Metro Codes Director Terry Cobb told The City Paper on Wednesday that he doesn’t believe housing an expo center and flea market at the old Dillard’s building at Hickory Hollow Mall would violate the city’s fire codes.
At a special public meeting last night, Metro Councilman Michael Craddock, who supports preserving the Metro-owned fairgrounds, raised concerns about potential fire codes violations involved with Mayor Karl Dean’s plans to move events currently held at the fairgrounds to the former Dillard’s building.
The council is set to consider an ordinance that outlines leases for the Hickory Hollow project in the coming weeks.
According to Craddock, Metro’s fire code would only allow fewer than 5,000 people in the building at one time because he said it is a “mercantile building.”
The most recent flea market, held in October, had around 700 vendors. With the addition of family and friends of the vendors, as well as visitors inside the new expo center, Craddock said the number of occupants could exceed the number that is allowed.
“Are we actually, ladies and gentlemen, going to put someone at the door with a counter and count the people going in and out of the building?” Craddock said. “How are we going to accommodate some 10,000 or 15,000 in the Dilliard’s expo center at one time like we do at the fairgrounds?”
But Cobb, who heads the codes department, said he doesn’t believe there would be any issues, adding that the building would qualify as a covered mall instead of a mercantile building.
“A covered mall is an occupancy group that includes stores, restaurants, theaters, food courts, all kinds of things,” Cobb said. “Actually, the walkway area of the mall is considered in the code to be considered a street.
“There’s obviously some codes issues to be addressed in the design and construction of anything, but I don’t see anything that would be considered unusual in proposing an expo center within a covered mall,” Cobb said.