With a construction trailer parked on one side and a drywall-laden dumpster on another, work on the beleaguered building known as Piedmont Place has started anew.
Devastatingly flooded on Christmas afternoon, the structure was once the herald of a new era of retail and walkability for Crozet, a former apple and peach shipping town. But now its interior walls are stripped to the studs, and the owner said it’ll be six to seven months before the businesses it housed can reopen.
“It literally flooded every floor top to bottom,” owner Andrew Baldwin told The Daily Progress.
He pinpoints the culprit as a frozen sprinkler head in Unit 302, a two-bedroom suite that’s typically rented to overnight guests – though there were none present on the chilly day of the deluge.
“That pipe was on the wind side of the building, and it was like 3 or 4 degrees outside,” said Baldwin. “It was a perfect storm situation.”
Baldwin estimates that water rained down into the second and first floors for as long as three hours before a crew from the Albemarle County Service Authority shut off the main valve outside.
The flood has closed popular restaurants Morsel Compass and Smoked Kitchen and Tap, along with the Crozet Creamery, Blue Ridge Bottle Shop, Carolina Obando Beauty and the Crozet location of Newtown Fitness. A real estate office has gone fully remote, while a top-floor catering space called the Rooftop and its four accompanying overnight suites can’t operate.
“Ugh,” architect Ken Thacker told The Daily Progress. “That hurts.”
Thacker serves on the board of the nonprofit Downtown Crozet Initiative, which serves as the liaison between county planners and the private developers of the 20-acre tract once known as the J. Bruce Barnes Lumber Company.
Piedmont Place serves as a gateway to that project, so it’s also a symbolic loss for Crozet, which underwent a multiyear, public-private process to plan new streets and guide the lumberyard’s redevelopment.
Inside the building, the hardest hit areas were two residential suites and a hallway on the third floor, said Baldwin. He said that a company called Rainbow Restoration has been stripping out fallen ceiling tiles and wallboard amid the din of a battery of drying machines.
“They had to rip down to the subfloor to get it dry,” said Baldwin. “They’ve done an unbelievably fantastic job on the demolition.”
The co-owner of the shuttered Morsel Compass agreed.
“They’re actually moving pretty fast, ripping things out and drying things out,” Jennifer Blanchard told The Daily Progress.
Morsel Compass got its start as a food truck.
“We sold our food truck,” said Blanchard. “We’re just waiting for insurance to get back to us.”
Baldwin said that he expects the total restoration cost to be about $1 million. He said he’s confident that insurance will fully cover it.
Baldwin said that the ground-floor businesses, Newtown Fitness and Smoked, incurred less damage due to their unadorned ceilings. He said that Smoked may be able to take advantage of its dedicated entrance to open sooner, perhaps in as few as three months.
“We’re hopeful,” said Baldwin. “For Crozet.”