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Fayetteville City Council wants more community input on future of Market House

The Fayetteville City Council has voted to seek more community input on what to do with the Market House building. Enslaved people were once sold at the downtown site, which served as a market place and town hall until the early 1900s.

After the Market House became a center of protest for anti-racist activists in 2020, the City Council decided to look into ways of repurposing the building. The council had also considered demolishing the building or relocating it.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service has been assisting with community discussions about the Market House.

The department's conciliation specialist Dion Lyons presented to the council Monday night about two meetings held in the past year to gather input on how to use the building.

“We have really, really high emotions on both sides, and we want to make sure as the voting body that we do it the right way.”
Fayetteville City Councilman Larry Wright

Capacity at each of those meetings was limited to no more than 50 people due to federal regulations during the pandemic. Attendees were invited from various interest groups, including police, faith leaders, business owners, civil rights groups, and youth.

That focus group recommended repurposing the Market House as a place for local art exhibitions and tours to represent Black culture and history.

Last night, council member Courtney Banks-McLaughlin moved to hold more meetings across the city.

“It should be open to everybody – not handpicked – everybody, and allow them to come in and have input,” Banks McLaughlin said.

Larry Wright was one of nine council members to vote for more public meetings to discuss the building's future.

“We have really, really high emotions on both sides, and we want to make sure as the voting body that we do it the right way,” Wright said.

Council member Shakeyla Ingram suggested using the same model the city used in 2016 when deciding whether to remove the image of the Market House from the city seal. Before making that decision, the council held public meetings at recreation centers in various neighborhoods.

Council member Johnny Dawkins voted against the motion to hold more meetings at this stage. He defended the work of the Justice Department and the Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission.

“These folks have been spending many hours, hundreds of hours, they’ve engaged a lot of people,” Dawkins said. “This is just the beginning of the process, so to think we’re just going to base a decision now on what they brought, that’s not going to happen.”

The Human Relations Commission is expected to report back to the council on the issue by July. The city council also voted 9-to-1 to remove a fence surrounding the Market House that has been up while repairs were made.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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