City Market in the market for a permanent home after 17 years


Seventeen years after the Charlottesville City Market’s inaugural season selling food, flowers and crafts in a “temporary” Water Street parking lot location, City Council is taking nominations for a limited-term task force to study potential permanent sites for the growing market, which has seen sales triple over the past decade. 

Sales have tripled at the City Market in the past decade and more growth is expected. 

At a November 4 work session, interested parties crafted a list of criteria to consider in evaluating potential sites. The criteria include: more space than the current .8 acres, convenient access to public transportation and to utilities such as electricity and water, and the potential for a permanent pavilion.

Kathy Kildea of the nonprofit advisory group Market Central is quick to point out that the Water Street market has no plans to move in the near future. The city-owned lot is currently “available for development” but does not have a buyer at this time. Mayor Dave Norris assured those at the work session that the city would not accept any development plans until a decision on a permanent site has been made.

Vendors and organizations that support the market don’t all agree on the specifics of the market’s future. Some feel that the current size and location are fine, while others see the need for growth. All agree, however, that it is time for the City to support the market in securing a permanent home. “The formation of this task force lends validity to Market Central’s efforts,” says Judy Berger, Jefferson Area Board on Aging community nutrition director.

“We’ve been trying to get the City Council’s attention on this issue for years,” says Kildea, adding, “as Central Virginia’s largest, this market needs careful stewardship. Failure to come up with a long-term plan would be a huge opportunity missed. We want to help the City make this happen.” She points out that as a nonprofit, Market Central can help secure needed funding through partnership with other nonprofits. “This is the time,” says Berger. “There are a lot of grants and a lot of USDA money for farmer’s markets right now.”

According to vendor Diane LaSauce of Free Union Produce & Edibles, “the City has pushed this issue to the back burner for way too long.” She feels that the current size and location of the market are fine and that the City should redevelop the Water Street lot as the market’s permanent home, adding seating, water and a shelter. 

Berger and Kildea both see the need for more physical space to handle more vendors and more customers. Says Berger, “We need an outlet that is suitable to handle growth. We need economic opportunities to attract a new generation of farmers.”

Although a time frame for the task force’s search has not been set, a report is expected by sometime next spring.—Meredith Barnes