FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The city council is working on a plan for community engagement in the next steps for repurposing the Market House.
Last year, protesters lit the building on fire after George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis.
The structure was built in 1832 and is a historic landmark in North Carolina. It's where people took graduation photos, announced engagements and where holiday events were held in the past. But according to city staff, the building is a site most likely built by slaves and a site where slaves were sold.
In 2020, protesters and others called for the building to be torn down. City council has announced that it's staying put, but it will be changed. Right now, the building is blocked off until that happens.
The top five options presented to the city council for repurposing the Market House are:
- Structural modification- Inside lane of the traffic circle bricked in to create a larger footprint for outside activities.
- Art exhibits- Activate the four sidewalk corners to speak to diversity of the community (not just Black history). Corners can host temporary art. Make it active space that people can engage with.
- Art exhibits- In depth with the emotional connectivity associated with the history of Fayetteville and the Market House highlighting successful Black contributors to the structure. Upstairs- present/future. Downstairs- past.
- Commerce- Monthly market activity on the lower level. Vendor emphasis on people on color (i.e., farmers, entrepreneurs, artists, etc.) that carries down the streets in front of the shops. Can also include a space for collection and sharing of oral history.
- Themed events- Destination visit for education of the student community (Pre-K through 12 and college/university) with a combination of static displays, plays, volunteer opportunities, master classes.
These are not the only options for the future of the Market House.
The city's human relations commission is working directly with the Department of Justice on a plan for community engagement. They will be working with the DOJ's City-SPIRIT model, which stands for Site Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together.
“The City-SPIRIT model is designed to allow the community to serve as the stakeholders in owning whatever decisions occur and the city council will certainly approve it,” said Dr. Anthony Wade, Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Director.
There is no budget currently assigned to the project because right now, Fayetteville city council is in the discussion phase.
“They want to hear from the residents, they want to know what they think and they want to carry out their wishes as people who define the quality of life issues here in Fayetteville,” Wade said.
The nonprofit One Fayetteville was created this time last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and fights for social justice.
The nonprofit's 14-year-old founder, Rachel Bradford, said she wanted to do something to bring the community back together.
Her mom, Michele Ornelas, remembers walking downtown and seeing so many empty businesses. That's when she knew it was time for change.
“We wanted to get those open lines of communication back open. We wanted people in the city to start talking again and start communicating with each other,” Ornelas said.
Ornelas says there is good and bad history surrounding the Market House. She wants to see all sides of the story told in whatever way the building would be repurposed.
“We are all going to have to come to an agreement that this building has to be an educational building. It really does. Unfortunately, it really does, it really needs to educate what our city did and how our city is moving forward to amend that,” Ornelas explained.
To watch the Fayetteville City Council special meeting where options for repurposing the building were presented click here.
To get more info on the Department of Justice City-Spirit model click here.