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Monday, June 17, 2013
A commentary in The Roanoke Times by Lucas Thornton on June 2 was entitled “Market Square has designs on improvements.” Having read Thornton’s commentary with more than casual interest, I have decided the headline should have read “A Partnership for a Better Downtown Roanoke has designs on Market Square.”
The partnership began its design on Market Square some months ago by ignoring the vendor stalls in Market Square, referring to them as parking spaces. Nowhere has the partnership, in the newest commentary or any other, acknowledged the fact that there are 53 vendor stalls in the Historic Roanoke City Market or that 24 of those vendor stalls are in east and west Market Squares.
In his most recent commentary, Thornton again makes reference to parking by referring to the Market Squares as “existing infrastructure (composed of several crowded parking spaces).” The partnership design, according to Thornton, improves that infrastructure by restoring the space to its historic use as both a marketplace and pedestrian square.
Historically, animals were sold on the market, and the vendors were required to clean their stalls and to remove any fecal matter before they left the market. I am not sure who will have to clean up after the pedestrians from 5 p.m. when the market is closed and until 8 a.m. when the market opens.
Roanoke has entered into a contract with Downtown Roanoke Inc. to manage Historic Roanoke City Market, and vendors enter into a contract with DRI for the monthly use of their stalls. When they arrive in the morning, they back their vehicles into their stalls and prepare their displays. They fill their vehicles with products to replenish their displays as needed.
I don’t believe that I am the only curious person who would like to know more about the Partnership for a Better Downtown Roanoke. I wonder who they are who, along with Thornton, have taken on the task of renovating the Market Squares. Is the motive altruistic or is there an expected return on their investment?
It is clear that Thornton is the spokesman and is a co-founder. I would like to know who the other co-founders are. For example, early on, there was some indication that $250,000 would be needed to make the squares more pedestrian friendly. Who will be fronting that money?
Also, since that early estimate, a significantly larger sum will be needed to upgrade the subsurface. The city will logically be providing for the subsurface upgrade, but what portion of the pedestrian-friendly upgrade will have to be paid by Roanoke and what will have to be paid by the partnership — the entity designing the improvements? The commentary has an interesting paragraph that reads: “By returning the squares to pedestrians, Market Street will fulfill its potential as a fulcrum for activity downtown: increasing foot traffic to the surrounding shops, restaurants and farmers market stands.” There is an antique word for this paragraph, and it is balderdash.
Tucked away in the commentary is the referral to Market Squares as a “proposed park.” Trees, benches and tables will be positioned around the space.
It is somewhat unclear whether vehicles owned and used by the vendors will be allowed to back into their stalls in the squares while the market is open.
Also in the commentary is a reference to Center in the Square having revealed its newly improved cultural arts space on the corner of Market Street and Campbell Avenue. While it is accurate that Center in the Square has conducted a major, and wonderful, renovation to its facility, West Market Square is not part of its facility. Both East and West Market Squares are integral parts of the Historic Roanoke City Market and have existed as such for about 120 years,
I do concur with Thornton in one respect. I sincerely hope the citizens who care about the market will attend those meetings he suggested and let him, the partnership, DRI and the city council know whether they want the market to continue for another 120 years or to be replaced by a park.
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