The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review has approved the massing, scaling and general layout of the nine-story Market Plaza building proposed for a downtown parking lot currently owned by the city.
“It’s five stories of residences plus a penthouse over two stories of office over a ground floor and plaza level of retail, all overlooking a half-acre civic plaza that becomes the home of the City Market,” said Gregory Powe, an architect working with developer Keith Woodard on the project.
The City Council selected the pair’s proposal in July after a competition to develop the parking lot that has been the home of the City Market since 1993. Applicants were required to offer the same number of public parking spaces and to provide at least 102 stalls for vendors.
The BAR previously determined that the additional density and height would not negatively impact the downtown historic district. The council approved a special-use permit for the height on Dec. 1 with several conditions and the project returned to the BAR on Dec. 16.
“Those conditions are important because … the design should abide by them,” said Mary Joy Scala, the city’s historic-preservation planner.
One of the conditions is that at least three entrances or openings to the building should be on Water Street, Second Street Southwest and South Street.
“I think that the intent of the Planning Commission was to have South Street and Second Street appear on market days to be as porous as possible to replicate the conditions of the current market,” said Kurt Keesecker, an architect who serves on both the commission and the BAR.
Another condition was that trees be included on the public plaza, but that was not supported by the BAR.
“The trees won’t grow much and they won’t look right on the parking structure,” BAR member Laura Knott said. “I think trying to force the trees there is not going to be good for anyone in the long run.”
One change made to the design is that storefronts will no longer be included on Second Street Southwest. Instead, there will be a mezzanine level.
“You can’t make every street be a main street and you can’t spread retail in this town to be fronting every single street,” Powe said. “The main retail frontage is on Water Street.”
A block of First Street will close to vehicular traffic, and Woodard and Powe have leased land owned by the Charlottesville Parking Center that will allow a wider passageway. People will climb a “grand staircase” to get to the plaza.
Knott said she thinks First Street should remain open.
“I’m not convinced that the First Street design reinforces the historic layout of a street that has been in that place in Charlottesville since 1763,” she said.
Powe said the First Street sidewalk would be a simple concrete one because he and Woodward might one day develop the CPC lot.
“Depending on the timing of a potential phase two, that may never be built,” Powe said. “It’s quite possible we might start a second phase as soon as we get the market [operational].”
BAR members said they wanted more information about how the market would operate and whether the existing vendors are on board.
“I don’t care what it is as long as the users all think it works,” said BAR Chairwoman Melanie Miller. “I would encourage anyone who is a vendor to get involved sooner rather than later.”
The BAR also told Powe that it wants to see a slightly wider staircase, a detailed landscaping plan and other modifications.
Powe and Woodard are hoping to break ground on the project sometime during 2015 and the pair said they plan to facilitate the market’s move to a temporary home on the CPC lot.
They also got design approval for two parking pay stations to accommodate the South Street entrance, as well as a new one onto South Street.
“There is this period of transition for two or three years, and we’ve been able to get a long-term lease on the adjacent lot,” Woodard said.
He will be able to add electricity on the site, an amenity not currently possible at the existing City Market.
Woodard said he wants to keep the existing entrance on Water Street, but BAR members encouraged him to move it to Second Street Southeast so it would face the entrance to the neighboring parking garage.
The Planning Commission is expected to consider the special-use permit at its meeting Jan 13.