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Fayetteville City Council to receive DOJ Market House report

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The Fayetteville City Council on Monday is expected to receive the U.S. Department of Justice report on repurposing the Market House.

Mayor Mitch Colvin said Dion Lyons, a conciliation specialist with the Department of Justice, will present the report to the council.

“We had the Department of Justice come in to have the community discussion. My understanding is they had discussions with several members of the community and they handed in this report,” Colvin said. “I’ve been reading over it. They’re telling us what the community thinks about it. From there, City Council can then make whatever directive we have or need to have for what the public had to say.”

Colvin said the council will receive the report, and he doesn’t anticipate any action being taken Monday night.

“We’ll start the plan to execute it,” he said. “You know the history of the city. It’s been a difficult conversation, but it takes courage to solve the problem instead of kicking the can down the road.”

The Market House has been a divisive issue for years, mainly because of its history of slaves being sold there. Some people have called for the historic structure to be torn down. Others have asked the City Council to preserve the building.

The Department of Justice worked with the Fayetteville Human Relations Commission to hold two meetings with community leaders to identify ways the Market House could be repurposed. Approximately 80 community leaders participated in the sessions, according to the report. They represented a variety of organizations, including churches, small businesses, area universities, government, community activist organizations, and military-connected groups among others.

During both sessions, the participants were divided into five groups to develop proposals for repurposing the Market House. They brainstormed proposals in the following topic areas: structural modifications, themed events, artistic expressions, marketing, and commerce.

Several options were identified by the groups during their 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.

On May 30, 2020, rioters broke into the building and set fire to it following protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. After it was vandalized, the city blocked off the building with fencing.

Repairs to the Market House were completed late last summer. City Manager Doug Hewett has said it is ready to be reopened, but he is waiting to hear from the council on what its members want to do with the fencing.

The City Council has voted not to destroy or move the building. It decided to work with the Department of Justice to get recommendations for repurposing the Market House. 

The department’s Community Relations Service worked with the Human Relations Commission to lead the group discussions. It works with communities to identify issues and address conflicts.

“This experience led CRS to create a community workshop program for the Fayetteville community that brings together diverse community leaders, city and county officials, law enforcement, ministerial leaders, and other community leadership to identify solutions related to the Market House reutilization initiative and develop strategies,” according to the Fayetteville Market House Community Workshop report.

“The community workshop program applied principles of collaborative problem-solving and community empowerment and engagement to improve local community relations,” the report states. “This report outlines the proposals and solutions developed by community leaders for the Market House reutilization initiative through CRS’s facilitation services. The information in this report is based upon the community workshop session notes generated from the small-group breakout sessions.”

The report represents recommended solutions developed by city leaders, it says.

“Once you’ve established whether there was the will of the council to relocate and move it, which there wasn’t, then repurprose it,” the mayor said. “There may be five to seven different concepts you could do in and around it. I think that’s still fluid. Subject to change once you engage some professionals to take a look at it and give you all the possibilities of that area down there. Not just the Market House, but other historical sites down there – how you connect all that.”

In other business, the council is expected to receive an update on the planned city-sponsored Juneteenth Celebration. The event, "Juneteenth: Reclamation - A Joyful Americana Jubilee," is scheduled for downtown on June 18-19.

The event would be a first for a collaborative downtown district and city-sponsored tie-in to the federal holiday that commemorates the abolishment of slavery in the United States.

On March 7, the council approved $141,000 for the proposed celebration during a work session.

The City Council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. in the council chamber at City Hall. The public will be able to attend in person or watch the meeting remotely. Those who attend the meeting will need to enter through the front entrance security screening point on Hay Street, city officials said.

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, Department of Justice, repurposing, Juneteenth

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