Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — A city official said chatter that the Salisbury Farmers Market will be left searching for a new location after construction of the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s new downtown central office isn’t exactly true.
The district’s plans to house 160 employees in the building at the 300 block of Main Street has dwindled to about 110 due to a $6 million budget that leaves no space for the exceptional children’s department within the building.
City Planning Director Joe Morris said the need for fewer parking spaces means the market could avoid immediate impact.
“If they don’t bring those 50 employees, that frees up a lot of parking spaces and it might not be as critical that they look at alternatives,” he said.
The city plans to construct parking for the central office in the grassy area behind the market, but that space could grow if the district adds on to the building in the future.
“If they are able to bring the entire 160 employees, then yeah, there is a very real possibility that farmers market folks will need to look into alternatives for the Wednesday market,” Morris said.
The market is currently open from 7 a.m. to noon Wednesday and Saturday. Morris said he has suggested the possibility of a Wednesday evening market.
“There are communities, including Statesville, that have very successful evening markets,” Morris said.
Morris said now might be a good time to bring the conversation about a permanent location for the market back to the forefront.
“I think those of us who were here when the market was built initially recognize and acknowledge that was intended to be a temporary location,” he said. “We need to be looking at a permanent solution.”
Morris said the city recognizes that the farmers market is a “very important component in our community” and plans to work with the Farmers Market Association to ensure it remains up and running.
“We are not going to leave them hanging. We are going to have a plan,” he said.
Architect Bill Burgin said the central office could be completed by February 2014 if things go as planned.
The core building will be nearly 49,000 square feet, Burgin said. It will have enough room to consolidate all administrative staff except the exceptional children’s department, which will move to the Ellis Street office.
Burgin has designed alternate plans for future additions.
One alternate includes 13,999 square feet of additional unfinished space for $867,938. Another includes an upfit for the exceptional children program that would cost $441,152.
But Burgin said if the alternate spaces are completed later, it could cost between 30 and 35 percent more than the estimated price due to lack of space to stage the construction.
Burgin said at about $125 per square foot, the district is getting the best bang for its buck right now.
“Several years ago, it would have cost about 15 percent more at least,” he said. “I would have budgeted this building at $150 per square foot and not even flinched.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.