Market Plaza's civic space on a non-market day Credit: Credit: Market Plaza LLC

The developers of a nine-story building planned for the lot currently occupied by the City Market sought feedback from the Charlottesville Planning Commission on Tuesday.

“We were honored to have been selected by City Council through a competition to redevelop the city-owned land on the lot,” said architect Gregory Powe.

In June, the council chose a proposal from Powe and developer Keith Woodard to develop the site. The pair will pay an undisclosed amount of money for the land and must include the same number of vendor stalls and parking spaces as currently exist on the site.

However, for the project to proceed, the council must approve a special-use permit to build a taller building with greater residential density than allowed under existing zoning. The building can be 70 feet by-right but the permit asks for the maximum 101 feet allowed by city code.

The council also would have to agree to close First Street to vehicular traffic and sell the right-of-way.

The project also will require a certificate of appropriateness from the Board of Architectural Review.

The L-shaped building will consist of 300,000 square feet and will include residential, office and retail space.

There also will be a half-acre plaza upon which the City Market would be operated. The original plan was for the land to be gifted to the city, but Powe said city officials now want to enter into a long-term ground lease instead.

There will be 52,000 square feet of office space on levels three and four. Woodard and Powe envision 69 luxury apartment units on floors five through nine with 12 of them having rooftop terraces.

“Our concept is to live, work and play on the site, and it’s very much in keeping with the spirit of the Comprehensive Plan and zoning,” Powe said. “We’re bringing 150 residents to live downtown and 300 people to work downtown.”

A three-level underground parking garage will be directly below the plaza. There will be 102 spaces dedicated to the public with 69 spaces reserved for residents and about 85 spaces for office workers.

The developers also are asking for a wider setback on the northern side of Water Street to plant trees and install stormwater management features.

Since councilors made their selection in June, ownership of the surface lot adjacent to the city property has changed hands. Mark Brown is now the sole owner of the Charlottesville Parking Center and has expressed a willingness to work with Powe and Woodard in the future.

“We may be back with a phase 2 that will take care of the missing tooth of the other empty lot,” Powe said.

The plan calls for the closure of First Street — pending council approval — to create a pedestrian walkway that would lead to the civic plaza that would house the market.

“We see this north-south access at First Street to be a wonderful opportunity to not only extend downtown off the mall, but down towards the new civic space we’re providing as part of this complex,” Powe said.

Simulated view looking east on Water Street in front of Market Plaza building

Powe said retail spaces on the southern side of Water Street would help to transform the road into a commercial street.

That prompted Commissioner Dan Rosensweig to ask if they would consider having on-street parking in front of the building in order to slow down traffic on the street.

Powe said that would be up to the city, but that the turn lane onto Second Street Southwest could perhaps be eliminated. He said he would have to adjust the form of the stormwater management features.

“I think we’re open to discussion of that and I do share the quieting benefits of parking,” Powe said. He added that it could be a benefit to potential retail establishments.

Commissioners were generally favorable to the project, but offered potential conditions.

Commissioner Genevieve Keller was concerned about the way First Street had been redesigned in the conceptual plan.

“I’m looking for some design gestures that would delineate the traditional alignment of First Street,” Keller said. “It is called out on the Downtown Mall as the center of our city.”

Keller also said she wanted an archaeological study of the site to document the history of a section of one of the oldest parts of the city.

The project is scheduled to go before the Board of Architectural Review for a preliminary discussion Sept. 16. The Planning Commission is set to hold a joint public hearing with the City Council on the special-use permit Oct. 14.

Powe said he hopes to break ground on the project by next summer.