Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Is the Pavilion sensitive to Charlottesville's visitors

In my last Squeaky Wheel column in the May 24, 2007 HooK entitled "Pavilion creep: Speak up about Mall takeover' addressed the issue of the Pavilion claiming an increased area of public space for its events over that specified in the Pavilion agreement with the City. But it appears that there is a continuing effort by the Pavilion to expand even further into the public space.

I was walking toward the Pavilion on the downtown mall at 4:00 pm on Saturday July 5, 2008 and was blocked at the Pavilion fence that blocked the entire east end of the mall to pedestrian traffic. I was not even able to access the Charlottesville Visitor's Center - which was open for business at the time. I saw the several groups of visitors being instructed that they could enter through the Water Street entrance. But, that requires walking down 30 steps, then back up those steps again to the Visitor's Center desk, then down and up again to get information that shouldn't require the 120 step trip.

I did the hike and chatted with several visitors at the desk who also did the detour demanded by the Pavilion staff. I also learned from the Visitor's Center staff that they knew nothing about the blocking of their entrance but that this was the first time their doors had been blocked. I chatted with the person operating the Pavilion ticket table who told me that if I had any problem with the fencing, I should talk to City Council. Never being shy about bringing my concerns, ideas, suggestions, etc. to City Council I presented my concerns last night during 'Matters from the Public' at beginning of the council meeting. I am counting on councilors, our city manager, and our city attorney to review this in light of the Pavilion agreement and ensure that visitors to the mall have access to the information they need when they visit Charlottesville in a convenient manner.

What I find most disconcerting about this blocking of mall level access to the Visitor's Center is that the Pavilion management is claiming their need to post a permanent information sign for mall visitors. How odd to believe that access to Pavilion event information on the east end of the mall is important, but access to visitor information is not.

Perhaps there is a misunderstanding about where the Pavilion event area has been set, and I hope this is a matter that will not happen again, but I look forward to a clear statement from the city or the Pavilion management once our city leaders work out a solution. I do believe that access to the Visitor's Center must be available to our visitors whenever the Center is open to the public. Simply placing the plastic fences in a slightly different location would solve the access problem.

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