Flea market, expo will stay at fairgrounds another year - WKRN News 2

Flea market, expo will stay at fairgrounds another year

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Supporters fighting to save the flea market and expo center at the state fairgrounds have won the battle, at least for now.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has withdrawn his plan to move the events to the Hickory Hollow Mall, but it could still happen in the future.

Alexia Poe, director of the Mayor's Office of Economic and Community Development told News 2, "During this time out, the flea market and expo center will stay on site and for 2011 all those events will stay where they are."

In a letter sent to the Metro Council, Mayor Dean stated, "A number of legitimate questions and concerns have been raised about the mall's suitability as a new venue for the expo events and flea market."

Poe added, "If you move a flea market that has been in one location for a number of years, are you starting from scratch in going to another location? [It's also] inside, so there were just a lot of questions raised like will the vendors move?  Will the people move?"

Poe also said the city is concerned about whether the lease with Hickory Hollow Mall to use the old Dillard's space is financially beneficial.

"We want to make sure we're getting the best deal for the city," she said, "So the finances around the lease were one question."

Other issues, according to Poe, include whether the city wants to be managing the move.

"The conversation wasn't really ever about 'should Metro be in this business?' and the mayor thinks this is a worthwhile question to ask," Poe said.  "Would there be a private company that runs these sorts of things across the country, or one or two, or maybe just one who wants to do something in Nashville?  Is there the interest there and the financial support?  Is that an option? Would it be a quasi-government, public/private partnership or would it continue as is?"

Those are questions Poe said she and the city will look at over the next year.

Attorney Lewis Laska represents the Save My Fairgrounds group, a group in favor of preserving the traditional uses of the fairground.

"We were blind-sided by the mayor's decision, but we're thrilled he's begun to see the light," he told News 2 Thursday.  "It's been very, very discouraging up until today when he finally backed down, in large measure."

Even though plans to move the flea market and expo center are temporarily on hold, Laska said his groups is not satisfied

"It looks to me like they're just buying time," said Laska, "but it's not over yet for us."

Poe said all options are on the table, including the Hickory Hollow Mall, so there's a chance after another year of review, the flea market and expo center could end up there.

"I think right now everything's on the table," she said, adding, "It really is a legitimate time out to make sure we are considering everything."

Poe added the city plans on taking this next year to re-evaluate and study where the best place to put the flea market and expo center might be.

In the meantime, Poe told News 2 they are going ahead with plans to turn part of the fairgrounds property into a greenway.

The city also still plans to develop empty storefronts within the Hickory Hollow Mall.

A new community center and library are in the works.

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