Huntington city market getting new operator - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Huntington city market getting new operator

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© Mayor Steve Williams hopes a new operator can revitalize Huntington's Central City Market. James E. Casto / For The State Journal © Mayor Steve Williams hopes a new operator can revitalize Huntington's Central City Market. James E. Casto / For The State Journal
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HUNTINGTON, WV -

Huntington City Council has agreed to lease the Central City Market to The Wild Ramp, which operates a market at Heritage Station that focuses on local produce.

 
The city built the distinctive red brick market building a few years ago in an effort to revitalize Old Central City, a neighborhood just west of downtown Huntington. Central City originally was a separate community but in 1909 was annexed by the City of Huntington. It once was a thriving manufacturing center but today is best known for its many antique shops and the fresh produce sold each summer at the Cabell County Tailgate Farmers' Market.
 
The city-owned market building on West 14th Street has had its ups and downs since it was built, and Mayor Steve Williams has made its revitalization a key element in his administration's River to Rail Project.
 
The River to Rail Project is a multi-faceted approach of policing, code enforcement, economic development and community involvement now underway to improve a stagnant and crime-plagued area of West Huntington that includes Central City. Williams sees the Central City Market as pivotal to the project "because it will serve as an anchor that will assist in drawing people to the area."
 
The city solicited sealed proposals from organizations interested in managing the market and selected the proposal submitted by The Wild Ramp because of its experience in offering local produce.

The city's bid invitation for the market indicated the new operator would be expected to focus on local food along with arts and crafts; develop a business model that generates foot traffic; maintain a small tourist information center and continue to partner with the Tailgate Farmers' Market. Located in the outdoor section of the facility, the Tailgate Market operates each year from late spring through October. 

As the successful bidder, The Wild Ramp will not have to pay rent and will receive $37,200 annually from the state Department of Agriculture. However, it will have to generate all other funds for the operation and management of the facility. It's hoped the new arrangement will be in place by Jan. 1. 
 
Williams says the city will work with the state Division of Highways to improve signage along Interstate 64 to entice people to check out the antique stores, other businesses and the revitalized market in the Old Central City neighborhood. He also says he has talked to Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick about increasing the number of vendors at the Tailgate Market and making it a year-round operation.