Kingsport seeking new home for farmers market

Matthew Lane • Feb 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The city of Kingsport is working to find a new home for the farmers market.

For the past several years, the farmers market has operated two days a week in the city-owned parking lot behind the Kingsport Public Library. Recently, city leaders have discussed moving the market to somewhere within the now-city-owned Quebecor property.

One reason for the move is because TriSummit Bank acquired the old American Electric Power building and is working to construct an addition to the facility, which would take about one-third of the parking lot where the farmers market currently meets.

Chris McCartt, assistant to the city manager, said the city is looking at the options of relocating the farmers market within the old Holliston Mills site — at the corner of Center Street and Clinchfield.

“Farmers market officials have toured the area and feel this is somewhat comparable to what they have now,” McCartt said.

Kingsport hopes to have a contractor in place by the end of the month to demolish some of the newer construction to reach the original Holliston Mills building, McCartt said.

“This is not full-blown demolition to open the area up. This is just to make the farmers market more accessible and to expose the buildings identified for the farmers market,” McCartt said, adding the city would like to have the new site ready for when the farmers market opens this spring. “Obviously there is a lot of work that has to be done, demolition and prep work to make that site work for the farmers market.”

To help the farmers market, the city applied for and recently received two grants from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. The first is a $32,000 capital development grant (which requires a $16,000 match from the city) to go toward the purchase of garage-style doors for the building where the farmers market will be relocated.

McCartt said the doors would allow the farmers market to operate as an open-air venue or closed-door during inclement weather.

The second grant is an $8,850 promotion and retail grant (which requires no match). This money will go toward the purchase of shopping carts, an outreach and educational campaign, and marketing campaign for the farmers market.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen recently approved both grants. However, two city leaders voted against the $32,000 grant, saying the city would be subsidizing the farmers market.

During the Feb. 15 BMA meeting, Alderman Ken Marsh pulled the grant from the consent agenda for further discussion, saying he has a problem with Kingsport investing money in the Holliston Mills property.

“The farmers market by its very nature is an informal, impromptu organization that wants to be that way. It has always been that way and should continue to be that way. Those characteristics are its appeal,” Marsh said. “When we start spending money, putting in facilities for the farmers market, we are destroying the nature of the market itself.”

Second, Marsh said the city would also be starting down the road of redeveloping the Quebecor property in a piecemeal manner.

“We’ve had no definitive discussion on the Quebecor property, on what we do with it, how we should develop it, sell it, raze it or whatever,” Marsh said. “That consideration of this property is at best premature and inappropriate, period.”

Wright & Henderson architectural firm completed a proposed redevelopment plan for the Quebecor property in August 2007 and presented the plan to city leaders. The plan calls for the restoration of the old water towers and brick chimney, a museum of industry, an outdoor courtyard, performing arts center, two farmers market areas, retail space, a city archives and exhibit building, and restaurants — all connected via an outdoor plaza.

The plan shows the two farmers market areas at the corner of Center Street and Roller Street, with a Museum of Industry and History in the old Holliston Mills building.

Marsh said he sees no reason for the city to start putting capital into the farmers market.

“It’s a tailgate type of business,” he said. “I find the farmers market being relocated to Holliston Mills is undesirable.”

McCartt said farmers market officials have toured the property and believe it would be adequate for the farmers market.

Vice Mayor Ben Mallicote said from the moment Kingsport leaders began talking about the Quebecor property, everyone agreed it would be a good site for the farmers market.

“I know we’ve talked about it on other occasions, particularly when we talked about relocating some of the downtown businesses. We have not had a comprehensive talk about what to do with the property,” Mallicote said. “It’s an appropriate place for the farmers market, they are very excited about it, and I’m fully prepared to move forward with the location.”

Alderman Pat Shull said, in effect, Kingsport would be subsidizing the farmers market.

“We subsidize a lot of things because we think they’re good for Kingsport,” Mallicote said.

“That compete with our own business, which makes no sense at all,” Marsh said.

“Is it genuinely your position that Food City would be opposed to this?” Mallicote asked.

“We’ve subsidized Food City to the point they shouldn’t be upset by anything we do,” Marsh said.

Mallicote said the people of the farmers market are in favor of this move.

“If you’re opposed to (the grant), you are in fact opposed to what the farmers market people say they need to do their job better,” he said.

City Manager John Campbell said the farmers market was already looking for another place to move, one being the old Cloud Park parking lot.

“When we got the Quebecor site, the farmers market board thought it would make a better site,” Campbell said, adding the city is in the process of doing several things in connection with the Quebecor property:

•Preparing a strategic demolition to expose the historic construction at Holliston Mills.

•Working on a Request for Proposals to go out to local developers, which will include the properties and characteristics of the Quebecor building.

Campbell said the BMA should receive an overall presentation on the Quebecor property at its next work session.

Marsh said he would like to see the Quebecor property put back into the free enterprise arena and not be another public building.

“It’s another example of the unfortunate way we get into things, a deal of fire, ready, aim,” Marsh said. “It’s absolutely upside down, just by the process itself.”

Campbell said he would hope the city owns as little of the Quebecor property as possible.

Alderman Larry Munsey asked if any of the grant expenditures would be wasted if Kingsport decides to reassign the space for something else.

“It won’t be wasted,” Campbell said.

And with that, the vote to approve the $32,000 grant came down to a 3-2 vote, with Marsh and Shull voting nay.

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