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City to hear proposals for Central City Market

Oct. 23, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The rebirth of Huntington's Central City Market will reach another benchmark Friday when city officials open sealed proposals from organizations that want to operate the facility.

The makeover started last spring when the Central City Market Corp., a nonprofit organization that manages the 2,500-square-foot building, was put on notice that the city would only offer a management contract extension through the remainder of this year.

City officials also have worked with the Cabell County Community Services Organization to help move its senior center from the Central City Market building to Madison Manor, an assisted-living facility at 1329 Madison Ave. The CCCSO Board of Directors unanimously approved the move, which will occur Nov. 1. Chuck Ricks, executive director of CCCSO, said the new location will allow more residents of the high-rise to access the agency's services and will result in a significant cost savings.

Mayor Steve Williams views the city-owned market on 14th Street West as the key to revitalizing the Old Central City commercial district in Huntington's West End. The district also is an instrumental part of the River to Rail Project, a multi-faceted approach of policing, code enforcement, economic development and community involvement now underway to improve a stagnant and crime-plagued area of the West End.

"It's pivotal to 14th Street West because it will serve as an anchor that will assist in drawing people to the area," Williams said. "It's pivotal to the River to Rail project because it's the first visible indication of the quality that we expect to be developed in our target area."

The city's vision for the market becomes more clear in its "request for qualifications" for the operations and management contract. The document outlines that the city is seeking an entity that will focus on local food, arts and crafts; develop a business model that generates foot traffic; maintain a small tourist information center; and continue to partner with the Cabell County Tailgate Farmer's Market, which is located in the outdoor section of the market from late spring through October.

The chosen entity will not have to pay rent and will receive $37,200 annually from the state Department of Agriculture. All other funds for the operation and management of the facility, however, must be generated by the entity.

Each proposal will be reviewed individually by a subcommittee of the River to Rail Committee, said Charles Holley, the city's director of development and planning. The subcommittee consists of Holley, city planner Bre Shell, Administration and Finance Director Brandi Jacobs-Jones, Huntington City Councilman Pete Gillespie and Norman Taylor, owner of Taylor's Iron and Metal and Duncan Box and Lumber Co. on 14th Street West.

Each subcommittee will score the proposals based on the organization's qualifications and experience, quality of the business plan, sensitivity to the community's history and assets, budget and feasibility of the proposal and past performance. The subcommittee then will make a recommendation to Williams and the full River to Rail Committee. Huntington City Council will have final approval.

Holley said the city's goal is to have the new arrangement in place by Jan. 1.

Williams said the city will work with the state Division of Highways to improve signage along Interstate 64 to entice people to check out the antique stores, artisan shops and market in Old Central City. He also said he has talked to Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick about increasing the number of vendors at the Cabell County Tailgate Farmer's Market and making it a year-round operation.

"We see agriculture as an economic development tool in this venture," he said. "What people have seen there the last few years bears no resemblance to what we expect to see in the future."

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

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