Municipalities in Tennessee and California want to evict existing flea markets and swap meets from longtime homes at state fairgrounds and force them to move elsewhere — leaving historic fairgrounds free for development that expands the tax local base.
FleaMarketZone has reported several times on Mayor Karl Dean’s plan to shift the Nashville Flea Market from the Tennessee State Fairgrounds to new digs at a failing mall at the edge of the city. On Nov. 8, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce released a statement claiming the development of the fairgrounds for mixed-use and office space could create 6,500 jobs and have an economic impact worth $2.5 billion.
On Tuesday, Nov. 16, the Metro Council passed the first part of that plan. But still facing fierce local opposition, the mayor appeared the next day at a public meeting, facing three dozen people who spoke out against the move. He insulted the fairgrounds, saying that on days with no market, the place was an eyesore no one would want near their home. According to local NewsChannel5, he said:
“Go over there today and take a look at it. Look at it tomorrow. There will be nothing going on. You look at the property and you ask yourselves, are you proud of the way that looks? Is that what you want in your neighborhood?”
On the West Coast, a similar battle has been shaping up since spring. The State of California is looking to sell the Orange County Fair and Event Center, evicting the Orange County Market Place, a 41-year-old swap meet with over 1,100 vendors.
The swap meet and other local businesses have banded together to form an opposition group, American Fairs and Festivals, to save the market. One strategy of the group has been to bid on the fairgrounds and buy it from the state. Another bidder, Facilities Management West, was chosen by the state, and now American Fairs and Festivals is suing to block the sale, saying the bidding was flawed. This blog post includes a letter from American Fairs and Festivals describing those flaws.
Two days ago, a judge sided with American Fairs and Festivals, issuing a temporary restraining order to stop the sale to Facilities Management West. A hearing on a permanent injunction will be held Dec. 8 in Orange County Superior Court.