Mary Joy Scala, Preservation and Design Planner

Where were you born (and raised, if different)?

Born in Trenton, NJ but grew up in a historic house on the main street of a small town in Yardley, Pennsylvania.

When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?

To attend UVA. I remember first arriving via Rt. 22/231 and thought it was beautiful. Having grown up between New York and Philadelphia, I was intrigued by the rural mailboxes and gravel roads.

What neighborhood do you live in now?

Fry’s Spring Neighborhood. I like living in a historic neighborhood but my house is not historic. My front door is painted Lime Pop .

Family (spouse, kids, etc)?

I adore my two wonderful and creative sons and equally fabulous daughters-in-law who live in Alexandria and in the Bronx. I will become Abuela Mary Joy in a couple weeks!

What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?

I studied architecture at UVA and graduated with a Masters in Planning the same year as Ralph Sampson. Which was lucky because, even though it was pouring rain, I got to graduate on the lawn. My undergraduate degree is in Studio Art from Mary Washington.

What were you doing before coming to the City?

I was Executive Director at Valley Conservation Council, a non-profit in Staunton, VA. It’s a great organization that protects farmland in 11 Shenandoah Valley counties and I still support their efforts.

Your job title is Senior Planner – what, in your own words, would you say you do?

I help people understand why historic buildings are important to add complexity to the urban fabric, and how good urban design can uplift everyone’s daily life. On a day to day basis I process applications that require design review because they are located in historic districts or entrance corridors. I am staff person for the Board of Architectural Review and the Historic Resources Committee.

What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?

I am proud to work for such a great City and I’m especially proud of my co-workers in Neighborhood Development Services. But the absolutely best part of my job is the location – it’s a real privilege to work on the Downtown Mall. The most difficult part is dealing with regulations that sometimes quash creativity.

How does your job most directly impact the average person?

They don’t have to look at ugly signage. I’m not joking.

What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the City?

Interesting people are responsible for interesting projects, and there are so many! On the Mall, I enjoy the strong styles expressed in the more recent storefronts: Commonwealth, Caspari, Jean Theory, Splendora’s, Blue Light, Urban Outfitters, and Sal’s! The Music Pavilion and the Landmark Hotel were definitely interesting projects. I love Main Street Market, and in my neighborhood, I love the Fry’s Spring Service Station renovation. I like the way the Whole Foods design evolved.

What is a little-known fact about you?

I root for the Mets.

What do you do outside of work hours – hobbies, etc?

I started a writing club, which is a stretch! I’m addicted to Salsa dancing and Zumba. I try to grow tomatoes and zinnias in my front yard. I study Spanish and Italian. I design/sew clothing. I listen to music. I belong to a happy hour group with very smart friends who know more than I do about Siri. I loved visiting Berlin and Palermo, and I want to visit Quito. I try to stay busy.

Interested in what we're working on next? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss a story.