After years of study and debate, the Charlottesville City Council is poised to pick a design for a permanent home for the City Market, the weekly farmers’ market that has occupied the municipally owned parking lot on Water Street since 1993.
Four proposals are in, each including multi-story mixed-use residential and commercial buildings with space dedicated for a market. All provide for more vendor spots and parking spaces than exist now in the city lot, but they go about it in very different ways—open plaza, covered parking area-cum-vendor space—and so far, the payout for the sale of the city lot ranges from $2 million to “we’re not telling.”
Advocacy group Market Central has drawn up a matrix comparing the designs. Chair Cecile Gorham said all four designs improve over the market’s current home, but that the group really likes the proposals that separate vendor space from parking areas. “If you have to compete for uses, it limits future growth,” she said.
The City Council will vote on a plan at its public meeting on June 16.
1. Shank and Gray (Charlottesville)
Dubbed Market Square, this proposal would see a six-story building with a plaza-level market accessible from South Street and 2nd Street. The market’s 125 stalls would be in a high-ceilinged, open-air parking garage around a central lightwell. The developers would pay the city $4.15 million for the lot—far more than any of the other plans propose. Many current vendors have rallied behind the design, but in its evaluation matrix, Market Central notes that the design doesn’t leave room for growth: Any increase in market days would compete with parking.
2. Equitable Partners (Boston)
Equitable’s plan shares some design features with Shank and Gray’s: The market would be housed in a plaza-level garage space that would revert to parking on non-market days. The company proposes 116 vendor spaces with a grand entrance on Water Street and a smaller one at the corner of South and 2nd streets. Equitable would pay the city $2.75 million for the lot.
3. Woodard Properties (Charlottesville)
Known as Market Plaza, this open-air design puts the market in a kind of half-courtyard with sail-covered vendor stalls that would be available as a public space on non-market days. Extra space in an underground parking level would bring the total number of vendor stalls to 170. A nine-story L-shaped building fronting Water Street and 2nd Street SW would share the lot, and the market would have a visible entrance at the corner of Water and 1st streets, and would take over the 1st Street right-of-way between Water and South streets. Woodard hasn’t shared its proposed buying price for the city lot.
4. WVS Companies (Richmond)
The only proposal to include a permanent covered space just for the market, this plan would put 192 stalls in an open-air structure along what’s now 1st Street, flanked by two five-story buildings. The design includes more market and parking space than the others, but would depend on the company successfully acquiring the adjacent parking lot at Water Street and 2nd Street SE, which is currently owned by the private Charlottesville Parking Center. The city would get $2 million for the sale of its lot.