Going down: UVA landmarks face wrecking ball

The Cavalier Inn (right) and Villa Diner (which will reopen at a new location later this month) recently said goodbye to their longtime homes on Emmet Street.

Skyclad aerial The Cavalier Inn (right) and Villa Diner (which will reopen at a new location later this month) recently said goodbye to their longtime homes on Emmet Street. Skyclad aerial

By Jonathan Haynes

The Cavalier Inn and Villa Diner bid their Emmet Street locations farewell after graduation weekend last month, as the University of Virginia Foundation prepares to raze their buildings later in the summer to renovate the Ivy Corridor at the Emmet Street/Ivy Road intersection.

The Cavalier Inn, built in 1965 and acquired by the foundation in 1998, accommodated a diverse range of people, including visitors coming to tour UVA, attend graduations or return for alumni weekends. It also lodged football players during summer training and hosted local organizations like the Central Virginia Watercolor Guild.

Stephanie Harder, a former UVA psychology student, worked the front desk in 2009. “It felt kind of like a family,” she says. “A bunch of different people, but everyone got along great.”

The inn was there for dark times, as well. In October 2009, it housed a hotline center after 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington disappeared from the nearby John Paul Jones Arena. “It was in my last week or two,” Harder said. “There was a lot of commotion.”

The inn will not be relocated. However, UVA President Teresa Sullivan’s Hospitality Task Force has recommended a replacement to put up guests and host conferences.

The Villa Diner, which will reopen at 1250 N. Emmet St. on June 18, has made a similar impact. The restaurant is known for its breakfast fare and community atmosphere, which co-owner Jennifer Beachley attributes to the long-term commitment of its employees. “We have staff members who have worked with us for 10, 12 years…so we [are] a very well-oiled machine,” she says.

The Villa has cultivated a loyal clientele since Beachley and her husband, Ken, purchased it in 2005. “I’ve seen people bring their babies in and watched them grow up,” Beachley says. “I’ve been to the funerals of some of my customers.”

The Villa’s close proximity to UVA Grounds helped draw students and faculty. Notably, UVA athletic teams frequented the restaurant during summer training, and members of the university guides, who lead campus tours, came twice a year for their initiation ceremonies, when they performed skits and sang songs. Beachley is confident the Villa will enjoy comparable success in its new location, a mile up the road in the former home of the Royal Indian Restaurant.

“We’re well aware that our old location provided us some great opportunity with sporting events and people walking from the Corner,” she says. “But we’re really excited about being close to our [customer-base]. …I’ve had some people say ‘you’re closer to me now.’ ”

Though sad the foundation didn’t renew her lease, she says she’s pleased with the university’s plan to convert the lot into a green space. “I’ve been telling people that if I can’t be there,” she says, “then I’d love to have green space.”

The UVA Board of Visitors started planning the renovations in 2015. The foundation contracted DumontJanks, a Boston-based architectural consulting firm, to provide strategic landscaping plans in 2016. Last year, the foundation decided against renewing some of its Emmet Street businesses in order to begin the project.

The renovation plan aims to unite Central Grounds with the rest of the UVA campus, bolster the local drainage system, place utilities underground, make way for green space and reduce traffic congestion in the area.

Buildings along the 14.5-acre stretch, including the soon-to-be demolished inn and diner, have been cordoned off with green safety fencing in the meantime.

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