June 7, 2014
To Charlottesville City Council:
Market Central has reason to believe that the privately owned 1-block surface parking lot due east of today’s City Market location will soon change hands for the first time since 1964 and become available for development, enabling a long-envisioned two-block development with a public plaza that would be a permanent home for the City Market.
For more than a decade, Market Central and many others have advocated that the optimal permanent home for the City Market is a public plaza, designed from the start to house the City Market, within a mixed-use (commercial and residential) development of the two full city blocks between Water St. and South St., on either side of South First Street. This was the top preference of the 2011 City-appointed public task force, a 2005 blue-ribbon citizens committee, two national-expert consultants (Ted Spitzer/Market Ventures, 2013; David O’Neil, 2012), the Charlottesville Market District Alliance, and the City’s 2007 Market Value design competition. The community has a long and distinct record of consensus support for this vision.
The longstanding impediment has always been the unavailability of the private 1-block parking lot, but in just a few months that obstacle is set to be overcome. In fact, two of the four new City Market design proposals anticipate this happening – the proposals from WVS and Woodard Properties. Both proposals envision the outdoor plaza space (and perhaps some indoor space) owned or managed by the city as a permanent home for the City Market.
City ownership or control of the market’s home is absolutely critical for the long-term viability and vitality of the market. Holding the market in a privately-owned parking lot displaces parking revenue, creating an inherent user conflict that is likely to gradually erode the market’s allotment of hours, space and, ultimately, its viability. In contrast, a public plaza accommodates phased growth that can build on the success of the current City Market. For this fundamental reason, Market Central does not support the two proposals that end public control of the market’s allotted space: those from Shank & Grey and from Equitable Real Estate Partners. The City Market has been relegated to a parking lot for more than 20 years, and it deserves better than just a new parking lot.
A two-block solution would be far superior to a one-block (or partial block) solution. With a two-block solution, the central plaza would be an exciting and memorable place that is a true public asset, serving as both a home for the market and, when the market is not being held, a public square that can be used for anything from outdoor dining to festivals and other events. Such a plaza would extend the Downtown pedestrian core southward, connecting the Mall with much recent — and future — redevelopment just south of the railroad tracks.
An integrated two-block project enables construction to be done in phases minimizing disruption to the City Market. For instance, one of the two blocks could be home to the market while the other block is under construction. A two-block project allows far more space-efficient underground parking, with fewer unsightly entrances required.
At minimum, City Council should do nothing that could derail a two-block development. As explicitly envisioned in the City’s RFP, Market Central and the undersigned urge Council on June 16 to narrow the field to the two proposals from WVS and Woodard, and further investigate both projects for financial and construction viability, including securing development rights within the next 6 months to the two private lots required for a two-block development. There should also be ample opportunity to revise and refine the proposals based on public input.
This is a once-a-generation opportunity to shape the fabric of downtown Charlottesville with what could be the most important project since the creation of the Mall. Knowing the stakes, we urge City Council to be bold and visionary.
Market Central Board of Directors & Staff
Cecile Gorham, Chair
Brevy Cannon, Vice Chair
Mark Watson, Treasurer
Kathy Kildea, Programs Coordinator
Chiara Canzi, Secretary
Nan Janney, Program Director
Lynette Meynig, Family Ties and Pies
Kent Brown, Crossing Brook Farm
Gail Hobbs-Page, Caromont Farm
Ben Thompson, Rock Barn
William Jones, Babes in the Woods
Lindsay Swan, Cygnet Hollow Farm
Patricia Anderson, Cricket’s Baked Goods
James Lum, J.M. Stock Provisions & Supply butcher
Toan Nguyen, C’ville Coffee
Kathy and Lena Zentgraf, Greenie’s
Joe Hollick, Pair-A-Dice Farm
Laura Dollard, Broomfield Farm
Robert Wade, Capital City Candle
Dawn Story, Farmstead Ferments
Chuck Geyer, Agriberry Farm
Debbie Donley, NAMEinals
Amanda Welch, Grubby Girl
Elena Day, Elena Day Pies and Produce
Lynn Eheart, “The Lemonade Lady”