Plaza wins: Council’s choice for City Market design could incorporate private parking lot

Construction on Market Plaza is set to begin next summer. Photo courtesy Woodard Properties Construction on Market Plaza is set to begin next summer. Photo courtesy Woodard Properties

It was unanimous.

Charlottesville’s City Council voted together Monday night to select local developer Keith Woodard’s plan to redevelop the downtown lot that’s been home to the weekend City Market since 1993. Woodard’s proposal, dubbed “Market Plaza,” calls for an open-air public space with room for 170 vendor stalls bordered on two sides by a nine-story building with residential, office, and retail space. An underground lot will provide 261 parking spaces and room for the market in bad weather.

A winning factor, according to those on the dais: The proposal includes a dedicated public area, meaning vendors don’t have to set up in a space that does double duty as a parking lot. It also leaves open the possibility of annexing an adjacent privately owned parking lot at the corner of Water and First streets.

See the competing designs here.

The fact that expansion into the corner lot is even a possibility is big news. The Charlottesville Parking Corporation, which has owned the property since 1964, has shown no interest in selling the lot, said Brevy Cannon, vice chair of the board of directors of the advocacy group Market Central. But this spring, CPC sent a letter to shareholders announcing a possible offer by an LLC called “CPC Acquisition” to buy up all the company’s outstanding public shares. The sale is by no means final; CPC shareholders would have to approve the transaction at their August 20 meeting. But the possibility of a new owner—one who might be willing to sell the block-sized lot to City Market’s developer—changes the landscape.

Throughout two decades of debate over the future of the market, “the consensus has always been that two blocks there would be the ultimate best solution,” said Cannon.

And Woodard’s design allows for that. There are still questions left unanswered; Woodard hasn’t shared his proposed buying price for the city-owned lot. There are also some kinks to work out, Cannon said, including vendors’ concerns over limited entrance and exit points for their vehicles. But the Council was confident enough in the plan to stand together behind it, “which I think really speaks to how good the proposal was,” said Cannon.