If we build it, will they come?

all over again

If it seems like deja-vu | it probably is. Columbia’s been deliberating over, struggling with, wrestling with, grappling with and arguing about it’s Historic Market House for a long, long time … and today the Market House is in the news again.

For the second time in less than 15 years | Columbia Borough is making plans to renovate its Market House. Originally constructed in 1869, the Market House is again being seen as a hub that will rejuvenate the town.

In the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century | the elected public servants charged with managing the town reasoned the vacant and dormant market house should be reopened. With found grant money, they commissioned the 2005 Columbia Market House Revitaliation Strategy.

Perhaps it’s time again for Columbia’s residents; Columbia’s elected public servants and Columbia’s shareholders to read or re-read the study.

There’s a lot of deja-vu | in this extract from a Columbia news, views & reviews post from 2011.

In early 2005, the results of a market study for the Columbia Market House were revealed. The “Revitalization Study” was conducted by the former market master of the famous Reading Terminal Farmer’s Market in center city Philadelphia. It is reported that Columbia paid $75,000 for the study.

Remember the market house was not operating as a farmer’s market at the time and the Borough wanted expert counsel to re-open the community’s architectural focal point.

We found these council minutes from early 2003 in a “google search.” (NOTE: These minutes have been removed from the county Website.)  The 26 page minutes are interesting to read. Notice how thorough these meeting minutes compared to the ones current listed at the Borough’s Website? Was Columbia’s government more transparent then?

Here are some of the more interesting and pertinent items from that meeting’s minutes:

“Councilwoman (Mary) Wickenheiser stated that they would be holding a stakeholders meeting in the Market House and there were invitations sent to a list of businesses within the Borough. She did not know if Mr. Kline’s name was on the list but the meeting was open to the public. She added that this information was put in the newspaper.”

“Councilwoman Wickenheiser concluded by saying that for the $88.55 she gets for being up at the table and with all the meetings she attends; the citizens are getting a bargain.”

“Councilwoman Wickenheiser thanked the CDDC (Columbia Downtown Development Corporation) for the decorations for the Borough Hall and the Market House, the Columbia Consolidated Fire Company and PPL and asked that letters be sent to all these organizations. She also thanked the Borough employees for getting the wreaths up on the lamp posts.”

“Councilwoman Wickenheiser stated that the Committee on Markets and the Market House task force met on January 2nd and they finalized plans for the stakeholders meeting, which would be held in the Market House on January 25th. They are inviting anyone in the community who has an interest in reopening the Market House and has ideas to share and would want to be a part of the vision of what they want to do with reopening this building. She asked that if anyone was interested that they call into the Borough Office.”

“Cle Berntheizel, 621 Chestnut Street, reflected on the activities of the past in order to move forward into the future. He commented on the Historic District Ordinance, the Market House study grant, the alternate truck route plans and funding, the Borough newsletter and web site, approval of a budget that allows for almost $600,000.00 in investments in the community, and the town square.”

“(Bob Kline) stated that Bob Buzzendore talked about the small companies and agreed that they do a lot for this town. He stated that there was a statement made about the Market House study and that there was only one business interested.”

“Council works for citizens”

“Shirley McBride, 219 Perry Street, stated that Council was paid by the taxpayers and that makes the citizens their employer. She stated that they intimidate people in this town, the citizens never get answers and Council was not consistent. She asked that Council remember the Citizens are the employer and money is received from tax dollars and they are the taxpayers.”

Report findings

The report stated, “The market’s greatest potential is to become a social, commercial and civic catalyst for the borough as a whole. We are recommending that the market become a focal point, a ‘defining place’ with multiple activities, entrepreneurial management and physical enhancements that respect the past and invite a more prosperous and lively future.

“The goals of this report are to give the Columbia Public Market a strategic framework move towards more sustainable operations, build on the momentum of investment surrounding the market and create a stronger sense of place.”

Were the consultant findings considered? Were any of the suggestions embraced?

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