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Cleveland City Council approves $10 million for West Side Market master plan

The brick exterior of Cleveland's West Side Market
Abbey Marshall
Ideastream Public Media
The century-old market is home to more than 70 small businesses and is one of Cleveland's most popular attractions with more than 800,000 visitors annually.

Cleveland City Council approved an additional $10 million toward West Side Market repairs Monday — but some members were frustrated over doling out additional funding after the city recently handed over operations to a nonprofit.

The nonprofit, Cleveland Public Markets Corporation, said repairs need to be made to get additional funding sources to turn a profit. The city-owned market has operated at an approximately $700,000 annual loss with nearly a third of stalls vacant.

Some council members, who have fielded requests for millions toward the market in recent years, questioned the investment.

"People are living in my neighborhood, living in the city of Cleveland, where they are shopping, grocery shopping out of a gas station, a Dollar General," said Council Member Richard Starr in a Monday committee meeting. "But it's OK to spend millions and millions of dollars on an organization that is not producing any revenue?"

The century-old market is home to more than 70 small businesses and is one of Cleveland's most popular attractions with more than 800,000 visitors annually — 46% of whom live in the city, according to the city's West Side Market Senior Strategist Jessica Trivisonno.

"It's a market by public transportation. It's a market that accepts food assistance for folks," said Councilmember Kerry McCormack, whose Ward 3 includes the market. Many market vendors accept Supplement Nutritional Assistant Program vouchers, and the market also provides coupons and matches dollars for low-income residents to buy fresh produce.

Investment toward the $44 million master plan, which includes infrastructure repairs, as well upgrades that include a prepared food hall, indoor and outdoor seating, a commercial kitchen and event spaces, is essential to help the market eventually turn a profit, said Rosemary Mudry, the nonprofit's executive director.

"The market serves as a place that can really help develop food access across Cleveland, support small business, and the impact post-master plan is huge," Mudry said. "All of those reasons make it an important investment for our future."

Mudry said the nonprofit expects to double the number of jobs at the market, which currently employs around 250 workers, following the execution of the master plan.

Last year, Mayor Justin Bibb requested $20 million to fund "necessary" infrastructure repairs at the market, including a new HVAC system, roof repairs and more. At that time, he said it was only a third of what the market actually needed, but council balked at the price tag before ultimately settling on $10 million.

Work is already underway on the plan as the nonprofit works to secure additional funding, Mudry said. She said physical construction on the building is expected in 2025.

On Monday, council also approved legislation to make the flow of dollars possible for tax credits, which Mudry said will allow the nonprofit to leverage an expected $10 million in additional funding toward the plan.

Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.