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City of Cleveland seeking consultant to improve West Side Market

As vendors and shoppers cite a slew of problems, the city says it's taking action to make improvements.

CLEVELAND — As vendors and customers have spent years calling for improvements to the struggling West Side Market, the city of Cleveland is seeking help.

The city on Friday issued a news release regarding its search for a consultant to evaluate the market and develop a plan for its improvement, a move that follows the strategic goals the city issued for the market in December.

According to the city, the consultant would be asked to execute a handful of tasks, including analyzing and recommending changes for four key areas. The release says those focal points are:

  • Administrative: Create a process and establish a tool to evaluate vendor performance and vendor selection. Develop a tool to receive customer feedback and evaluate customer satisfaction.
  • Entrepreneurial Growth & Recruitment: Provide recommendations on vendor recruitment. Develop recommendations to diversify products and services. Analyze the role of the Market as a business incubator and identify specific services required to support the success of vendors. Make recommendations for creative revenue streams that encourage repeat customer visits.
  • Facilities Management & Capital Planning: Review West Side Market Capital Plan to focus on customer access to products, services and events. Review and assess the day to day maintenance practices of the facilities and provide recommendations on ways to increase efficiency, streamline project coordination and enhance communication with vendors and outside departments.
  • Encourage Community Engagement, Outreach and Bridge Building: Review and assess the WSM 2019 Community Survey and 2019 Marketing Plan to create tools that measure customer satisfaction going forward as the vendor recommendations are implemented. Conceptualize a plan on how the WSM can enhance its strategic relationships while adhering to its core mission. Engage in collaborative partnerships with community partners (i.e. RTA, VA, Hunger Network, Cleveland Restoration etc.).

“We are in search of a consultant that can think outside of the box to enhance the Market’s competitive edge,” Chief Operating Officer Darnell Brown said in the news release. “As the historic institution continues to adapt to the evolving demands of 21st Century customers, the City of Cleveland seeks a consultant who can evaluate and recommend ways to enhance overall customer experience, vendor mix, and quality of products and services. We also want to create a process for customers to be able to provide feedback.”

The city says it has invested more than $5.4 million in capital repairs to the market, but its tenants have reiterated various claims on a slew of problems. Several longtime tenants have departed the 107-year-old structure, citing gripes ranging from electrical issues to overall frustrations with the city's management. 

As a result, the city has received mounting pressure from vendors and residents to relinquish operations of the market, which is currently owned by the city and operated by its Department of Public Works. Some have pushed for a nonprofit or an advisory board to assume control of the market, mirroring business models of successful markets like Findlay Market in Cincinnati and Pike Place in Seattle.

Though the city has stressed its plans and strategy for restoring the market, tenants have expressed doubts.

"I've heard so much about this plan," Amanda Czuchraj, operator of J&J Czuchraj Meats and tenant association board member, told 3News last month. "But it's very much words and very little action, and until we get action, people will keep getting upset about it." 

Last month, the city reported a 30 percent vacancy rate in the market's main hall, while the spaces in the produce hall were only half-filled. 

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