Farmers market not sure about temporary location

  • Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013 12:58 a.m.

SALISBURY — The temporary location for the Salisbury Rowan Farmers Market is still up in the air.

The market’s board of directors decided Tuesday to weigh other options before determining whether to move to a proposed temporary home behind the Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The market must vacate its current location at the corner of East Bank and South Main streets to make way for the expected construction of Integro Technologies’ new headquarters in the 300 block of South Main Street. Construction could begin as soon as mid-summer.

The market is scheduled to open April 20.

The city has offered free use of the city-owned parking lot in the 100 block of North Lee Street. The market can move to the long, narrow lot behind the visitor information center at 204 E. Innes St., with spillover space available in the larger parking lot closer to the building.

But vendors are concerned about how they would get their trucks into the parking lot, and some downtown businesspeople have complained about losing parking spaces to vendors and market customers.

The farmers market plans to operate from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesdays and Saturdays. Some 35 vendors participate on Saturdays with more than 20 on Wednesdays.

The suggested parking lot would accommodate up to 40 vendors, but the logistics of moving trucks in and out are unclear, said Mike Turco, president of the market board.

Board members are also concerned about where customers would park, especially on Wednesday mornings. The city owns another nearby lot that has been suggested for parking — the Robertson lot behind the fountain on East Innes Street — but many of the market’s elderly customers may find that difficult, Turco said.

The market needs a temporary location for one or two years, until the city builds a permanent home, likely across from Salisbury Depot where police cars are parked.

The market wants to stay downtown, Turco said. Board members are considering both public and private property and would be able to pay some rent, if necessary, he said.

Randy Hemann, executive director of Downtown Salisbury Inc., has been helpful with the search, Turco said. Turco is scheduled to meet Monday with Janet Gapen, the city’s interim director of Community Planning Services.

A committee of the Salisbury Tourism Authority is scheduled to discuss the farmers market at noon Monday, and the market’s board will meet again Monday night.

Turco said he doesn’t expect the board to make a decision Monday. Although time is growing short, leaders want to find a location that will work until the permanent market opens and avoid another move, he said.

“The rug was sort of pulled out from under us when the property was sold, and now we are scrambling to find some place for a two-year hiatus,” Turco said.

Integro has offered to buy the farmers market parking lot, old GX Fitness and an office building for $250,000. The high-tech company plans to build a $4 million headquarters in the 300 block of South Main Street.

The parking lot behind the Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is housed in the Gateway Building, is still an option for the farmers markets, Turco said.

“There are a lot of pluses to the Gateway Building — water, electricity and the bathrooms,” he said. “It’s just the logistics of getting in and out.”

Turco said it’s important to get the temporary location right because so many people now depend on the market for a good portion of their income.

“This is a business, and it’s their livelihood,” he said. “Sometimes, I get the feeling people think it’s a hobby.”

On average, the market sees about 1,000 customers on Saturdays and about 750 on Wednesdays. During the market’s 57 days of business, it contributes an estimated $750,000 to the local economy.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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