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Farmers Market moving to Cheapside

After being forced to relocate by the planned construction of the CentrePointe high-rise, the Lexington Farmers Market has found a new home at Cheapside Park, at least for this year.

Jeff Dabbelt, manager of the Lexington Farmers Market, confirmed Wednesday that it's "99 percent certain" the Saturday market will move to Cheapside Park this spring, but many details remain to be worked out.

As part of the move:

■ Cheapside Street will be closed to give farmers a place to set up.

■ A block of Short Street will be closed during market hours.

■ A permanent multi-use pavilion that could be used by the market and other events is proposed for Cheapside Park.

In its Phoenix Park/Courthouse Area Development Plan to be funded with new tax money, the city has proposed that a multi-use pavilion be built in Cheapside Park. The structure can be used by the market and other events such as the Thursday Night Live concerts.

The market has long wanted a covered space for its vendors and customers, but building a pavilion doesn't mean Cheapside is the long-term home of the market.

Dabbelt expects this to be a one-year transitional site for the Saturday market as it looks for a permanent home.

But for this year, with April 11 set as the opening date, a myriad of details remain to be worked out, Dabbelt said, such as where farmers will park, which farmers need access to electricity to run refrigerators, and whether some farmers will have to unload produce in the park but move their trucks off site.

Getting as many as 60 farmers with their trucks, tents, tables and produce arranged in a new location is a major undertaking. Once the weather warms up, the farmers will do a dry run with some of them bringing in large vehicles and deciding where they can be parked.

"We have to figure out how to set up and at the same time be good neighbors to the other businesses down there," Dabbelt said. "The main concern is, we want it to be right for our farmers and our customers."

The market appears to be getting a warm welcome from its new neighbors, the Lexington History Museum in the old Fayette County Courthouse, and businesses on Cheapside Street.

"We are looking forward to these new neighbors," said Jamie Millard, who is president and chief executive of the Lexington History Museum. "We think the museum and the market can co-exist and compliment each other. ... We see absolutely no negative outcomes whatsoever."

Krissy Fraser, an owner of Courtyard Deli, said she was "ecstatic" about the Farmers Market moving into Cheapside Park, across the street from the deli.

Since 1992, when she and her husband David opened, the deli has served lunch only on weekdays. But with high expectations for crowds the market will attract, the Frasers have decided to open and "be more of a grocery store on Saturdays," Krissy said. The deli will sell quarts of soup that people can take home and reheat, and things such as chicken salad by the pound.

The Saturday market had to find a new home after the block on Vine Street where it set up for years was cleared last summer in preparation for construction of the CentrePointe high rise project.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the market shifts to a vacant lot at the corner of South Broadway and Maxwell Street.

For safety and to give the farmers room to pull in their trucks and set up tents, farmers want both lanes of Short Street closed between Mill and Upper on Saturday during market hours. "Vine Street had problems. I was always afraid somebody would be hit by a car or trip on the sidewalks and hurt themselves," said Charlie Henricks, a Farmers Market board member.

Dabbelt said Cheapside Park offered advantages to customers and farmers, including the use of restrooms in the history museum and having hot water available in those bathrooms for hand-washing. There's also an outside water spigot. "We haven't talked to the museum people yet, but we hope for a cooperative arrangement," he said.

On Vine Street, the market had only portable toilets. There was no running water on site.

Other advantages are the number of surface parking lots nearby and the amount of street parking, plus the garage in the nearby Financial Center, which has allowed free parking for market patrons.

Harold Tate, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, said the market will be treated as a special event, so streets can be closed by the mayor's office each Saturday between April and the first week of December.