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Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan addresses Clarksville Downtown Market move

 

City of ClarksvilleClarksville, TN – Greetings: Over the past few weeks, there has been a great deal of discussion about the Downtown Market. In many ways, the talk has been exciting. At the heart of the problem is success and that is the best kind of ‘‘problem’’ to have. Many times, continued success requires change and that is the case with the Market.

When the Market began in 2008, it was identified as a creative way to address many needs. The rapid growth the Market has experienced, however, has been a bit surprising given the fact that it is only in its fourth year.

Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan

Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan

The Market’s success is due to the staff of the Parks and Recreation Department who have taken it very seriously from the outset and who spend countless hours each year in preparing grant applications, drafting marketing materials, collecting and reviewing vendor applications, setting up the market each week and handling all of the details necessary to produce a successful market. Clarksville’s Market has been voted the Number 1 Market in Tennessee for the past two years and that kind of success can only be achieved through hard work and careful planning.

As of today, there are 70 vendors who regularly participate in the Market. There is also a waiting list of additional vendors who hope to participate. Let’s face it, if you owned a business and wanted to devote some of your time to selling your goods at this type of market, you would want to be included in the best one around. The goal has never been to have the biggest market. The goal has been and continues to be to present the very best market for Clarksvillians, vendors and visitors alike. As a result of hard work, community support and overall success, the Market has grown beyond the borders of its current location. In looking at the reality of the situation and the increasing problems that the location presents, a decision was made to move the Market, on a trial basis, to the North Extension of the Riverwalk area.

Moving the Market to this area of the Riverwalk would mean plenty of room for vendors who could set up their wares in a cooler space (not on asphalt), plenty of parking, a flat ground on which the tents could be set up, access to electricity, and the ability to address safety and health concerns. All of this would be located on City owned property which also made the trial move attractive.

The discussion about the trial relocation also generated talk about the Riverwalk property at issue. During the past month, parties who are interested in purchasing land located along the River/Walk have come forward and advised that they are seriously considering development on the parcel that is the proposed site for the trial move. The specific property has been identified as a prime location for development for residential use, commercial use or a combination of both.

Given these discussions, which are preliminary at this point, I believe it is in the City’s best interest to protect the potential investment of developers and to maintain the area in its current state. Therefore, I have decided to leave the Market in its current location for the time being. However, because of the limitations of the City Hall location, we believe this may be the last season for the Market in this location. There is no question that the current location cannot meet the popularity or demands of the Market. However, a new location must meet several requirements to be considered.

Clearly, locating the Market in an area that provides the best opportunity for vendors and is accessible to residents is not as simple as finding open space and relocating it. Any location for the Market requires several things: it must be a flat space for setting up tents and tables and for ease of walking of the patrons; it must be shaded or covered due to the extreme heat of the pavement and late summer weather; there must be room for seating areas for customers; there must be space in between booths for vendors and their wares; there must be electricity access (for fans and vendors, like meat vendors, who must keep their booths cool); we must be ADA compliant so that the entire Market area is accessible in accordance with the law; there must be restrooms for all and there must be ample available parking which does not impede public safety vehicles or emergency response vehicles.

Meeting all of these requirements is a challenge. For example, there have been some inquiries about closing the streets around City Hall for the Market’s expansion. Unlike other festivals that take place downtown, however, the Market is open 22 Saturdays out of the year. It is unwise, unsafe and impractical to close down city streets for 22 consecutive Saturdays for several reasons. Remember, for example, traffic safety classes are held on Saturdays in the City Court building and people who are attending those classes need access to the building as well as parking in the area.

For all of these reasons, a trial relocation of the Market was recommended and approved with the North Extension of the River/Walk area identified as a location that could potentially meet all of the location requirements. Now that there is discussion about the purchase of that property, relocating in that space is no longer an option. It is clear that relocating it will be necessary for us to maintain the Market’s reputation as the best in the State. Finding a place that will meet the Market’s goals presents a challenge that will take some time to meet.

Therefore, I am appointing an exploratory committee comprised of individuals who I know have Clarksville’s best interest at heart to evaluate alternatives for the Market’s location. It is my intention to identify a new location for use beginning next year. The committee will include: two vendor representatives, a public safety representative, Mayor Pro Temp Geno Grubbs who will serve as Chair of the committee, a representative of the Mayor’s office, a representative of the Parks & Recreation Department, the Chair of the Downtown Clarksville Association, the Chair of the Two Rivers Company and a representative from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

I am tasking this committee with interviewing the stakeholders in the Market and developing three alternative locations that would, ideally, be in or in close proximity to downtown. I am asking the committee to provide a recommendation to me by November 15th of this year.

I am also encouraging the committee members to consider a long-range vision of hosting the Market in an area where placing a permanent structure is possible or already available. Currently, employees of the Parks and Recreation Department begin at 4:00am every Saturday to prepare for the Market. These employees must set up between 70 – 80 tents, every table and chair, place sandbags and hang banners before the Market each week and then return in early afternoon to dismantle it. A permanent structure would make much of this additional work unnecessary and would be more accommodating for vendors and customers.

As I have said, the issues we face with the Market are challenges based on success. I am very proud of the Market and what we have accomplished so far and I am very appreciative of all of those people who have contributed to its success.

Sincerely,
Kim McMillan


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