Market Plaza Special Use Permit Amendment

Market Plaza Special Use Permit Amendment

Dear Friends of City Market,

Whether you are a customer, vendor, or local food and market advocate, you are probably aware of the ongoing plans to establish a permanent home for the 42-year-old Charlottesville City Market.  It looked like the 20 year search was over when Woodard and Powe won the design contest to place the farmers market on Market Plaza, their proposal of a private development supporting a public plaza.  One of the requirements of the design contest, among many, was to provide a home for the market.  The Market Plaza edged out its completion in a unanimous vote, in part  because the public plaza concept met many more criteria for a successful market than the others.

The public plaza would allow for:

  • Permanence
  • Minimal user conflicts
  • Flexibility in public use
  • Build on the success of the weekly outdoor market
  • Accommodate phased growth of City Market
  • Create a dynamic downtown place that attracts the region’s residents and visitors


Things looked very promising for the future City Market, but they have now hit a snag.  The city and developers think that for the purposes of “operations, programming, management, and security” the public plaza would best be a private plaza with the market being allowed to take place on Saturdays for 99 years, and maybe on some other undefined days. Because of lack of vision for the market, the developers decided to use the space for special events and to give outdoor space to restaurants.  Once that happens, the market would have to compete for future space.  The private uses takes away prioritizing market use.

It all seems well-intentioned, but this is not the plan that won the contest, does not serve the best interests of the market, and no longer meets the criteria upon which they won the competition.  Several planning commissioners stated that they granted zoning variances to the applicants such as extra height and easement accesses because the design was to include the public plaza.  The solution that the planning commission ended up voting for is, in their words, “a private space with a bunch of rules”, and “a gated community”, instead of the “awesome public space” that they thought they were getting.

As supporters and users of the market, we ask you to read some of the letters and discussion about the private versus public ownership and management of the space.  You can watch the planning commission video from the Sept. 9 Planning Commission meeting and the Market Plaza report from the City Council 9/21/2015 meeting at

Market Central and most of the vendors who have voiced an opinion believe that the proposed amendment would be detrimental to the future of the market, because it boxes the market into its present conception with no opportunity for expansion, phased growth or flexibility. We believe that the developers can achieve their goals without reneging on the original proposal that they made to the public, and which we supported.

Many of the market stakeholders do have a vision for the future, but were not invited to the table to discuss it.  Based on customer feedback, there is interest in going year-round, having a food-truck style market on Fridays to coincide with Fridays after Five, a mid-week produce market, and even an arts market.  The plans could be phased in on a manageable time-table, also allowing time for vendors to increase capacity.  We already conduct market demos and other educational and promotional events.   Presently, all official decisions about city market are made by city officials, and no vendors, the vendor advisory board, or market advocates were asked about how a public or private space would affect market business.  Market Central believes that decisions about the market should be transparent and involve all the stakeholders, since the market is a public entity made up of vendors, customers, and several non-profit organizations that invest in education and services for the market.  Most markets nationally are now using public or private non-profit organizations to run their markets.

City Council will vote on whether to grant the Special Use Permit amendment from public to private on Oct. 5, 2015, less than a week away.  Please write to council at to voice your opinion, or write to   You can come to the council meeting too, but your best bet to influence voting is to write in time for councilors to read it.


Thank you,

The Market Central Board


Letters discussing the Special Use Permit Amendment:

Public Space Security Discussion – Gary Okerlund

Public Space Support Letter – Rachel Williamson & Market Central

Letter of Support – Rachel Williamson

SUP Amendment LetterMarket Central

Hot Water Bath Canning 101

Hot Water Bath Canning 101


Saturday, August 22,  2015

1-3 pm at Trinity Episcopal Church

Preston Ave, Charlottesville



Hot Water Bath Canning 101: Come learn how to put up the bounty of local produce available at the market this time of year.  Leni Sorensen, Ph.D., will lead the class, talking about the history of food preservation and the science behind it while students gain hands-on experience putting up tomatoes.  Everyone will leave with a jar (or two!) of what was put up along with knowledge, recipes and resources to go home and get going with their own canning projects!

Leni Sorensen

About the instructor:  Leni Sorensen has been a folk singer, a homesteader, a culinary instructor, a history interpreter, wife and mother. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and recently retired from Monticello, where she was the African American Research Historian. She lives with her husband on their small farm outside of White Hall, where they have raised chickens, cows, pigs, all sorts of flowers and vegetables, as well as two of their four children.  

Market Central Small Business Program

Market Central Small Business Program


Photo credit: Emily Sacco


This past winter, Market Central conducted a program designed to encourage the start-up of small value-added products to our local market.  As part of this program, we held a series of seminars designed to address the business side of running your own small business.  These seminars were open both to those interested in starting their own business as well as current market vendors.

      Photo credit: Emily Sacco


Wednesday, March 11, 6:00 pm

“Internet Marketing & Social Media”

Dr. Gustavo Ferreira of Virginia Tech, Department of Agricultural & Applied Economics will give a talk on Internet Marketing and Social Media for small businesses. The goal of this workshop is to help smaller businesses understand the basics of a successful web marketing strategy. The presentation will include practical exercises and discussions among participants, and the following topics will be covered:

  • The Importance of Web  marketing
  • Website (content & design)
  • Search engine marketing
  • Web marketing and the Virginia Wine Industry
  • Geomarketing

Thursday, February 19, 6:00-8:00 pm and

Tuesday, February 24, 1:00-3:00 pm (rescheduled)

“DIY Web Design”

Designing your own website is no longer just for the technologically advanced.  Come learn how to utilize the services and templates of websites such as WordPress to make your place on the internet.   Led by  Daniel Willson of HackCville.

Tuesday, January 20, Noon and

Tuesday, January 27, 6:30 pm

“Small Business Bookkeeping 101”

Led by Libby Edwards-Allbaugh of The Tax Ladies, this seminar will highlight the importance of having a bookkeeping system and answer any related questions you have on the topic.

Free to Charlottesville City Market Vendors and participants in Market Central’s Small Business Program.

Tuesday, January 13, noon

“Branding and Packaging – Maximizing the Visibility and Purchase”

This interactive and informative talk will be presented by Glenn Lock of College Company Design and TachLock Group.  Glenn has over 20 years of consumer and b2b marketing expertise and will offer a fun and engaging conversation about how to bring your products to life to capture the attention and interest of consumers/retailers with the objective of inspiring purchase.  You will leave this program with actionable ideas that you can apply to your own products and business efforts.  

Tuesday, January 13, 6:00 pm

“Branding and Packaging – Maximizing the Visibility and Purchase”

A repeat performance of the day’s earlier presentation, by request.

Tuesday, January 6, 10:30 am

“Navigating Virginia’s Food Laws”

Ian Pasquarelli, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Albemarle/Charlottesville area office will discuss the rules and regulations of starting a small food business in Virginia, as well as the resources available to help you along the way.

Photo credit: Emily Sacco
Photo credit: Emily Sacco




Autumn Cooking Classes

Autumn Cooking Classes

Market Central Cooking Classes

Holiday Pies with Lynette Meynig of Family Ties and Pies
November 10, 2014  6:00pm – 8:30pm
$25. Trinity Episcopal Church
Sign up here

Have you ever made your own butter crust? Or used fresh pumpkin to make a perfect holiday pie? In this hands-on class, Lynette Meynig uses delicious and foolproof recipes for three classic holiday pies: pumpkin, sweet potato, and pecan – or a combination pie she calls Harvest Medley. Fee includes all ingredients and homemade pie to take home.

Learn more about Family Ties and Pies: