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Pressure mounts for city of Cleveland to relinquish operations of West Side Market

Critics argue that the 107-year-old landmark should be run by a non-profit board, and not by the city's Department of Public Works

CLEVELAND — A community forum on the future of the West Side Market drew a capacity crowd Tuesday night at Market Garden Brewery in Ohio City.

Hosted by 90.3 Ideastream, the discussion included concerned citizens, market vendors, and city leaders. Many who spoke were critical of how the city of Cleveland operates the 107-year-old landmark.

"Is the city going to dig in and ride this thing into the ground until it's irreparably deteriorated?" asked one Cleveland resident.

The iconic market, which has been a showpiece for Cleveland tourism, has struggled in recent years. Electrical problems, that led to a worker being shocked, along with leaking ceilings, a moldy basement, and accusations of mismanagement by the city, have led longtime vendors to close up shop.

Currently, the city reports a 30-percent vacancy rate in the market's main hall, while the spaces in the produce hall are only half-filled.

"There is a strategic plan, there's a marketing plan, and there's a capital plan," Darnell Brown, Chief Operating Officer for the city of Cleveland, said to the crowd.

"I've heard so much about this plan," Amanda Czuchraj shot back. "But it's very much words and very little action and until we get action, people will keep getting upset about it." Czuchraj operates J&J Czuchraj Meats and is a board member for the market's tenant association.

Czuchraj, along with well-known Clevelanders like chef and restaurateur Rocco Whalen, say it's time for the city to step aside, and allow the market to be run by a non-profit organization or advisory board, whose main focus is market operations, and is not beset in bureaucracy. They point to successful public markets that follow the same business model, such as Findlay Market in Cincinnati, Eastern Market in Detroit, and Pike Place in Seattle. 

Currently the West Side market is owned by the city and operated by the city's Department of Public Works. 

"All I want to do is create good vibes, have an advisory board, a produce guy, a chef, 10 chefs --There's so many ways we can expand the market," said Whalen.

When asked whether it is time for the city to step aside, Cleveland COO Brown replied, "I think it's time for the city to look to see what the best path looks like."

More Coverage:

RELATED: Longtime West Side Market vendor Maha's Falafil to close at end of December

RELATED: City of Cleveland lays out 2020 goals for West Side Market

RELATED: Cleveland councilman wants West Side Market to be run by nonprofit

RELATED: Cleveland considering online ordering at West Side Market

RELATED: New money for the West Side Market, same old issues for tenants moving out


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