Tall order: Market Plaza plans move forward

The planned entrance to the market as seen from the pedestrian crossing at First and Water streets. Images courtesy Powe Studio Architects, PC The planned entrance to the market as seen from the pedestrian crossing at First and Water streets. Images courtesy Powe Studio Architects, PC

The decision to grant permits for a nine-story Water Street office and apartment building that will be home to the City Market is now in the hands of the City Council.

Developers Gregory Powe and Keith Woodard’s Market Plaza concept was selected by Council in June, one of multiple proposals for the redevelopment of the city-owned parking lot at Water Street and Second Street SW, which has long housed Charlottesville’s Saturday farmer’s market. Last week’s Planning Commission review of the developers’ request of Special Use Permits—permissions for height and residential density beyond what’s automatically allowed in the downtown area—offered a closer look at the proposed building.

Market Plaza will stretch to 101 feet, about the height of the still-unfinished Landmark Hotel, will cover 1.18 acres, and will include 70 residential units, nearly 76,000 square feet of office and retail space, and a 24,000- square-foot outdoor space that would house the market and be a permanent public plaza on non-market days.

Any project promising to so significantly alter the downtown landscape could be expected to endure a lot of scrutiny, but Market Plaza is a special case—it will, after all, house a public space on formerly public land.
No wonder, then, that the Commission members’ approval came with design demands that covered everything from the shape of outdoor lighting fixtures to the public accessibility of the plaza space. Exact language on some of those conditions is still being finalized, but the proposal is set to go before City Council December 1, and land purchase negotiations will then wrap up between the developers and the city as well as the Charlottesville Parking Center, which owns an adjacent lot that the project is expected to incorporate.

Powe wouldn’t comment on the status of the purchase agreements beyond saying they were “proceeding very positively.”

He acknowledged it’s a challenging project. “There are literally six uses layered on top of one another,” he said. But it’s also exciting for him and for the city.

“My personal passion is urban mixed use that offers the ability to live, work and play in a very walkable urban downtown, which is what our city’s becoming,” Powe said. “You can do all of that in this space.”

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