This weekend, at least, people can shop Lexington Farmers Market on Vine Street as they have in the past.
But farmers are upset that, with demolition of buildings under way to make way for the proposed CentrePointe high rise, no serious thought has been given to displacement of the popular market.
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A chain link fence was erected earlier in the week around the demolition site.
”Yesterday, I was downtown twice and a chain link fence went right through my booth,“ Leo Keene said Thursday morning. Keene owns Blue Moon Farm in Madison County.
”I've been in that exact same spot for 11 years, and on Saturday morning there's a ... good chance I will be in Timbuktu or somewhere else and how do I convey that to my customers.“
Later Thursday, Diversified Demolition, with a contract to raze the buildings, agreed to pull its fences back over the Fourth of July weekend so the sidewalk will be open for festivities Friday and Farmers Market on Saturday.
Market manager Jeff Dabbelt said he was relieved that only a handful of farmers will be displaced on Saturday. ”That's much less than I anticipated two days ago,“ he said a day after buildings started coming down on the block.
The Fourth of July weekend launches the market's busiest season as sweet corn ripens and a dozen more farmers come to sell, swelling the number of vendors from 50 to well over 60.
With more demolition planned, Paul Witt in traffic engineering said he doesn't know how much of the sidewalk will have to be fenced off in the future.
”I don't know why Tom Blues had his knickers in such a bunch to have us sign a public services agreement with the city for that Vine Street site if it doesn't mean any more than it apparently does,“ Keene said, referring to a written agreement with the city about where vendors can set up.
Blues is a member of the Urban County Council and chairs its task force on the Farmers Market.
Recently, Dabbelt, the market manager, said that CentrePointe developer Dudley Webb gave his OK for vendors to set up around the base of the Lexington Financial Center on the neighboring block.
Whether that is workable is far from clear, Keene said.
”I have no clue if there will be electricity at the site,“ he said. ”I just got off the phone with the market manager, he has no clue.“ Keene runs both a refrigerator and a freezer in his booth.
Farmers also don't know whether there will be room to park trailers at the Financial Center. ”Some vendors drive trailers better than 20-feet-long nose-to-tail, Keene said. ”That's not something you casually put somewhere.“
With talk about CentrePointe getting tax increment financing for downtown public amenities, an annoyance for farmers is that the city touts Farmers Market as an iconic downtown event, but nobody has mentioned using TIF funds to build the market a permanent space.
”We are a perfect example of what TIF funding could go for, not the only one but a very significant one,“ Dabbelt said. But Dabbelt said he did not know how to ”stimulate that dialogue.“