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Temporary site found for Charlotte open-air market 48 hours after community uproar

Councilman Tariq Bokhari said the temporary solution has more room than what was proposed by the City of Charlotte.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After eight months without a spot to sell, Charlotte's open-air flea market seems to have a temporary fix. The spot will be up Saturday, July 16 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Booths are expected to be set up on 7th Street in between Caldwell Street and Brevard Street.

WCNC Charlotte brought you this story earlier this week. 

Vendors pleaded with Charlotte City Council for help in finding a new spot, then 48 hours after the meeting, Councilman Tariq Bokhari said he and his staff have found the new location.

"This Saturday, starting with the commitment of a long-term solution, there will not be another weekend the market is not operating in Charlotte," Bokhari said. “It’s not a beautiful vista now, but a multicultural open-air market in the heart of uptown.” 

Bokhari said the temporary solution has more room than what was proposed by the City of Charlotte. 

"We've been working with CMPD, [Charlotte] Fire, city staff, Daniel Levine for this site," he said.

The Camino Community Center, a bilingual multicultural center, is a part of the plan. The organization will help set up the market. 

Vendors told WCNC Charlotte they're excited to get back out and sell. Many vendors lost thousands of dollars worth of products and revenue. 

Hector Vaca has been working with many of the vendors since the beginning and said many vendors will not be using the temporary site because they don't want to confuse customers. Others said they don't want a temporary site, but an official one.  

This week, the community heard from the City of Charlotte about the future of the Eastland open-air flea market in Charlotte for the first time in months. The market used to be on the Eastland Mall property but was forced off because of new plans for the site. 

Vendors from the site told WCNC Charlotte they've sat in limbo and lost money without a place to sell their goods. 

The sounds of clapping were heard in the Charlotte city chambers Monday night as vendor after vendor voiced their concerns. 

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 'We cannot displace them' | City of Charlotte says there are potential new locations for Open Air Market

In consensus, people said they've heard nothing for months on where the market would go. The City of Charlotte was also reminded that the city previously offered to help finance the new site. 

Jorge Castaneda is one of the hundreds of vendors. He sold exotic fruits at the market. He said for the past eight months he has tried to sell his produce. 

“I’ve lost $20,000 on fruits," Castaneda said.

With no place to sell, his product spoiled. The City of Charlotte Developers provided an impromptu update after many voiced their concerns. 

"We have found some sites but none of them are ideal," a city spokesperson said.

Leaders said the sites they have found are too small to accommodate vendors and parking. The spokesperson said the space needs to be at least an acre and must have places to park. The Charlotte City Council started providing impromptu solutions. It should be noted that this is against normal proceedings. 

ALSO ON WCNC CHARLOTTE: 'I came to buy the American dream' | Charlotte City Council hears from the community on Unified Development Ordinance

Councilwoman Renee Johnson said vendors should be allowed to sell on the current property on a month-to-month basis until construction begins. 

"We are going to spend the next 60 days solving this and I’ll see you on the streets for that," Bokhari said at the time.

Vendor booths at the temporary market on Saturday are free for those interested, and registration is available online. The market will be open to the vendors starting at 7 a.m. and then open to the public starting at 9 a.m.

Flea market leaders say announcement was premature 

While the flea market is still slated for Saturday, Vaca said in a news release on Friday the possibility of the temporary location was made on short notice and that leaders didn't have enough time to hammer out finalized details.

Vaca's statement follows:

News has been circulating this week, that the Central Flea Market vendors have found a permanent location for the market after their eviction from Eastland Mall seven months ago. This news is inaccurate since the vendors are still working to secure a permanent spot.

The vendors appreciate the attention that elected officials have shown in assisting them to find a permanent place for them, including the efforts by Councilman Bokhari to research possible long-term locations for the market. The attention from him and others increased immediately after the vendors went to the City Council meeting this past Monday night to make their case that the city has not carried through on its offer to work with the vendors to solve their situation, and get them back to full-time employment and self-sufficiency, rather than the precarious position they have been in for these past seven months.

The vendors appreciate the offer of a temporary location for the market this Saturday, July 16. On short notice of this possibility, many of them have other commitments, and many worry that a location that will only be available for one weekend might confuse their customers. Given this uncertainty, the vendors requested that the Wednesday press conference announcing this Saturday event be postponed until the Central Flea Market (CFM) Board of Directors could meet with Councilman Bokhari to discuss the details and agreements. The press conference proceeded without the vendors’ consent, and so the Saturday event was scheduled without the vendors’ input and agreement.

It is unfortunate that the event is being promoted by some as a collaboration between the vendors and those who have made the space available for it, since it does not represent a decision made by the vendors themselves. Efforts by the vendors to communicate with other groups in the Latino community who have themselves represented the event as a collaboration have not yet produced a response from those groups. At the moment, the only groups formally working together on solving the market site issue are the Central Flea Market Vendors, Action NC, and Queen City Community Law Firm. We invite any interested parties to reach out to us, in hopes of growing the movement to find a true permanent and equitable solution for the Central Flea Market.

We are grateful for the initiative that Charlotte City Council members and city staff have taken to ensure that a true solution is reached. Since we spoke at last Monday’s council meeting, the City of Charlotte has doubled its efforts to maintain good communication and be more intentional in its efforts to find a new property for the vendors to work and honor its commitment of financial support for the eventual location.

Once again, the vendors thank Councilman Bokhari for his leadership in moving this issue forward, and others in city government who are working to produce a solution. Their efforts have given the vendors hope. We look forward to having all the interested parties meet to produce a solution together that is in the best interest of CFM and its members.

Councilman Bokhari also provided a statement to WCNC Charlotte on Friday:

We are so happy that over 100 of these vendors that have struggled for 7 months have signed up to participate in this free event tomorrow. Everybody is welcome and we will continue to make sure there's a location for flea markets in Charlotte. Our understanding is that some vendors need a place to sell in order to support their family, so we wanted to act quickly on that. If any vendor has other arrangements, of course that is perfectly fine. But our commitment is if that someone needs a place, we will provide them one and we will continue to communicate the options to the community so that they can make the best decision for themselves. Additionally, we hope all of Charlotte will come out from 9am-2pm tomorrow uptown and support these hard working vendors while enjoying free parking.

Contact Austin Walker at awalker@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.  

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