The City of Charlottesville plans to pay $2.85 million to purchase a half-acre lot at the corner of Market Street and 9th Street to address the growing parking needs downtown, officials said Tuesday.
The money will come out of a $4 million capital improvement plan contingency fund, said City Manager Maurice Jones.
A purchase contract for the property is on Charlottesville City Council’s November 21 agenda, officials said at a press conference. The Market Street parcel, which is owned by PJB Market, LLC, is valued at $1,443,700, property records show.
The purchase was announced as part of a larger parking action plan, which included establishing a Parking Action Team of existing city staff and developing a request for proposals to implement on-street metering.
The plan also includes expanding transit and park-and-ride options to downtown, developing a municipally-owned parking facility on West Main Street and developing Public-Private Educational Facilities Infrastructure Act guidelines.
To implement the plan, the city has hired Rick Siebert to be Charlottesville’s first parking manager, Mayor Mike Signer announced.
Siebert, who is expected to start in December, will be paid $73,000 a year, said Chris Engel, city director of economic development
Siebert will run a newly-formed parking department that will operate under the Office of Economic Development and the City Manager’s Office, Jones said.
Additionally, city staff have requested a CIP allocation of $2 million per year for parking in each of the next five years as part of the FY 2018 budget process, according to a news release.
Competition for the Market Street parcel and climbing city land values pushed the purchase price beyond assessment, city officials said.
“The city is right now basically in a land rush, prices are going up all over the city,” said city councilor Bob Fenwick. “We are not the only person who wanted that property, so the market forces sort of dictated the price.”
The lot, which is currently occupied by the Lucky 7 convenience store and Guadalajara Mexican restaurant, is adjacent to a flat lot the city owns at 7th and Market Street. The two lots together make up nearly an acre, a city release said.
Jones said Tuesday there are not yet any plans to connect the two, and said that the site is likely to remain as-is for the next three to five years.
Lucky 7 and Guadalajara will be permitted to stay on the site for the remainder of their leases, the release said.
Downtown is set to lose more than 150 parking spaces in the coming years as the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority parcel on Levy Avenue, which is currently used for city employee parking, is developed and the Belmont Bridge is rebuilt.
Demand is also growing for monthly passes at the Market Street Garage, two blocks from the Lucky 7 and Guadalajara parcel.
Jones said he did not have an accurate estimate of how many parking spots the parcel could produce, but said it would easily be capable of exceeding the 150 spaces that are expected to disappear.
The purchase gives the city many options, the release said, including a public-private partnership for a mixed-use development that would include parking.
“We do want the private sector involved,” said city councilor Kathy Galvin. “A mixed-use building would sort of be ideal, we have not ruled anything out.”
In the release, officials said they are also working with the Charlottesville Parking Center to expand peak hours at the Water Street Parking Garage.
“At the request of the business community, we are attempting to work with our partner at the Water Street Parking Garage to extend weekend hours on a trial basis,” the release said.
Charlottesville operates the Water Street Garage in a public-private partnership with Charlottesville Parking Center, which owns the ground lease on which the property sits.
The two entities have been at loggerheads since Mark Brown, owner of Charlottesville Parking Center, sued the city in March over his claim that city officials conspired to artificially keep prices at the garage below market rate.
Both city officials and CPC General Manager Dave Norris said the parking plan and the Water Street Garage’s expanded weekend hours have no bearing on the lawsuit.
The expanded hours – which will see the garage open until 3 a.m. Thursday to Saturday and until midnight on Sundays – are part of the proposed 2017 CPC condominium association budget, Norris said.
“We had a request from the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville at one of their parking meetings to have extended operating hours, primarily for people who work in restaurants downtown,” Norris said.