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Dairy Market is looking to expand. Other businesses could be displaced.

One of Charlottesville’s newest mixed use developments — home to the city’s largest food hall — could triple its footprint if the owner of the Dairy Market secures approval to develop 4.41 adjacent acres on Preston Avenue.

“It’s as a good of a place as any that I can think of to add density in the city,” Chris Henry, the president of Stony Point Development Group, told The Daily Progress. “We’re taking a light-industrial area, and we’re adding much needed square footage in the center of the city walking distance to downtown Charlottesville and the University of Virginia.”

Opened in 2020, Dairy Market is owned by baby formula magnate Paul Manning, a recent appointee to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors whose 1990s renovations of several structures were credited with revitalizing the town of Gordonsville. On Preston, the neoclassical pre-war Monticello Dairy space has been retrofitted and expanded to include 50,000 square feet of office space, 180 apartments and a food hall.

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A truck drives past the Charlottesville Dairy Market food hall on Tuesday, July 18, 2023.

“Given what we’ve completed next door, the experience and expertise we have there, and the design teams we’re going to bring to bear, we’re going to create a world-class project in the center of Charlottesville,” said Henry.

The planned expansion depends on getting a special use permit to develop a parking lot that the developer already owns and redevelop two adjacent tracts owned by Rennick Properties LLC, a company set up by the late George Rennick. A colorful fixture of 1990s television commercials, the auto dealer was known for “sharpening his pencil” to provide deals at George Rennick Buick-lsuzu. Today, the Rennick family has entered a joint venture agreement with Stony Point, said Henry.

“The zoning envelope for the additional four and a half acres could accommodate north of 400 units,” said Henry.

Dairy Market expansion

A proposed map of future Dairy Market expansions on Preston Avenue in Charlottesville.

Henry said he envisions buildings that would stand five to seven stories, one floor higher than the existing complex. His plans call for demolishing the existing buildings, so the businesses in them may have to find new locations.

“It’s definitely a source of concern to us,” said Lori Woolworth, the operations manager of Twice Is Nice, a pair of nonprofit thrift shops, both of which are on land controlled by Stony Point. “If we lose our space, it’s going to have a great impact on us.”

Woolworth said the glass-fronted location at 918 Preston, which opened in 2019, will see its lease expire in October, 2025. The store’s prime visibility and central location helped the operation pay out $235,000 to non-profit groups last year, a sum more than $100,000 more than any previous year, Woolworth said.

Dairy Market aerial view

An aerial view of the Dairy Market.

“We’ve spent 30 years developing a business on this corridor,” she said.

Another business grateful for the location is Fifth Season Gardening.

“Charlottesville and Preston Ave. have been good to FSG,” Brian Stebbins, one of the partners at the business, told The Daily Progress in an email. “So, while we would have loved to be able to stay in our current space, we look at the future move as the next chapter and a new opportunity!”


A person eats on the patio outside the Dairy Market food hall in Charlottesville on Tuesday, July 18, 2023.

Other businesses in the expansion’s path include Preston Suds laundromat and beer-purveyor Rockfish Brewing Company. Acknowledging the upheaval, Henry voiced hope for accommodation in the planned development.

“There are going to be some retail and business opportunities on the ground floor, and it would be natural for the existing businesses to move into the new space,” he said.

Henry plans to hold an informational meeting on July 25 at Old Trinity Church from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Correction: Twice is Nice is a donation-based thrift store and not a consignment shop as the original version of this article portrayed it. The article has been updated.

Hawes Spencer (434) 960-9343

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@HawesSpencer on Twitter