The Bibb administration is proposing to turn the West Side Market over to a nonprofit operator.
The Bibb administration is proposing to turn the West Side Market over to a nonprofit operator. Credit: Erin Woisnet for Signal Cleveland

Mayor Justin Bibb has taken his first major steps toward turning over the West Side Market to a nonprofit manager. 

In a press release Thursday, the administration announced the formation of a nonprofit and the naming of 15 board members. The city also released a 64-page analysis of the market’s operations. 

Bibb endorsed bringing in a nonprofit operator during his 2021 campaign and announced a planning process last July. An advisory committee has met for several months to discuss a transition to new management. The city would retain ownership of the property under the plan.

“Mayor Bibb declared the West Side Market as one of his initiatives, and I think this is a lot of evidence that we have been doing a lot of work to make this transition a reality,” Jessica Trivisonno, the city’s senior strategist for the market, told Signal Cleveland. 

The law firm McDonald Hopkins filed incorporation papers with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office on Thursday to create the Cleveland Public Market Corporation. The firm did the work pro bono for the nonprofit Ohio City Inc., which facilitated the master plan process, Trivisonno said. 

Cleveland City Council last year approved an agreement with Ohio City to raise money for the market and conduct long-term planning. But the administration has not yet drawn up, nor sought council’s sign-off, on a deal to hand over West Side Market operations to the new nonprofit. 

Bibb and the market’s advisory committee recommended the first slate of board members, according to the administration’s news release. In the future, members will be named by the mayor, council, market tenants’ association and the board, the release said. 

The board members announced Thursday are:

  • Council Member Kerry McCormack, whose Ward 3 is home to the market
  • Dave Abbott, former head of the George Gund Foundation        
  • Carrie Carpenter, a senior vice president at Huntington National Bank
  • Shelly Cayette, the chief commercial officer for the Cleveland Cavaliers 
  • Amanda Dempsey, a former manager of the West Side Market who has also worked for Mitchell’s Ice Cream
  • Colette Jones, the chief marketing officer for the Cleveland Foundation
  • Attorney Henry Hilow
  • Dr. Don Malone, the president of the Ohio Hospitals and Family Health Centers at the Cleveland Clinic
  • Tom McNair, the executive director of Ohio City Inc.
  • Randy McShepard, the chief talent officer for manufacturer RPM International and the founder of Rid-All Green Partnership 
  • Tom Nagel, who is retired from logistics firm DB Schenker 
  • Jason Russell, the vice president for operations and leasing for Bedrock Detroit 
  • Tanisha Velez, the owner of Cleveland Fresh Microgreens 
  • Ramat Wiley, the owner of Adun Spice Company 
  • Ann Zoller, a senior advisor for Strategy Design Partners and former director of LAND Studio

After the board holds its first meeting, it will apply for 501c3 tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service, the release said. The firm Waverly Partners is conducting the search for an executive director. The members are working as unpaid volunteers, Trivisonno said.

Market Ventures, the consultant that is preparing the master plan, outlined benefits and risks of nonprofit management in its report released Thursday. 

A nonprofit operator could turn to foundations and philanthropists to raise money for major repairs at the building, the consultant wrote. On the other hand, the nonprofit could miss out on city subsidies that would sustain it during economic downturns. 

Bibb’s latest budget proposes to subsidize the market using nearly $217,000 of General Fund money. 

“Despite the challenges that the market has faced in the past few decades, it continues to act as an anchor institution in Cleveland,” Bibb said in the news release. “Moving forward, we hope to take advantage of the market’s strengths to ensure it can be a thriving community asset for the next generation.”

Government Reporter (he/him)
Nick joins us from the world of public radio. He has more than a decade experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. In 2021, he produced and hosted "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor," an Ideastream Public Media podcast on the Cleveland mayoral race. He has also covered breaking news, opioid lawsuits and elections nationally for NPR.