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"No significant changes" planned for Market area

Should the City make such a promise?

Warwick Jones

The second public meeting relating to the City Market area was held this morning. Probably reflecting the early morning timing, it was not as well attended as the first. We estimate about 40 to 50 persons in attendance with vendors in the majority. Attendance was over 200 at the first meeting.

The City gave a summary of the responses to questions asked of attendees at the first meeting. We might add, and we doubt that the City would disagree, that the survey could only be an imprecise indication of what citizens desired. Responses were not broken out by the nature of the respondents (residents vs. vendors) or very scientifically weighted for the degree of support for some of the responses. But we concur that the survey was helpful.

Strong support for some changes
Mr. Michael Maher of the City Design Center stated that there were 3 responses that stood above all others and which were not contentious. They were:
• The need for more parking – for vendors, loading and unloading, and visitors
• Need for restrooms
• Better trash collection

A collation of all the responses posed by the City was given to attendees and the document can be viewed on the City’s web site. Press here

Nine broad categories of consideration were defined by the City and attendees were asked to rank the importance of the responses to the questions it posed under each category. The top rankings under each category are shown below

The top ranked responses
TRANSPORTATION/PLANNING?
The market area should have more planning
There could be a remote special vendor parking area
Delivery trucks should be limited to certain hours

IMPROVE PUBLIC/CIVIC SPACES?
More public restrooms could be added
More trash receptacles could be added

WAYFINDING, SIGNAGE AND IMAGABILITY? (not many respondents)
There could be more Market signage on major streets and highways

VENDORS AND PRODUCTS?
More spaces for local crafts and artisans
More exclusive product lines in each shed/ less duplication

ECONOMIC AND OPERATION?
Management could be responsible for increased security
More frequent trash collection and a central trash container

PEDESTRIANS, CARS AND CARRIAGES?
Fan and/or other cooling systems in all the sheds
Create a dedicated off-street area for carriage loading

RESIDENTS AND VISITORS?
Visitors are the Market's best potential customers
A police substation could be located within the market

EVENT MARKETING AND PROMOTION? (not many respondents)
Market should be promoted throughout the State
The Market can be promoted and advertised more aggressively

THE LARGER CONTEXT OF THE MARKET?
The Market should be extended to the cruise terminal
Shuttle could link to Aquarium Wharf, Visitor Center, and the Battery

The persistent theme was “no significant changes” planned
If there were a persistent theme in the presentations and comments by City staff it was that “no significant changes were planned”. The intention was to allow “a better experience” for all those involved in the market area.

Questions suggested that many vendors were not reassured. They asked about rents, terms and possible notice of changes. Staff did its best to reassure them. The results of the response to questionnaires and public meetings would be further collated and would help shape the terms relating to the retention of a management company, staff said. The responses would also be used to define the objectives of the City and the responsibilities of the management company.

The final choice of the management company would probably be made by January but the takeover of management of the Market area would not occur until May. The City hoped the changeover to the new manager would be seamless.

City is reassuring vendors, but can it ignore residents?
We can understand that the City is doing all it can to reassure vendors. After all, the success of the Market in large measure depends on them. And it would not be in the City’s interest to alienate them. But at the same time the City can’t ignore the wishes of its citizens. It is the houses of the Peninsula that draws tourists to Charleston more than anything else. Without these and their draw of visitors, there may not be a City market. The City has an obligation to these residents, not only to maintain the livability and attraction of the City by improving the Market area, but to utilize the market area as a source of revenue.

Is Staff sure no significant changes are necessary?
City staff was probably sincere in its promise of no significant changes. But can it be sure that significant changes are not necessary? There are many citizens hoping for significant changes though perhaps few expect these changes to be wrought in a short space of time. It is possible that some major investment is needed. Should funding be provided by the City from its own resources or from higher rents? One staff member spoke of the possibility of a Revenue Bond issue to be amortized by future rent payments. Such a course may well be appropriate.

Vendors need to finance changes
We also note that vendors dominated the number of attendees at the first and probably today’s meeting. The answers that the City collated from the respondants were in large measure those of vendors. This writer has few issues with any of the conclusions drawn from the survey but would ask who pays for the improvements such as more parking, trash collection, signage, and more particularly, marketing. If the vendors feel that the Market area should be more aggressively marketed, they should pay for it. And if they are to pay for it, rents will most likely need to be raised. We can’t say by how much, but conceivably it could be “significantly”.

The City has indicated that there well be more public meetings relating to the Market area and changes will not be made before engaging the public. We applaud the transparency that it is attempting to apply to reasons for change. We would also add that few changes are achieved without some pain. To suggest otherwise for the Market area may be convenient, but it may also by overly optimistic.

Your Comments:

I had a feeling parking would be on the top of the list, but I think that it is only an issue for vendors. Visitors and tourists should be willing to walk to the market. The aesthetics should definitely improve as well as access to bathrooms.

Posted by: A. C. at August 11, 2007 05:12 PM

Is the Market the only retail area deserving of the City's attention? What about Sam Rittenburg, and Savannah Hwy? The City is larger than the Peninsula's tourism sector. Was all this needed to figure out that better trash collection, more restooms, and more parking is needed downtown? The City recently shut down a number of parking areas in this sector to make room for development. Is this what the City needs. No. King Riley needs to retire.

Posted by: Lyfe at August 23, 2007 10:18 AM