Harrisburg City Council reverses stance that would have delayed Broad Street Market rebuild

Broad Street Market

HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA, UNITED STATES - 2022/08/05: Nearly 40 vendors sell locally-grown produce, meats, baked goods, and prepared meals at Harrisburg's Broad Street Market. (Photo by Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

By Sean Kitchen

May 28, 2024

Harrisburg City Council overturned their decision to delay the reconstruction of the historic Broad Street Market, which suffered a devastating fire last July.

Harrisburg city residents can breathe a sigh of relief after the city council voted 4 to 3 on Tuesday to reverse their decision that would have delayed reconstructing the Broad Street Market by at least six months.

Harrisburg City Council voted by a 5-2 margin earlier this month to deny a contract to Alexander Building Construction, which specializes in historic restoration and smoke and fire remediation, after the company won the bid as the construction manager for the market’s rebuild.

This vote sparked outrage and pushback throughout the city due to the prospects of a lengthy delay.

“The decision to reject the selection of a construction manager means it will now be at least 6 months, if not an entire year, before reconstruction can begin,” Broad Street Market Alliance Board Chair Eric Hagarty wrote in a letter last week urging council members to reconsider their vote.

“We are advised that even an expedited new procurement could not be completed in less than 11-15 weeks, which seems to be an unnecessary delay given that virtually everyone on Council has publicly acknowledged that the company originally selected was the most qualified bidder and there is no apparent reason to believe a new procurement would result in a different outcome.”

The Broad Street Market is an iconic historic landmark in Harrisburg’s Midtown neighborhood, and suffered a tragic fire last July that destroyed half of the market’s brick building. The market, which consists of two buildings, the brick building and stone building, originally opened in 1860 and is one of the country’s oldest continuously-operated farmers markets.

As this was unfolding over the past two weeks, the market opened up a temporary tent-like structure for vendors who were affected by last year’s fire. This tent will serve vendors and the community during the rebuilding process for the brick building, which is estimated to take at least two years to complete.

Council members originally cited a typo, which did not affect the outcome of the bidding process, and issues regarding diversity in the bidding process and commitment to hire a diverse workforce as reasons for the vote.

A 2022 disparity report commissioned by the City of Harrisburg recommends that 10% of government funded construction projects consist of minority owned businesses or contractors. Alexander promises to have at least 30% minority owned businesses and contractors during the Broad Street Market’s restoration.

Councilmembers Crystal Davis and Ralph Rodriguez issued statements prior to Tuesday’s meeting saying they would vote for starting the market’s rebuild process.

“We will need to continue to work with Mayor [Wanda] Williams’ administration to continue improving procurement procedures to ensure all companies who want to do business with the City of Harrisburg have a fair and equitable shake,” Davis said in a statement. “I have been assured these vital and hard conversations will continue.”

“At the same time, the Broad Street Market vendors have waited long enough. They have done nothing but waited patiently for 10 months for a temporary space to open, but they need their permanent home, which will still take another 2-3 years to build.”

Close to 75 residents and members of the Carpenters Local 431 packed Harrisburg’s city council chambers on Tuesday in support of the Broad Street Market.

Andrea Grove, the owner of Elementary Coffee, explained that if it weren’t for the Broad Street Market her business, and many like hers, wouldn’t be around.

“Elementary Coffee Company would not exist but were not for the Broad Street market,” Grove told the room. “This goes for many other small and diverse startups and micro businesses in Harrisburg that we all know and love.”

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

CATEGORIES: LOCAL NEWS
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