The Fayetteville City Council voted Monday to remove the protective fencing from around the downtown Market House.
The vote was 9-1 to remove the fencing with Councilwoman Courtney Banks-McLaughlin casting the opposing vote.
The Market House has been blocked off with fencing while repairs were being done after damage from an arson attempt during a protest. Some of the repair work posed a danger to the public.
The structure was vandalized 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. Downtown businesses were also damaged.
The Market House has been a divisive issue for years, mainly because of its history of slaves being sold there. Some have called for it to be razed; others have asked the City Council to preserve the unique structure. The city is looking at ways to repurpose the building.
Councilwoman Kathy Jensen said she wasn't sure the city was ready to prepare for the removal of the fencing, urging fellow council members to have a plan in place.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought with the Market House,” Councilman Larry Wright said during Monday night’s meeting. “When I think about the Market House, it’s the center of the city, but it’s very controversial.”
He questioned how the council could go forward with an image that is controversial when considering those who are concerned about the future of the Market House. He also said he wondered how the city would use the Market House knowing "that we’re in a situation where we’re trying to make it a better place for everybody.”
Councilman D.J. Haire then said, “The work is done. All the repairs have been done. We can’t always prohibit people from wanting to use the Market House as a protest area or any location in our city. We’ve done the work, and we’re having open dialogue on how to deal with it with the citizens of Fayetteville. We’re trying to hear back from them. It is a sticky, sticky subject and has been a sticky subject since I’ve been on council.”
Haire said he didn’t see any need to continue having the structure surrounded by a temporary fence because all of the repair work has been completed. “And the fence doesn’t make it look any better,” he added.
Councilman Antonio Jones said there would never be a right time to remove the fencing.
“At some point, we have to trust the community to do the right thing just like some would trust them to do the wrong thing,” he said.
Mayor Mitch Colvin asked City Manager Doug Hewett about the logistics of removing the fencing.
“We would want to make sure we gave notice,” Hewett said of notifying the city at large “so that we had made everyone aware. Several days for that. We would need to remove the fencing, clean up, probably brush and sweep the area. I would like some time to be able to consult with the city attorney on what would be some ... simple guidelines that we could put in place or to have the council consider before we open it up."
Hewett estimated it would take roughly two weeks “to come back and roll it," regarding the elimination of the fencing.
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.
In January, Hewett said he was 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. The city is continuing to work with the Department of Justice on recommendations for repurposing the Market House.
Councilwoman Shakeyla Ingram made the motion to direct staff to remove the fence as soon as staff can prepare to do so. Councilman Johnny Dawkins seconded the motion before the council voted to take down the fencing.
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.