Although some community members expressed concerns about the proposed loss of two longtime downtown establishments, Charlottesville City Council is purchasing a portion of a Market Street lot for a new parking garage.
The council unanimously approved spending the $1.28 million needed to purchase an Albemarle County-owned portion of the parking lot at 701 E. Market St. during its meeting Monday.
The purchase is part of an agreement between the city and county to keep county courts downtown and to construct a new co-located General District Court.
As part of the agreement, the city is purchasing the county’s ownership in the parcel for half of the appraised value, which is $2.56 million.
The city will then combine that parcel with an adjacent one it owns at 801 E. Market St. and use the combined land for the garage.
The city purchased the adjacent property in 2016. It is home to a Lucky Seven convenience store and a Guadalajara Mexican restaurant.
Lucky Seven, the only 24-hour spot with food downtown, opened in early 1964. The Lopez and Ornelas families opened Guadalajara in 1988 as the first “authentic Mexican restaurant in the city,” according to Daily Progress archives. The Market Street location was the first of what has expanded to four locations in the area.
Tanesha Hudson said that Guadalajara is an important downtown restaurant for residents.
“You guys should really consider that that’s one of the cheapest spots downtown to eat at,” she told councilors.
According to a staff report, Lucky Seven and Guadalajara would be allowed to remain until their leases expire on Oct. 30, 2021.
The proposed structure would have 300 parking spaces and 12,000 square feet of retail on the ground level. The preliminary cost estimates for construction is $8.5 million.
The city’s economic development director, Chris Engel, said the proposal is “conceptual.”
Mayor Nikuyah Walker asked if city staff had considered allowing Lucky Seven or Guadalajara to occupy the commercial space proposed for the facility. Engel said those conversations haven’t occurred, but “it’s certainly possible.”
Engel said the economic development office would provide services to find new temporary or permanent locations.
Per the agreement, 120 parking spaces would be dedicated for county use if Albemarle turns over 15 on-street spots to the city. If the county keeps those spots, it will only receive 90 dedicated spots.
The city is required to start construction no later than May 1, 2022, and have the spots available by Nov. 30, 2023.
If the city doesn’t meet deadlines, it must provide 100 dedicated spaces in the existing Market Street Parking Garage, return ownership of Albemarle’s half of the purchased parcel to the county, pay the county the other half of the appraisal value and give the county sole control of the whole property.
The city needs to craft a final design of the parking garage, which would take about 15 months. Construction is expected to last 18 months.