West Allis explores farmers market repair options

A section of the oldest part of the West Allis Farmers Market was reduced to rubble June 6 when the wall holding up the roof was hit by a minivan.
Published on: 8/6/2013

West Allis — It could cost an estimated $170,000 to repair the damage done when a minivan hit a wall of the West Allis Farmers Market, collapsing the wall and part of the roof, Department of Public Works director Michael Lewis said.

The minivan, driven by food vendor's employee, spun around from the impact, said Dan Koralewski, community health environmentalist who also oversees the market, 6501 S. 65th St. The employee was trying to get to a selling spot on the street when the accident occurred.

The impact left a thigh-high heap of rubble and a roof section hanging, he said.

There were no injuries, partly because the accident happened shortly after the noon opening of the market June 6 and partly because it was so early in the year that not many people were at the market. It was also a cool and overcast Thursday, so attendance was very low.

Considering options

The architect's estimate of $170,000 was forwarded to the insurance companies involved, Lewis said. The combination of liability insurance for the food vending company and the driver's private insurance may cover all or most of the cost.

In any case, repairs will not be done this year, Lewis said.

In fact, they might not be done at all. That's one option the city is considering. The damaged area might also be converted to an open-air seating section where people buying food from the vendors on the street can dine.

The $170,000 estimate is for restoring the building as closely as possible to how it looked before, Lewis said. The original market structure was built in the 1930s, said Devan Gracyalny, president of the West Allis Historical Society.

Getting back to 100 percent of its 1930s look won't be possible because bricks look different now and because the steel trusses that hold up the roof are made differently, Lewis said.

'If we get to 90 percent we'll be doing good,' Lewis said.

The minivan hit the southernmost building, oldest part of the market. The brick was not reinforced with steel rods as brick is today.

'The brick wall came crashing down,' he said.

Newer parts of the market have that steel reinforcement.

'They can take a considerable whack,' Lewis said.

After the crash

To protect the rest of the older parts of the market, the city installed sturdy posts of steel tubing reinforced with concrete at vulnerable points, Lewis said.

After the crash, a large section of the market was closed off. The corner stall that was destroyed was not occupied anyway until July 22 when the corn crop started to come in, Koralewski said. He's selling there now underneath a canopy.

As the weeks have gone by, more and more of the barricades have been removed, and as of July 20, all the selling stalls were open. The remaining barricades are there to keep people away from areas where they might trip.

Otherwise, the only inconvenience for customers has been not being able to back their cars into that part of the market to load large orders, Koralewski said.

Besides cleaning up the mess and installing the posts, city crews restored electricity and the benches in the stalls. The market was up and running well before the West Allis National Night Out on July 22.