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Crowds Pour into City Market Building

Cre Mitchell Creasy of The Dancing Chicken prepares for the big day.

by Valerie Garner

The grand opening of the Roanoke City Market Building was a little short of vendors Saturday, but that didn’t keep the crowds from squeezing through the door as soon as Mayor Bowers cut the ribbon to Roanoke’s remodeled “living room.”

After spending 20 minutes in the hot sun listening to the accolades bestowed on those responsible for the completion of the renovations, both Roanokers and media personnel scrambled to get in first. The noise of the crowd immediately began to echo off the surrounding floors and walls that were noticeably sterile in their lack of adornment. Cory Campbell hit licks on his guitar that added to the lively acoustic mix.

All Sports Café was the only vendor ready to serve hot food. The first thing Mayor Bowers did was order “The Magician Burger” from All Sports Cafe as he had promised on stage during his grand opening speech.

But it wasn’t a Chico’s “Big Lick Pizza.” Bowers’ infamous words of years ago are still remembered today, “If Chico’s happy, I’m happy” he declared of the vendor who is now long gone. “The Magician Burger” had relevance to Bowers as he harkened back to when Roanoke was dubbed “the Magic City.” On Saturday Bowers seemed happy enough.

Mosaic Artist Cheryl Foster receives a Market replica from Douglas Jackson.

Hong Kong Restaurant and New York Subs are the only two original vendors that took advantage of the $35,000 incentive to return. Two new vendors, Habana Café and Queso Southwestern Grill, are also setting up shop in the new space.

“The Dancing Chicken,” though leasing one of the center stalls, had two full stalls of produce for opening day. Entrepreneur Cre Mitchell Creasy said that though he was on a month to month lease, his plan was to sign at least a year’s lease. He was also seriously thinking about leasing both stalls. Creasy had fresh eggs that he gets from farms in Bedford and Botetourt County and Homestead Creamery milk and ice cream.

Other vendors like Euro Bakery and Firefly Fare were handing out samples to lines of customers. Firefly Fare’s menu is full of healthy food like Fiesta Greens, Teriyaki Tofu Bowl, Quinoa Hoppin’ Johnny and fresh juices like the “Firefly Flicker.”

Maryland artist Cheryl Foster, who designed the commercial porcelain glazed tile mosaics at each of the Market Building’s four entrances, held a mosaic workshop for the day. Roanoke Arts Commission member Douglas Jackson said, “it was clear from the start that she wanted to become part of this community … as she leaves Roanoke she will be leaving a part of herself here and we would like to send a part of Roanoke with her.” With that Jackson presented Foster with a sterling silver replica of “Roanoke’s newly reborn historic Market Building” (donated by Geoff Jennings).

Melissa Ryder Henry twirled hoops outside on Market Street and Katherine Devine painted four-year-old Hailey Bostwick’s face. Hailey was visiting from Charlotte and wasn’t shy about showing off her butterfly-looking face. The Dirt Road Travelers band played in Market Square.

The Market Foundation board was recognized, starting with Chairman Doug Waters, who helped cut the ribbon. Other members included Larry Davidson, Sherman Stovall, Stephen Lemon, Phil Davis, Beth Deel and Gordon Hancock.

Last October the Market Building transferred out of the city’s control after five years of management. The 40-year agreement with Market Building Partners LP sets out the terms to perform the renovation and operation of the City Market building for the consideration of one-dollar a year.

The $7.9 million rehab is eligible for state and federal tax credits through the Market Building Foundation. Responsibilities for management will include staffing, accounting, cleaning, custodial needs, security and routine maintenance. The agreement even details light bulb changing, snow and graffiti removal and touch-up painting.

Rent was slated to run from $37.65 to $49.95 a square foot, depending on location, and is all-inclusive compared to when the city leased the building. The cost per square foot was inconsistent with the city and ranged from $33.45 to $51.66 and did not include common area maintenance.

The third floor, “Charter Hall,” has carpet inserts over wooden dance floors for protection and noise mitigation. It will be open to the public with a capacity of 300 seated and 500 standing. Base rental was set at $125 to $150 per hour depending on the day of the week.

It came in “on time and on budget,” said Bowers.

Cunningham Quill Architects of Washington, D.C. designed the remodeling and MB Contractors of Roanoke performed the construction.

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