The city of Cleveland is setting 15 goals for the West Side Market in 2020, including expanding social space, completing capital improvements and attracting small businesses, along with exploring potential online and delivery platforms.
The market has faced renewed criticism in recent weeks from vendors, including Turczyk's Meats, which closed after 36 years citing rising rent and deplorable conditions.
Cleveland's Chief Operating Officer Darnell Brown did not want to comment on individual tenants but said he believes in the city's work order process, which was agreed to by the tenant board and market manager.
"A work requisition is made, it's evaluated by the operations team, prioritized and sent for an improvement," Brown said.
He added the city has hired an architect to oversee approximately $3.5 million in planned capital improvements to start in the coming months, after $5.4 million in improvements over the last six years. Most of the work will be electrical to start.
"Power panel replacement, vendor area electrical service improvements, display cases, grounding and receptacles and then emergency lighting," Brown said "We'll move from there to what I'll call more of the building envelope type of improvements, which deal with roofs, walls, doors, windows."
Another goal is to occupy the unused space with more social areas for customers as well as educational opportunities or artwork and artifacts featuring the history of the market.
"We certainly have a number of relationships with a number of culinary arts initiatives in and around the community, having demonstrations by various vendors, either in the facility or from around the community," Brown said of the plans.
He emphasized that all changes or strategies are made in conjunction with the tenant board at the West Side Market. Plans to attract and retain businesses are done with their input, and they'll also have a say in what businesses the city attracts through a retail incubator program similar to one in the Glenville neighborhood, Brown said.
Downtown Councilman Kerry McCormack supports the idea of handing over operations of the market to a nonprofit, but Brown made the case for the city to continue in that role.
"The issues, whether they're the structure itself or the vendors themselves or the marketing plan, these are all strengths and tools that the city has to bring to the table as well as anyone else," Brown said. "We have a good understanding (and) appreciation of the history of this as a venue. We've hired a professional manager who understands all the business needs, et cetera, for making a successful West Side Market.
"Nobody takes care of or devotes the time and energy to taking care of a facility better than an owner does," Brown said.
The city said a memo from Market Manager Felicia Hall went to tenants Tuesday, saying it will take time and collective efforts from the city and partners to transform the West Side Market.