Calling all architects: City to sponsor design competition for Water Street parking lots

In early December, Neighborhood Development chief Jim Tolbert quietly issued a request for proposals to manage a nation-wide juried design competition for the Water Street parking lots. According to Tolbert, various community members had requested that a design competition be held to offer potential developers some creative options for what Tolbert refers to as, "the most valuable piece of land left in the City."

Bounded by Water Street, South Street, Second Street East and Second Street West, the Water Street parking lots have long been seen as sites for future development. Last year, the Charlottesville Parking Center Inc., which owns the 125-space lot in front of Live Arts (the city owns the adjacent metered lot, home to the City Market), attempted to sell the lot for around $7 million, a deal that never came to pass.

Ironically, the lot was incorporated in 1959 by local businesses to make sure there was adequate parking for Downtown shoppers. (In the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that The Hook owns one share in the corporation.) However, ever since the Water and Market Street parking garages became available, and downtown land prices began to soar, the temptation to sell the high-value properties has grown stronger and stronger. According to the recent proposal, first reported by growth watchdogs Charlottesville Tomorrow, the City wants to run an "open ideas" competition on the development of the parking lots, inviting architectural and urban design teams around the country to present creative ideas for the site.

"An open ideas competition generates excitement and publicity for a project while bringing the highest degree of creativity to the process," the proposal states. "Some proposals stretch the boundaries, but aim to provoke thought and provide a vast array of alternatives."

According to City spokesperson Ric Barrick, the city hopes to encourage contestants to take their cues from the Live Arts building, which represents a departure from traditional Downtown architecture. The proposal also requires that the jury reflect "diverse perspectives including architects, landscape architects, green building experts, urban designers, developers, transportation professionals, City officials, and citizens," and that the winner receive a "cash prize."

According to the proposal, a good example of what the City has in mind is the Urban Habitats Design Competition for the Sunrise Trailer Park, which was organized jointly by the Charlottesville Community Design Center and Habitat for Humanity.

Oddly enough, the deadline for submitting proposals to manage the competition was yesterday, only 12 working days after it was issued. And according Tolbert, he received only one proposal. Still, he says the City hopes to crown a winner by the end of the summer.

9 comments

the City's been making noise about those two giant blocks for at least 15 years-- what makes you think something's going to happen NOW???

Well, as The Hook said...the proposal statement was issued December 3rd, and the deadline date was Dec 20th (two days ago). Lots of time to think of a plan.

Since the city got one proposal, I guess that one wins, but nothing will happen for decades...just like all the other buildings on the downtown mall that have had For Sale or For Lease signs on them for many, many years.

Pursue Charlottesville. Why?

to me, the design challenge is to perserve the visual link to south street and beyond. I like seeing Gleasons and the pink warehouse, it widens the downtown. If they keep building up (height, not density) on water street, it's just going to ruin the character. I'd vote for it staying a surface lot or being converted to a side plaza (since it's a mid-point on the mall) and move the farmers' market there which lets you turn the farmers market lot into development. (obvi. this would never happen, one can dream though)

ps - I just called and they said deadline has passed. so guess that's a no to an extension

Isn't the farmers market already on this lot? I think the other lot is the one that is owned by the CPC. I agree about the connection to South St. and Gleason's, hopefully we won't see another 9 story building there.

Outskirts, are you being serious? My sense is that the real estate market on the mall is strong. With all the building there lately, your's seems like an odd comment.

The Boxer Learning building has been vacant for 4(?) years. Stories continue to say something may happen (maybe even 9 stories). The big ugly vacant buildings to the west of Wachovia have been sitting there forever. Pointless little things sit on the ground floor for short times within those buildings, but if you look up there is nothing but boarded up junk. It has been that way for at least 8 years.

In recent times the old A&N building is now sitting there with a big for lease sign (I put the Kibosh on you) and seems to have become a storage spot for the Nook's outdoor seating. Will CVS be far behind?

How long will The Hardware Store building sit around waiting to get filled up/remodeled? Or will they decide to sit on it for a long time and then try to lease/sell it, just like the Boxer building. The market is strong, but there are large blights kicking around.

Did you folks even read the post? Or just the headline? It was a proposal for someone to "manage" a design competition...and it says which lots are which and who owns them. I think its kinda cool they want to do a design competition. It will be interesting to see what people come up with.

Outskirts, some large buildings on the mall are vacant, granted. The Jefferson Theater could be added to that list, as could most of the Frank Ix building and most of the Ivy Industries building. Usually criticism I hear of developing these lots is that it would take away parking, so I found your's surprising.

I think it should be interesting to see what comes out of this. I would be in favor of a good project here. I think it would help Water street. Since the city owns the property, I don't think they will have Boxer Building-esque problems moving the project along (see the pavilion, the holsinger, transit center). The bigger question is whether the council will be able to agree that something should be built and what.

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