FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Fayetteville City Council reviewed ideas from the community on how some want the city to repurpose the historic Market House downtown. Conversations surrounding whether to preserve the Market House and how it should be used have remained heated and divisive for years. The structure is notorious for its dark past as a trading post for enslaved Africans in the 1800s.
During its monthly work session, the city council reviewed ideas put forward by individuals who responded to a survey seeking input on plans for the structure. The council also heard presentations from concerned citizens proposing how the building could be revitalized as an educational space, or as a location to display art and commemorative plaques.
However, opponents to repurposing the Market House take issue with how the survey was conducted and that there weren't more people involved. Kathy Greggs, the co-founder and president of Fayetteville PACT, argued that the survey was concentrated on community leaders and academics. She further argued that ordinary, marginalized people who were less connected to the city's power players didn't get to exercise their voices.
"They only gathered stakeholders, is what they said," Greggs said. "They didn't have regular citizens that's paying this taxpayer money come in and say what they should do about it,"
She also said the survey's 80 respondents don't account for more than 200,000 people who live in Fayetteville. In Gregg's view, the Market House is a harmful visual reminder for the city's Black residents of their ancestors' trauma-filled past.
"I'm sure when they walk past this, they think about who was sold there. Was it their uncle? Was it their aunt? Was it their children that they could have been playing with? All of those things can go in their head because we don't know the real history, facts on the Market House. And if we're going to repurpose it, will they educate the real history?" Greggs said.
However, City Council Member Johnny Dawkins pushed back against the idea that the city didn't fairly seek feedback that adequately represented its residents. He said the city did its due diligence to gain input from diverse people in the community.
"We still invited folks and a lot of folks just chose not to participate, but they did comment on social media. But the universities were involved, Fayetteville State, Methodist, Fayetteville Tech Community College. We had lots of scholars across the city that were also involved," Dawkins said.
Greggs further argued that the market house could be a pivotal educational tool for the city's future generations despite symbolizing one of the darkest aspects of its story.
"We must tell the story no matter how painful it is because every child, Black or White needs to know about this terrible era in our history," Greggs said.
The city said it does not have a deadline for its decision on what to do with the Market House. Dawkins pointed out that the process will likely be complicated and prolonged by the fact that a new city council with differing views on the Market House is being sworn in next week.