Friday, May 14, 2010

Market's vendors weighing options

With the City Market Building closing Sept. 6, vendors are being told to find backup plans.

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Panoramas of current City Market Building

The Roanoke City Market Building will close to the public on Sept. 6, Labor Day, and its vendors must leave their spaces by Sept. 13 in preparation for construction that will gut the building's interior.

Representatives from the city's Office of Economic Development encouraged the vendors to find backup plans for their businesses at a meeting Thursday afternoon.

"I want to keep everyone downtown," said economic development manager Rob Ledger.

Some of the businesses may move to new locations either permanently or temporarily, or they may shut down for the duration of construction. Construction is expected to last about 10 months, Ledger said.

Stores such as Azar Jewelry, on the market building's Salem Avenue side, would prefer to come back to the building rather than make a permanent move, manager Tony Azar said.

"I've got a family. I've got a wife. We don't want those mall hours," he said.

The market building houses about 10 vendors, including specialty fast-food shops and clothing boutiques.

The city has budgeted $7.6 million for the renovation. It will begin advertising for construction bids next week and plans to award a contract in June.

John Garland and Chris Venable of Spectrum Design, a Roanoke architecture firm, also spoke to the vendors Thursday and pitched plans for a new marketplace a few blocks away.

Spectrum's developers hope to attract a group of food vendors, an independent pharmacy, a fitness center and residential tenants to the former Downtown Sports Club building at 16 W. Church St. as soon as September, Garland said.

The developers from Spectrum propose a $2 million renovation project at that location tailored to its commercial tenants. The building now houses a chiropractor's office.

Juan Garcia, owner of Cuban food vendor Paradiso in the market building, said he was concerned about the amount of foot traffic if he would move his kitchen to the Church Street location.

Garcia may move his business to Key West, Fla., after September rather than stay in Roanoke, he said.

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