Downtown Charlottesville sees new changes to encourage safe shopping

Downtown Charlottesville sees new changes to encourage safe shopping
Several new sanitizing stations are one of the new initiatives to encourage shopping downtown. (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The next time you visit downtown Charlottesville, you may see a few changes, including several large signs reminding people to stay “safe and clean” while they shop.

Chris Engel, director of economic development for the city, says a slew of changes are coming to the downtown area to encourage visitors to support small businesses.

“This is really the start of an initiative to help rebuild consumer confidence in the downtown area to bring back customers so that our small businesses can get back on their feet,” Engel said.

Along with the new signs, the city set up eight different sanitation stations and will distribute 5,000 masks to businesses in need.

Engel says the changes, partially funded by the city’s CARES Act, will help encourage safe shopping.

“The pandemic was obviously a shock to everybody and caused quite a bit of disruption to the normal process of business and basically cut off the consumer from the business world. And that confidence level is important to rebuild to get customers comfortable with coming back,” Engel said.

The updates don’t stop there. Some curbside pick-up spaces along the downtown mall will be made into permanent spaces.

“The initiative now is to convert some of those, not all of them, but some of those to permanent spaces where they’re 15-minute spaces on an ongoing basis. They’ll be marked with a special sign that says “curbside pickup only” and potentially have some pavement parking to further delineate the space,” Engel said.

An outdoor visitor kiosk will be set up Wednesday-Sunday near the transit station.

Parking will also be free on Saturdays and Sundays at the Market and Water Street garages for the rest of the year, starting August 8.

“Businesses need your support. If you like businesses, they need your support now more than ever so we’re encouraging people to come back out and want them to do it in a safe manner, take those necessary precautions, but make sure they visit their local businesses,” Engel said.

The city is also pushing back cafe and vendor fees until the end of September to help businesses get back on their feet.

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