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Community Impact Award honors Harbor District Market visionaries

Since the Washington Harbor District Market first opened its doors last year, the location has become many things to many people. It’s been a space for the community to come together. It’s been a place where vendors can grow their businesses. Above all, the market has helped uplift Washington and break down cultural barriers.

Two of the key figures in making that market a reality, Bill Cummings and Chris Furlough, were recently honored by the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce with its 2019 Community Impact Award.

“They have done a great job of going through the process and making sure that we’re being good stewards of the money we have been donated,” said Washington Harbor District Alliance Executive Director Meg Howdy. “They did a lot of planning before we even bought the building. This project has been several years in the making, but it’s really impressive that we took this building where the roof was leaking and the boards were warped, and in 18 months, they made it look like it is today.”

Cummings, who has a background in engineering, served as the project manager for the Harbor District Market. From putting in the physical work to working with contractors, Cummings contributes his expertise on building and fire codes and helps the WHDA stay on target with its budgeting.

Furlough serves as president of the WHDA Board. Howdy says he helped bring in community leaders to support the project and also served as a leader himself. Presenting a vision for the market, Furlough continues to work with stakeholders to find the right way to get there.

“We wouldn’t be where we are without them,” Howdy said. “They really are the type of people that will get in, get their hands dirty and make it happen. They don’t allow for obstacles to get in our way. If we come across something where we’re not sure how to make it happen, they sit down, and we work it through.”

Both Cummings and Furlough say seeing the market come to life has been a rewarding experience in a number of ways. From enhancing downtown Washington and strengthening the community to the diversity it brings and the economic impact the space has for its vendors, it’s been a powerful project.

“One of the biggest reasons to do a market like this is to provide an inclusive public space that provides an opportunity for vendors at an affordable level,” Furlough said. “Our goal is to promote inclusiveness and promote diversity in our community. It also serves as a place where groups can meet and talk about community issues. It’s a place where we can meet and talk about healthy food initiatives. It’s a place where we can go as a community and be entertained with music while shopping at a space like this. We are providing an opportunity for our community to come together intentionally.”

“It checks an awful lot of different boxes that I’m interested in,” Cummings added. “One is the adaptive reuse of an older building. It also offers an individual opportunity for people in there to start their own small business. Overall, it’s contributing to the economic growth of Main Street. We see that every day.”

The work at the Harbor District Market is far from over. Future plans include the installation of a demo kitchen downstairs, a commercial kitchen upstairs and spaces for meetings and educational programing.

To learn more about the Harbor District Market and the vision for that space moving forward, visit www.harbordistrictmarket.org.