on 10th Street, which, for the most part, they find charming. There’s just one small problem at bedtime: the flashing red streaming directly into Blanc’s pillow-lain face on his side of the bed.

“I have this ritual I have to do every night,” say Blanc. “I have to tuck this window shade in over here and I have to prop a pillow in this window over here. Then I’m good.”

FOR MORE PHOTOS OF THE BUILDING, CLICK HERE

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