Gabe Silverman died over the weekend. If you never met him, it’s your loss, but if you hung around the Downtown Mall much, you probably did. He was a real estate developer, I guess you could say, but he never dressed like one. Sometimes he looked like a super, puttering around in his green pickup truck with a slew of keys, smoking a cigarette out the window. Other times he looked like a cross between Keith Richards and Paul Hogan, dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans, a permanent wry smile etched into the lines around his eyes. I was introduced to him through a friend and only spent time with him on four or five occasions.
Here’s what I know about Gabe: He was a charmer who valued people. He hated whiners but loved to complain. He trusted young people to make decisions, because he remembered being a young person who made decisions. He cajoled, bullied, prophesied, and cut deals to realize his vision for the world, which could be both far-reaching and specific. He always thought everything could be better than it was, and he focused much of that energy on West Main Street, where he spent years hassling UVA, the city, and Coran Capshaw to do more to connect Downtown to Grounds.
Gabe saw a Charlottesville that needed to be more diverse, more demanding, more energetic, more fun, and more like the California he grew up in, where everything was both a real estate hustle and an opportunity to create a new scene. He was, at heart and by training, an architect. This week’s cover story on a dance contest that aims to promote hip-hop culture on the Downtown Mall is, I think, a fitting one to pair with our version of Gabe’s obituary.
Ty Cooper, an African-American agent and promoter, grew up in Harlem and came to Charlottesville after college at Norfolk State. In the span of a few years Ty became a board member at The Paramount Theater, which was a segregated institution in a segregated Downtown in the not-so-distant past. Ty is a hustler, an agitator, and a relentless worker who has a way of connecting his personal interests, his vision for the community, and his connections with people to make things happen. Don’t just stand there, do something.