Mar 2, 2023 - Business

Curb Market needs more oversight, audit says

The historic building housing the Sweet Auburn Curb Market will celebrate its 100th birthday next year. Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios

Downtown Atlanta's Sweet Auburn Curb Market is a go-to spot for fresh meat and produce, a proving ground for creative restaurateurs and the closest thing Downtown has to a grocery store.

Yes, but: Behind the scenes, according to a city audit, the city-owned market managed by a nonprofit is in need of vision and more oversight.

Why it matters: The nearly 100-year-old building is a postcard-perfect picture of Atlanta's history, a must-visit destination and a great space where entrepreneurs can find their footing. Other cities would kill for such an asset.

Details: The Municipal Market Company, which has operated the building since 1924, offers below-market rates to tenants — a subsidy that amounts up to $4 million per year, per the 32-page audit.

  • Though the market prides itself as a small-business incubator, the report says, it doesn’t follow best practices. As of Nov. 2022, half of the market's 28 tenants have been there for anywhere from eight to 29 years.

What they’re saying: Members of the Atlanta City Council’s finance committee expressed surprise yesterday after supervising senior auditor Myra Hagley presented the report, with one suggesting the city shed the asset.

  • “In terms of recommendations, I will just say, the four words I’d like to see are ‘for sale by owner,’” Council member Howard Shook said.

The other side: The market's manager was unavailable for comment. An effort to reach the Municipal Market Company's nine-member board was unsuccessful.

Zoom out: In 1992, the city took out a $4.9 million federal loan to improve the building, which the company agreed to pay off in lieu of rent.

  • The city settled the debt with the feds, according to the report, but the city has no evidence the company ever made any payments.

Of note: The company does appear to be maintaining the building, fulfilling one of its responsibilities, the audit says.

The bottom line: The auditor's recommendations include renegotiating the long-term lease with the company, requiring the company to file regular financial reports and asking the board of directors to create a strategy for the market.


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