Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CCCP backs down from $1M market ask

Charlotte Center City Partners is backing off its request for up to $1 million in city funds to help upfit a former uptown store as a city market. Michael Smith, president of the uptown boosters' group, told me this afternoon they have "postponed" their return to the city's economic development committee to ask for the money.
Instead, he says, "We just want to be further down the road," with plans for upfitting the former Reid's Fine Foods store on Seventh Street at the Lynx light rail line (in photo, below right). The group will hear potential vendors at the market in a 4:30-6 p.m. session today, and then from the general public at a 6-7:30 p.m. public meeting and workshop tonight.

Afterward, Smith said, they'll use the information they hear to work with design firm Shook Kelly on what changes are needed to the building. (An interesting side note: When Seventh Street Station was originally being built the space that eventually became Reid's Fine Foods grocery was first designed to hold a city market.)

After coming up with the design plans – and here's the change of plans – "an organizing committee will be established to raise funds to build out the interior and exterior of the market by applying for grants from private entities, foundations and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will match the private and in-kind dollars already raised," says a CCCP news release.

Whatever the gap is, between what's raised and what the upfit costs, will be what CCCP will ask the city for, Smith says.
That's a much smarter approach. I think a city market is a fine idea. But it was politically clumsy (some might say delusional, though I maybe wouldn't go that far) for CCCP to think City Council members, who got scorched earlier this year when they found $12 million to help launch a city streetcar project, would happily sprinkle $1 million big ones over a market.

As the Observer's editorial board said in a Sept. 15 editorial: "Could the market upfit happen for less than $1 million? Are other funding partners available? The city must explore those options before it plunks down a big chunk of the public's money. We'd hate to see the idea scrapped. That would be a lost opportunity. But $1 million from city taxpayers? That's going to take a lot of swallowing."
The new approach makes much more sense. The group's market consultant, David O'Neil, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture and big foundations are looking seriously at food issues and "food hubs." Further, he says, "You can spend a lot of money on these things [market buildings] and waste a lot of money."

Figure out how much you really need to do on the building – for which CCCP has procured a lease from owner Bank of America – then try to get private money and only then, if you need to, tap the public coffers. That said, it's absolutely appropriate if it's necessary for the city to kick in some money for a market. Ditto the county. Cities all over America have publicly built and- or publicly owned markets. Even little Asheboro, N.C., has a city-owned downtown market building, some Asheboro-based friends tell me. So does Hendersonville, among many other places. There's nothing odd or sinister about the idea, and a market is a great chance to help small entrepreneurs build small businesses.

But politically, right now, with schools being closed, yet more teacher layoffs looming, libraries and rec centers severely cut back, to cough up $1 million for an uptown market would go over about as well as the Ebola virus. Smart move, CCCP, to retrench and restrategize.
Photo credits: Tommie Hagood inspected produce in July at the Historic West End Market on Beatties Ford Road. DIEDRA LAIRD/CHARLOTTE OBSERVER


Anonymous said...

Waste of money. Our tax money at work courtesy of GovCo's special sales tax for CCCP's.

Anonymous said...

For ONCE they used their brains instead of OUR wallets!

Larry said...

Too bad if only we had know about this before now we could have attended?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Larry, you don't look smug enough to be part of Michael Smith's inner circle and get invited to bask in the glow of his presence.s

Anonymous said...

After the recent article about tax dollars paying all these downtown cheerleaders he would be an even bigger fool to ask now. They are so used to being given money it sounds like he said he didn't even have a plan yet. Move out of CLT & Meck Co. while you can.

Larry said...

I clean up pretty well but my suit only comes from a discount place so they would see right through me.

Stephen said...

You wouldn't go so far as to call their original request "delusional"? How about moronic and downright arrogant? The absense of criticism of CCCP from the Observer is surprising. This group thrives on public money without consent and without necessity. They should be shutdown, and ideally Michael and Moira would be exiled from the great state of Mecklenburg.

Sam said...

More spending?????

Anonymous said...

Isn't CCCP an abbreviation for USSR?

discourser said...

In Europe, the markets are along the streets. I still like the idea of closing down a block or two downtown Thursday afternoons and Saturdays and letting people set up stalls.

If looks are so important, the city can have them built inexpensively by a local carpenter and then rent the stalls to the vendors like they do at the regional farmers' market.

If the business is there, it can grow as necessary. If business fades, it can shrink or go away with limited or no overall cost to the city. It could actually make the city money!

Just think, we could end up having a great annual Christmas Market like the ones in Germany.

Anonymous said...

I never realized there was a city Economic Development Committee that could be approached for bucks. I wonder who can ask and if there is a limit on what can be submitted.

For example can Sally ask for money for a better lemonade stand?

Factious! Yes. But besides the size, what’s the difference between a chair and card table in front of a little girl’s house and a chair and card table in front of a business uptown?

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Why doesnt he donate some of his outrageous salary? 100K and he's still making over 200K a year. Ridiculous.

I would bet dollars to donuts his staff members dont make a 10th of what he does and do all the work. Disgusting.

Anonymous said...


Observer Publisher Ann Caulkins sits on the Board of Directors of Charlotte Center City Partners.

The Observer NEVER tells you that, and it's the reason why CCCP can do no wrong in the Observer's eyes.

nodakevin said...

Stop studying and consuling and open a famers market. The main city market has concrete floors and lights. The last time I was in the reids building it was and upgrade from that. The money wasted on worthless studies could provide seed money for the startup. If it is successful then use the rent money for additional upgrades. If not you close and are not out a million dollars .

nodakevin said...

Just stop studying and cosulting this thing to death. The last time I was in Reids it was a fine place to sell food. It should easily be able to be a farmers market since very successful markets exist in gravel parking lots. The consulting fees would easily be able to pay for minimal start up costs. Once it is up and running and generating booth rentals it should be self supporting or it should go out of business. If it is successful and the community supports it then fix it up a bit. The space is not as important as the taste of the tomatos.