CHICAGO (CBS) — Business owners in the city’s trendy Fulton Market area were urging the Emanuel administration to drop plans to designate the district as a city landmark, and turn the wholesale market into a tourist-oriented farmers market like Pike Place in Seattle.
“It’s literally like comparing apples to sides of beef. Pike’s Place market was a retail farmers market for decades before it received its historic designation,” said Melissa Otte, a board member of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association. “What we have here in Chicago, on the Fulton Street and on Randolph, is a concentration of wholesale food operators and manufacturers who are here because we are close to downtown, and major expressways.”
Otte and her fellow merchants want Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to withdraw the proposed landmark designation for the Fulton-Randolph Market District.
Business owners said the landmark designation is unnecessary, and would make it more difficult for them to make repairs and renovations to their buildings. They said they already maintain their property, and would continue to do so without being designated as a landmark district.
Landmark status would prevent demolition of the 125 designated buildings within the proposed district, and would require property owners to get permission from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to make virtually any changes.
Otte said the merchants want the freedom to run their markets as they wish, upgrade their facilities, or sell to new owners – all without interference from City Hall.
“This proposed historic district is a threat to business owners and property owners alike in the area. The vast majority of us simply desire to continue to operate our businesses in the community that we’ve helped create,” she said.
At least 50 business owners in the proposed landmark district have joined together to fight the Emanuel administration’s plans to turn the wholesale meat market into Chicago’s version of the Pike Place farmers market in Seattle.
“We operate in large quantities. We’re moving thousands of pounds. There’s real safety concerns. We’re operating fork lifts; and having people walking by, looking at the architecture, is frankly a little dangerous,” Otte said.
Otte, whose family owns Maloney Cunningham & DeVic – a wholesale food distributor specializing in eggs, butter, and cheese – said the Randolph/Fulton merchants have enough customers without needing to bring in tourists.