'Main Street Market' idea proposed for downtown

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

Oct. 10, 2008 - Sulphur Springs City Council members are studying a proposal to turn a parking lot on Main Street into a multi-purpose site that could double as a farmer's market and venue for the performing arts.

During this week's regular council meeting, City Manager Marc Maxwell presented architectural drawings of what the space could become.

With the work on Main Street completed, one of the next goals for downtown is to begin programming events to attract more people to the city's central business district.

"We feel very strongly on a staff level that we need a place to be able to have events," Maxwell said. "We're especially going to need that place when we're under construction on the square itself. We need a place for a farmer's market, we need a venue for music festivals and movie nights and Super Bowl parties, whatever."

But the area needs, parking, too.

"The more we thought about it," Maxwell said, "the more we thought that we can do both."

Enter the "Main Street Market," which would be set up in the parking lot on the south side of Main Street, practically in the middle of the block.

Imagine a facade, with open spaces where normally windows might be. Behind those open portals is plenty of room for sidewalk vendors to set up and sell their hot dogs, hot pretzels, etc.

"Then, during an event, those things can roll out to the walls or move out to the street or go away entirely," Maxwell explained.

That allows for a lot of flexibility -- it could host a farmer's market a few days a week, then musical acts, festivals or other events on weekends.

"Then we got to thinking, heck, why not cover it and have some all-weather possibilities?" the city manager continued. "But we didn't want the warehouse feel -- we still wanted it to be open and airy."

At that point, an architect was recruited to "do us a concept." ("It's a lot easier to consider the possibilities if you've got something to look at.")

"We gave him our list of six or seven items, and that's what he came up with," Maxwell said. "And I love it.

"And the great thing about it is that seven or eight years down the road, when Main Street is a smashing success and the farmer's market has outgrown the facility and the square is done and we've got a stage downtown to do things, it can be turned into retail," he added. "It is a truly multi-purpose facility if we do it."

"If" is an important word, however.

"Of course, the next step is to answer the question, 'How much?' We're not quite there yet," Maxwell said, adding that the concept got a warm reception from council members, "but there are a whole lot of questions to be asked."

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