Will City's Decision to Charge For Parking at Fair Park Cost It Buchanan's Flea Market?

A cold, rainy Sunday a month before Christmas seemed like the perfect opportunity to make it out to Fair Park's Automotive Building for the monthly Buchanan Antiques and Collectibles Market, which has been setting up shop out there since '95. That's where I found my prized Mercantile National Bank at Dallas key chain (which holds streetcar tokens) earlier this year -- cost me all of five bucks -- not to mention a cupboard filled with Legend Airlines dishware. This summer I saw Mavs man Erick Dampier perusing some Civil War-era wares out at Buchanan's; it is a decidedly popular hot spot no matter the time of year. But for how long will it remain at Fair Park?

In two weeks, it makes its regularly scheduled move to Dallas Market Hall ... after which, well, it's hard to say. That's because the Edmond, Oklahoma-based Buchanan's is unhappy with the city's decision to charge for parking at Fair Park, as first suggested by City Manager Mary Suhm in her proposed 2009-2010 budget. (As in: "Implement paid parking for all patrons every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for a proposed revenue increase of $500,000.") The proposal passed council in September, and this weekend Buchanan raised the price of admission from $3 to $6 to cover parking, as evidenced by the photo above. (See where it says "City of Dallas Parking"?)

The Buchanan's regulars in line ahead of me were incensed; the woman taking money told said patrons that organizers were considering pulling up stakes and leaving Fair Park altogether next year, costing the city $32,000 in rental revenue (according to Fair Park's exec GM); and unhappy exhibitors said they don't know what to do about the price hike. Buchanan's offices are closed till tomorrow, so no word from organizers; we've also left several messages for Daniel Huerta, Fair Park's executive general manager, and Willis Winters in Park and Rec. Both are in meetings this morning.

Update at 10:15 a.m.: I just spoke with Daniel Huerta, who acknowledges that, yes, Buchanan's is very unhappy with the parking fees. Matter of fact, he says, the flea market moved its November 14-15 "garage sale" to Market Hall for that very reason. "We've always had a parking fee for special events, but we've always exempted the flea markets," he tells Unfair Park. "But as you're very much aware, it was a huge challenge to balance the budget, with a $190 million shortfall, so we had to propose some fees and take some cuts. It's expensive to do business."

After the jump, more with Huerta -- and, courtesy a Friend of Unfair Park, a missive Bryan Buchanan, owner and promoter for Buchanan Productions, sent to exhibitors on Thursday in which he addresses the parking fee.

Huerta says the city makes about $32,000 annually from Buchanan's, with half of that going into the South Dallas/Fair Park Trust Fund. He says the city already gives Buchanan's a "sizable break on rent" as it is.

The problem, he says, is: "How do we capture some of the revenues we're promising while making it easy for people to come to the show? ... The reality is we have a budget commitment we want to make. I can't think of very many special-event places where they don't charge to park. It costs a lot to operate Fair Park. You have to staff it with security 24 hours a day, there's security lighting, re-striping parking lots, just the general maintenance associated with park upkeep. While our show promoters want to make it lucrative for themselves and convenient for their patrons, there's also the cost of operating Fair Park to consider."

Here's the letter vendors received from Buchanan's last week:

Dear Dealers,

Buchanan Productions has a few changes to announce about the upcoming garage sale and vintage markets for November, December and 2010.

Effective immediately, the City of Dallas, i.e Dallas City Council, along with the Mayor of Dallas have decided to impose a $10 parking  charge to all visitors of Dallas Fair Park (excluding vendors). In  the past, Buchanan's has been exempt from this charge.

For this reason, this weekend's garage sale will be moving to Dallas  Market Center Nov. 14 & 15. Booth prices and tables price will  be the same as Fair Park ($75 and $6).

The Nov. 28 & 29 show will remain at Dallas Fair Park as Market Hall  was unavailable.

The December show date has changed to Dec. 12 & 13 and will be at  Market Hall.

We need everyone to lodge their complaints to the City of Dallas immediately!  We need your voices heard!!! Please send your concerns and complaints by clicking on the link below which will send an email to ALL 14 districts and the mayor of  Dallas:

Click here: E-Mail to City of Dallas Mayor and City Council

Just Remember TOGETHER we are what makes up the Dallas show. It doesn't matter where the show is held as long as we support one  another! Everyone needs to keep a positive outlook as the crowds will follow us wherever we go. Next year we have eight dates set  for Market Hall and the rest at Fairpark for now. Personally I  think this parking charge will not stick and it will be amended  especially if they receive enough complaints!

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky