The Fayetteville City Council voted Monday to hear from more residents, and not just a select group, before making a decision on how to repurpose the Market House.
Councilman Johnny Dawkins cast the lone opposing vote in the 9-1 decision.
Voting to get more feedback from the community were City Council members Courtney Banks-McLaughlin, Larry Wright, Antonio Jones, Shakeyla Ingram, Chris Davis, Yvonne Kinston, D.J. Haire, Kathy Jensen and Mayor Mitch Colvin.
Banks-McLauglin made the motion to seek more community involvement by sending the matter back to city staff. She included in her motion “for this to come back no later than July.”
She urged more meetings be held where additional feedback could be gathered from all who want to help decide the direction of the Market House.
Kinston seconded the motion, which then passed.
The action took place after Dion Lyons, a conciliation specialist with the U.S. Department of Justice, presented the department’s Fayetteville Market House Community Workshop report to the council.
The Department of Justice worked with 80 people – in what was described as a diverse group from different walks of life – during two sessions in October and January to glean opinions for repurposing the Market House. The Market House has been a divisive issue for years, mainly because of its history of slaves being sold there.
The City Council has voted not to destroy or move the building. Instead, the city began working with the Department of Justice on recommendations for repurposing the Market House.
Several options were identified during the sessions. They included educational or themed events at the Market House; expanding the base and alleviating the multiple traffic lanes; using the space for vendor events; and using it as a place where diverse artisans could display their work.
When the groups were asked to develop solutions to the proposals, they suggested involving various groups in the community, including Fayetteville State University, Methodist University, the Fayetteville History Museum, the Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County, as well as artists.
The Community Relations Service plans focused on artistic aspects of the Market House, commercial aspects and structural aspects, according to Lyons.
Colvin asked Lyons if the Community Relations Service could replicate the process by talking with another 80 people.
“Yes, we can,” Lyons replied.
He told Colvin and the council that the department initially intended to narrow the community set of plans by culling the original 80 participants down to 15 and moving forward by implementing their orders.
“We’re not going to make everybody happy with this process,” Wright said.
Instead, he said fellow council members need to “do their due diligence.” He proposed that the council send the issue back to gather more input on the proposed three aspects of what to do in terms of repurposing the building.
“It’s a tough decision,” Colvin said, “that the council has to make on that city-owned property.”
Dawkins said he preferred to let the Department of Justice finish its process as originally conceived.
“There is a part two,” Dawkins said. “We’ve narrowed down a community input set of plans. For the second half, I’d rather have the full 80 come back. We would now go forward with the recommendations that they have. We would cull it down to the 15 to implement the plans they came up with.”
“It’s more taking the input we have and more forward with their orders," he said.
However, the rest of the council didn’t see it that way.
They all spoke of a need for more input from the Fayetteville community.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to approve the concept and report on the proposed Juneteenth Celebration while directing staff to appropriate the $145,000 that was asked to fund the city-sponsored festival.
Ingram made the motion to approve the plans, and Wright seconded.
The primary activities would be planned for Fayetteville on June 18-19 along Franklin Street. Donaldson and Maxwell streets would also play host to various events.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” said Bianca Shoneman, the president and CEO of the Cool Spring Downtown District, which was tasked by the council to come up with a celebration that marks the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans in the United States.
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.