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.