Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak says she’s surprised by how attached many people are to the Cottonwood Market buildings.
Recent news of council’s plans to demolish the structures this fall has been met with intense reaction in the past two weeks on social and other media, and in letters to council. Also, two members of the public protested the plan at Monday’s council meeting.
As a result, demolition of the market stalls is not exactly on hold, but Kozak says there will be more discussion between the city and West Kootenay EcoSociety in early October. The EcoSociety runs the market while the city owns the land and the shelters.
“Of course we are going to consider what people have said,” Kozak said after the council meeting. “And of course we do not want to destroy the market, that is not the point of this at all. We want it to grow and thrive. But the structures will come down at some point because we will be planning for Railtown, and those structures have had their day.”
She was referring to a plan for Railtown that the city intends to create over the next year. The market’s future will depend on what that plan looks like. Kozak said the planning process will include opportunities for public input.
She said the planned demolition was not solely a city decision.
“There have been discussions between the city and the EcoSociety all along,” she says.
EcoSociety executive director David Reid thinks it’s up to the city whether it wants to tear down the buildings.
“If the City of Nelson believes the best thing is to tear down the buildings, we can work with that,” he wrote in a Sept. 12 letter to city council. “If the city wants to keep the marketplace, we can work with that too.”
“If they are determined to tear them down, it is more important for me to focus on the future of the market than it is to stand in their way,” Reid told the Star.
Reid said if the structures are torn down this fall, the EcoSociety will plan for new shelters to be in place before the next market year. He said there is Columbia Basin Trust funding available for that, and the EcoSociety would seek other funding as well.
“The reality of the current structures is that the roof needs to be replaced, more covered area is needed, and security is a concern for market assets,” Reid wrote in his letter to council. “The walls and foundations seem sound. If the structures are going to be torn down in the next 10 years to facilitate Railtown development, it doesn’t make sense to invest $50,000 to $100,000 in repairing them.
“Instead, it would make sense to install some sort of medium-term shelter that could meet the needs of the market and then could be moved to another public space, and work on planning and fundraising for a marketplace that truly meets the needs of the community, including the needs for public safety.”
Reid said concerns recently expressed by the public indicate a strong conviction that demolishing the buildings “would have a gentrifying effect on the market and on Nelson.
“It is an important cultural meeting point for alternative and mainstream, young and old,” he said. “They all intersect, and there are not many places like that in Nelson. The Ecosociety will continue to fight to make sure that happens, regardless of the buildings that are there. Nelson is not a bland, generic, cookie-cutter kind of place and we don’t want a bland, generic, cookie-cutter market.”