Fate of Fayetteville's Market House still unclear

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Following more than an hour of presentation and discussion at Monday evening's city council meeting in Fayetteville, city leaders ultimately decided to let more residents weigh in on the fate of the controversial Market House.

"As we've talked about this, we definitely need more diverse opinions at the table," said Mayor Mitch Colvin.

In February, the Council approached the U.S. Department of Justice for its assistance in identifying what to do with the structure that once hosted slave auctions.

"I feel we need to go back to the citizens and allow them to come to the table and have a say so," said Councilwoman Courtney Banks-McLaughlin. She introduced the motion for the council to solicit and collect more citizen feedback on the matter after the DOJ only garnered responses from 80 pre-selected people out of more than 200,000 city residents.

"Eighty's not going to do it when you're dealing with 200,000 people," said Councilman Larry Wright. He further suggested the city do its due diligence in identifying more people to represent the community.

"If you're setting 208,000 as the goal, that's not realistic," Colvin added.

Dion Lyons, with the DOJ, presented an array of recommendations to the council on what to do with the Market House. Those recommendations included using the space for history tours, a symbol for education, decorating it with art that represents African-American culture and the spirit of Fayetteville, and even changing its name altogether.

"I feel like most people who were born and raised here feel like it should be left alone," said resident Kathy Ovenden.

Realtor Dieta Rusack included her opinion as well. "I think it's important we not forget that and let people experience that emotion and be reminded so history doesn't repeat itself."

Military veteran Travis Jenkins said he wishes the city would tear down the structure. Relocating Market House or demolishing it is not a current option on the table.

"I'm not comfortable with it at all. It's difficult," Jenkins said. "The history that's tied to it just hits me in the heart a little bit."

Moving it wouldn't change its history.

"No matter where, it was always going to be a place where people were sold into slavery," said City Manager Doug Hewett.

The council voted 9-1 to allow more residents to weigh in by Juneteenth of this year with the council expecting to revisit the idea in July.

Before moving to other business, Councilwoman Shakeyla Ingram introduced a motion to have the fencing around the structure be taken down.

When asked about when the fencing surrounding Market House would be removed, a representative with the city replied, "We intend to inform the public about the plan to remove the fencing around the Market House well in advance, and we will share additional details as soon as that information is available."
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