Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone says Market building tenants

Anita Wilson shows her award

Anita Wilson shows her award

After Louis and Anita Wilson opened their second Burger in the Square at Cave Spring Corners in Roanoke County I suspect Council members were relieved. However, Anita Wilson the outspoken leader for the Market tenants hasn’t gone away.

Realtors and malls are reaching out to the tenants – “they see the value … they just don’t want the food court they want the farmers as well,” said Wilson.

Wilson gave “kudos to Dan Casey for bringing his perspective to the Market buildings future.” Councilman Court Rosen poo-pooed that by saying “The Roanoke Times is not the encyclopedia and their word does not necessarily mean that it is fact… [in that] The Roanoke Times in blaming city staff I don’t think is productive.”

Wilson also took a jab though few may have recognized it at city manager Darlene Burcham. The first came with the suspicion of how so many contractors could be summoned in 24 hours for repairs after the “closed for fall cleaning” announcement last September. Wilson has always thought this was evidence that the whole “rodent infestation” was a ploy to make the vendors the scapgoat for the city’s lack of maintenance. There had been a proven lapse in pest control service for six months prior to the closing that was admitted by then economic development director Brian Brown.

Anita Wilson

Anita Wilson

Another jab came when Wilson referenced Norfolk’s aging Waterside where then Norfolk Assistant Manager Darlene Burcham oversaw a 1990 expansion. Burcham later became Deputy City Manager in 1995 leaving that position to become Roanoke’s City Manager. The Waterside expansion brought retail space that by 1999 became a magnet for young adults seeking to dance and drink. The retail space were chains like Hooters.

Council member Gwen Mason referred to the findings of the consultants that uncovered the corrosive old pipes that were in worse shape than first thought. This then being the reason for the change from 5 months to an 18 month closing said Mason.

Wilson emphasized again that in 18 months “we will be out of business and if we locate somewhere else – we’ll stay there – we’re not coming back.” She wanted to see an expedited time frame to complete the renovation.

Burcham confers with Townsend

Burcham confers with Townsend

Burcham said she recalled the engineers saying that it could be 12 months or possibly longer. It’s not practical to move people from one part of the building while construction occurs in another part explained Burcham.

Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea floated the idea of contractors working 24 hours a day in the winter months to get it done quicker. Lea was concerned about the Patrick Henry and Center in the Square construction all occurring at the same time as the Market renovation. He feared it would chase people away from downtown.

Rosen suggested a “rent abatement” on the backend as an incentive for the tenants to return after the renovation saying it would not cost the city anything.

Mayor Bowers after relaying the history of the Market building said that it should remain authentic. “It is a southern Appalachian farmers market in a midsized town in America  – that’s what we are – that’s what it is – that’s what I think we want it to be,” opined Bowers. “We’re not doing a good job” in dispelling the discontent and “we can’t be economically successful if we let them move out.” Bowers asked, “why do we have all these meetings if we’re not going to listen to what the public wants.”

Cunningham Quill Architects, the consultants for the Market design were also awarded the architectural and engineering contract. They will return in January to update council on their progress. Lee Quill worked well with the vendors during the design. They will meet not only with council and staff but include the market tenants as well.

There were no answers for Anita Wilson or the other tenants at Monday’s council meeting. Perhaps answers will come in January.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Business, Roanoke City Politics

Tags: , ,

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