Architects, city planners and community members gathered along Grady Avenue Wednesday for the groundbreaking ceremony of a new project at the Historic Monticello Dairy building.
Stony Point Design/Build first unveiled plans in September 2017 for a multi-phase project that will convert the old milk plant into a food hall and retail space for up to 14 vendors called Dairy Market.
Dairy Market will model itself after projects such as New York’s Chelsea Market, and will feature a number of local food vendors surrounding a communal dining area.
The entire market will be curated and managed by a professional staff — the vendors just need to focus on their food and drink.
The larger project, called Dairy Central, includes 50,000 square feet of office space, space for two restaurants and two stores, and 175 apartments, including 20 affordable housing units, in what is currently the building’s parking lot.
The Charlottesville City Council approved permits for two five-story buildings behind the existing structure in July.
Stony Point Design/Build president Chris Henry said at Wednesday’s ceremony that Dairy Central will “allow growing companies to keep their employees in Charlottesville and create opportunities for new employment in a walkable, urban neighborhood connected to transit and amenities.”
The building will retain parts of its current facade on Grady Avenue, though almost everything else will be new.
Construction will begin in September, with the first phase including Dairy Central expected to be completed by mid-2020.
“About 13 years ago, the city updated its zoning ordinance to encourage projects just like this. To take a single-use, low intensity building and increase it to a mixed use project with higher intensity,” said Chris Engel, director of the Charlottesville Office of Economic Development. “It’s taken a few years, but projects like this are starting to happen.”
“The city has been growing and adding jobs. One of the constraints has been office space for growing companies. What I’m probably most excited about is the 50,000 square feet of office space coming in phase one of the project,” Engel said.
Engel noted that this project has been moving fast by Charlottesville standards. Developers purchased the property 16 months ago and have since received the necessary permits to begin construction.
Lee Quill from Cunningham/Quill Architects is excited for the mixed uses of the development.
“It’s wonderful when a project can bring together protection of historic resources, economic development that is sensitive to neighborhood and city needs, and a developer’s vision of giving back to the community,” Quill said. “This project does a lot of things right.”
While designing the project, the developers held several meetings for community input.
Mayor Nikuyah Walker praised the developers’ efforts to engage with the community on the project, though she was the only city councilors to vote against issuing a permit, citing the low proportion of affordable housing planned for the new apartment buildings.