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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte s Center City Partners has backed away from asking City Council for up to$1 million in tax dollars for an uptown farmer s market to be placed in the former location of Reid s Fine Foods on Seventh Street.

The proposal floated two months ago in a PowerPoint presentation by CEO Michael J. Smith, got a cool reception from local elected officials struggling with tight budgets and impatient taxpayers.

Before a public hearing designed to boost interest and solicit ideas for the project, Smith said Center City Partners and backers of the market will first look to private funding, the US Department of Agriculture and corporate sponsors before the group may return to Council.

Outgoing County Commissioner Dan Murrey, a backer of the public market, said, That doesn t mean there will never be a request. But first, Murrey said, promoters of the project will figure out what s possible with private dollars.

Center City Partners has pitched the market as both a small-business incubator for farmers, butchers and chefs as well as a source of fresh local produce for less affluent neighborhoods with no full-service grocery, referred to as food deserts.

What we re talking about is really small business development, said Commissioner Murrey. We re not talking about a handout here or some kind of downtown bauble.

But former County Commissioner Dan Bishop ridiculed the idea of a food desert - as he put it - downstairs from a$3 million condo.

Center City Partners plans to incorporate the market as a separate entity and provide back-office support for the market to pursue grants and private funding.

Smith says Carolina s Health Care Systems has signed on as a founding sponsor and pledged to support the market financially for five years, but Smith said the amount of the pledge is not public.

The City Council s Economic Development Committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow but Smith says any request for city funds will be postponed while backers listen and learn and secure new funding.

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