Fayetteville Farmers’ Market expansion proposal would fully close the downtown square on Saturdays

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Update: This decision was tabled until Nov. 19. See our story for more.

Officials believe the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market has once again outgrown its boundaries.

City Council members this week will consider a proposal to fully close the downtown square during the Saturday market.

The measure is sponsored by Ward 2 Council Member Matthew Petty, who was at the forefront of the market’s 2013 expansion that closed Block Avenue on Saturdays.

At the time, city law already allowed closure of East Avenue on Saturday mornings, while Mountain Street was also regularly closed due to high pedestrian traffic.

The new proposal would close Center Street between East and Block avenues, but vehicles traveling west on Center Street from College Avenue would still be allowed to turn right on East Avenue. The change would not affect the Tuesday and Thursday markets.

Dane Eifling, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian programs coordinator, developed the proposal.

Eifling said as the market continues to draw large crowds, it’s important for the city to provide a safe and enjoyable pedestrian experience for market goers. He said constrained pedestrian space on Center Street forces congestion on the interior of the square, and car traffic volumes create conflicts for drivers as well.

Petty agreed.

“If you’re a fan of the Farmers’ Market you’ve probably noticed there are a lot of people walking back and forth across Center Street today,” said Petty. “I think it would be wise for us to close that safety gap relatively quickly.”

Aside from increasing safety, Eifling said closing Center Street would open nearly 7,000 square feet of new space and connect with an additional 10,700 square feet of public space including Arvest Plaza and the sidewalks on the north side of the road.

The extra space could be used for additional vendors, which market officials said would be welcomed considering there is currently a waiting list for members who’d like to set up shop on Saturdays.

The additional room could also be used for additional community programming like yoga classes or children’s activities.

Petty said he hopes the proposal could be passed in time for the market to expand this year.

The Saturday market operates on the square from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Nov. 17.