CLEVELAND — Following years of complaints and reports of mismanagement, the city of Cleveland has hired a consultant to help deal with the ongoing issues at the historic West Side Market.
City Hall confirms David K. O'Neil, an internationally known expert in the development of public markets and their local economies, agreed to a contract last week. A review of the market's operations is now under way.
O'Neil released the following statement:
"I have a long relationship with the West Side Market going back to the 1980s. This has been a tough year for all markets, but Cleveland has the beginnings of some wonderful plans to help get through the difficulties and come out stronger and better for the future. When we brought the International Public Market Conference to Cleveland in 2012, the Market was really the showcase of the event and market staff from all over the world were impressed with it."
The hiring of O'Neil comes at a crucial period for the West Side Market, which has seen vacancies rise as vendors grow frustrated with the lease structure and the lack of improvements made to the facility's infrastructure. Several local leaders and politicians (including City Council President Kerry McCormack) have called for the popular Ohio City spot to shift to a non-profit form of operation.
With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting vendors even harder, the city decided to waive rent costs for three months and continued to foot the bill for security to maintain social distancing protocols. Officials say they plan to invest more than $5 million into the market this year, with scheduled improvements including:
- $70,000 for a booth prototype that will "addresses many of the issues vendors shared with the City of Cleveland over the years including electrical upgrades;" once improvements are finalized, the new booths will cost roughly $2.6 million for the entire market
- $214,865 for an arcade door replacement scheduled to begin this month
- $197,000 in electrical upgrades
- $240,000 for a new meat preparation room
- $1.8 million for clock tower repairs; bidding for the project is expected to begin soon
The Cleveland-based Food Access Raises Everyone (FARE) Project will serve as an equity partner and assist O'Neil with his efforts. With 40 years of experience, O'Neil's past consulting projects include more than 200 historic and new markets in places like Detroit, Boston, Australia, Russia, and Brazil.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The video below originally aired back in April