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City gathers feedback on Market House repurposing

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Residents had the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed repurposing of the Fayetteville Market House during two meetings Thursday.

Dorothy Johnson said she would never be in favor of tearing down the Market House. She said she rushed from a doctor’s appointment Thursday to make her thoughts known.

The City Council has voted not to destroy the building.

The 74-year-old who has called Fayetteville home for four decades said she would like to see the controversial building used in a positive way with a historical aspect.

The Market House has been a divisive issue for years, mainly because of its history of slaves being sold there.

“If slaves were sold there, we’re still here," she said. "That was due to the people in power at the time. It was cheap labor. They had absolute control. We need to learn from it. Even though we have come through adversity, we came back stronger.”

Johnson was among a group of 40 people who registered to provide input on the structure Thursday afternoon at the Kiwanis Recreation Center. Another session was scheduled for later Thursday. 

Organizers said a subsequent session is scheduled for May 21, but the location of that meeting was not available.

The Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission is gathering additional community input on the proposed repurposing of the structure at the request of the City Council.

"The only thing on the table is repurposing," Semone Pemberton, chairwoman of the Human Relations Commission, said to a participant who asked if having it destroyed could be an option.

As of 8:30 a.m. Thursday, another 240 people had posted survey results through the city’s online portal.

The information gathered at the meetings will be provided to the City Council for review in July.

Yamile Nazar, who is director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for the Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Department, said input from the public had been “very good.’’

Possibilities for repurposing the Market House have included an art display, a Black culture and history display, a marketplace for Black vendors, an educational or themed event space, as well as expanding the base and alleviating the multiple traffic lanes that encircle the Market House.

Participants at Thursday’s sessions were asked to place markers next to the repurposing option in each of the three main categories of themed events, marketing and art.

An ideas box was also available for suggestions that differed from what people in the community had already proposed during sessions with the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice worked with 80 people during two sessions in October and January to glean opinions for repurposing the Market House. 

The Department of Justice presented its report to the council last month, which is when the council decided to gather more input from residents.

Tracey Morrison, 39 and originally from the Fayetteville area, said it was important for her to provide input on the Market House repurposing. While she now lives in Hoke County, she said, the generation before her had always talked about this city landmark and once iconic Fayetteville logo and how they wanted to see it destroyed.

It was still painful for them.

“My ancestors have been through a lot, racism and injustice, and I would like to see progress and move forward,” Morrison said.

She said it should be a place for marketing and for festivals. “A place like the (U.S.) Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.”

Morrison said she had once done a research project on the civil rights movement, which included passages on the Market House in Fayetteville. 

“What I can say is that people had mixed feelings," she recalled. "Some said it should be there; some said it should not be there.”

On May 30, 2020, rioters broke into the building and set fire to it following protests over the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. After it was vandalized, the city blocked off the Market House with fencing. The fencing was removed earlier this month.

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Fayetteville, City Council, Market House, repurposing

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