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Harrisburg considers new nonprofit structure for Broad Street Market

HARRISBURG—The Broad Street Market would transition into a nonprofit organization under legislation being considered by Harrisburg city council members.

The legislation would shift responsibility for management, maintenance and capital improvements at the city-owned buildings to the new nonprofit under a five-year lease that includes an option to extend 10 more years.

The city would retain ownership of the historic buildings and continue charging a nominal $1 annual rent to the nonprofit.

As it stands, the city only gets $1 in rent but is on the hook for maintenance and deferred capital improvements such as a new roof, lighting improvements and other obligations that are estimated to cost $1.5 million to $2 million.

The legislation was discussed at a council administrative committee hearing Monday night.

Under the legislation, a nonprofit known as the Broad Street Market Alliance would pay for the upkeep of the buildings and capital improvements through grants and fundraising— two things the market in its current form as a for-profit corporation cannot do.

Even at full capacity, the market would not be able to pay for the necessary upkeep, said Broad Street Manager Beth Taylor, so the additional funding streams are necessary.

Council President Wanda Williams said she wanted to see two years worth of revenue figures from the market and expressed concerns about “giving away another city asset.”

But Mayor Eric Papenfuse said the city would retain ownership and explained that the current month-to-month lease with a for-profit corporation overseen by the Historic Harrisburg Association couldn’t work long-term.

He also drew distinctions between the proposed arrangement for the market and the situation at the National Civil War Museum, where a nonprofit board operates the museum out of a city-owned building for $1 in annual rent.

For one, he said the museum in Reservoir Park believes the city should pay for all maintenance and capital improvements under a lease signed by former Mayor Stephen Reed that stretched into the year 2031. The lease for the market is for a shorter term, just five years to start, the mayor said, so as not to tie the hands of future city leaders.

The city will also have a say on the market board, he said. The city engineer and economic development director will occupy two of the 13 board seats, he said, and the majority of board members would be city residents as part of the agreement.

Other board members would come from vendor elections (2,) a representative from a group known as the Friends of the Broad Street Market (1,) with the remaining seats occupied by current members of a task force that has been investigating long-term solutions for the market.

Those board members would then be responsible for filling future vacancies on the board, the mayor said.

The city has settled all unpaid utility bills and debts associated with the market when it was floundering and is now in a place to turn over management to a nonprofit, the mayor said.

“When I took office, the market was about to shut down,” Papenfuse said. “This is designed to take the $1.5 million to $ million in upgrades off the city’s books.”

Williams said she may want to propose some amendments to the legislation but she did not say publicly what she wanted to change. Instead, she said she would reach out privately to Taylor and then consider putting the legislation on the agenda for a vote by the full council.

Council members generally praised recent progress at the market, which is nearly 100-percent filled with vendors. When Taylor took over as manager more than a year ago, she said the stone building was nearly empty.

Councilman Ben Allatt said he loves being able to shop mostly at the market, with its expanded offerings, instead of having to drive to big box store.

The improvements have drawn more customers, making parking spaces scarce at times, “a good problem to have,” Councilman Westburn Major said.

The lease with the nonprofit does not address or change the parking situation. The city owns two adjacent lots used for free parking for the market along with diagonal spaces along the length of the market buildings.

The mayor’s task force, which included three council members, presented its findings in July 2015, which recommended turning over management to a nonprofit. Papenfuse convened the task force shortly after taking office in January 2014 to study how to improve the market’s operation.

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