Charlottesville VA City Market seeks permanent home

It is one of the ancient plights of the marketplace. Markets create a gathering place and ‘value’ follows. And paradoxically this value, unchecked, is a potential force that can ultimately displace the market.

Without the enlightened intervention of the town’s politcos a market can easily fall prey to higher bidders who might wish to ‘develop’ the site.

I recently witnessed this scenario in Charlottesville, VA – home of the mighty popular, bounteous (over one hundred vendors) City Market, capably managed by the Charlottesville Parks and Recreations Dept.. The area is blessed with abundant agriculture and a lot of very interesting people committed to a better future for their beloved market. Oh – and they have a very cool downtown; walkable, active, diverse and compact.
The market sets up on a city owned (parking) lot in the middle of town that is slated for eventual development which prompted the non-profit Market Central, Inc. (dedicated to preserving and enhancing the City Market) to work with the City and find a permanent home.

We looked at a lot of potential sites, none of which are as good as the current location, where (if it were up to me) I would keep the market – in the middle of town. It works and properly planned as a market square (in a larger market district) could create even greater value for the downtown and surrounding properties. It could be redesigned with limited buildings, preserving as much of the open space or square for other types of markets, public events, passive enjoyment, recreation and so forth.

Charlottesville is also blessed with some very smart and committed people who, I trust, can figure out the elegant solution that works for all and for all times.

Top: a corner of the City Market on Saturday morning
Middle: bird’s-eye-view of the market’s current location
Bottom: Market task force members considering the market square possibilities

May 9, 2011