The protective fencing around the Market House is expected to come down by the middle of the month, the city said this week.
The move follows a vote on March 28 by the Fayetteville City Council to remove the fencing. The vote was 9-1 with Councilwoman Courtney Banks-McLaughlin casting the opposing vote.
The Market House had been blocked off with fencing while repairs were being done following damage from an arson attempt during a protest on May 30, 2020. Some of the structure was also vandalized.
Repairs to the building were completed late last summer, and the building has been ready to be reopened at least since the early part of the year.
The city said in a release that the fencing will be removed to allow public access to the exterior areas of the Market House - including the open terrace area at street level - beginning April 15.
Councilwoman Shakeyla Ingram represents District 2, which includes the downtown area where the Market House is located. She said Thursday that she had asked the council several times to remove the fencing.
"I started to ask questions around the holidays," she said. "People come to the city and drive downtown. We were in a place where we could safely take the fence down. I think everybody learned a lot in 2020. Preferably, I would hope something like that would never occur again."
Prior to the fence removal, the area will be cleaned and required inspections will be done to ensure physical and structural safety, the city said.
In January, City Manager Doug Hewett said he was waiting to hear from the council on what its members wanted to do with the fencing.
Nearly two years ago, rioters broke into the building and set fire to it following protests over the death of Fayetteville native George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Some downtown businesses were also damaged.
The Market House has long been a divisive issue in the community, mainly because of its history of slaves being sold there. Some have called for it to be torn down; others have asked the City Council to preserve the unique structure.
“The Market House is a park facility managed by Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks and Recreation,” the release said. “As such, all relevant guidelines for park use will apply to the Market House including access hours of dawn to dusk.”
At the direction of the Fayetteville City Council and with assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice, city leaders are continuing work on possible plans for repurposing the Market House.
Ingram said Thursday she would like to see "more of an educational piece" when it comes to revising the purpose of the Market House.
"I want us to be able to tell the full truth - people of color and African Americans and their story and how their lives were impacted by being sold at the Market House," she said. "And the overall story of African Americans during that time. Not just one side of the story being told."
On March 28, the council also voted to hear from more residents - not just a select group - before making a decision on how to repurpose the Market House.
Over the last year, representatives from the Department of Justice and the Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission met with two groups to gather diverse feedback and develop community-oriented recommendations for how the Market House could be repurposed.
Information on how additional input will be collected will be shared as plans are developed, the city said.
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at email@example.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.