What to Do About the Market Site

By Cecile Gorham, Market Central Chairwoman


Rendering of City Market Option 1
Rendering of City Market Option

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] T [/dropcap]ed Spitzer with Market Ventures and the local landscape architect team have presented two plans to the public as a solution to the dilemma of a permanent home for City Market, and as an answer to the question of the market being part of a market district. One plan is to upgrade the current site, Water St., with physical improvements in landscaping and the addition of a public plaza. Market stalls would be enlarged by making use of sidewalks. Amenities such as restrooms, water, electricity, and canopies are part of the plan.

The second option is to move the market a block south onto Garrett Street, renting the triangle of land bordering the railroad tracks, and spreading onto the sidewalks on both sides of the street. The second plan also includes a seating area, performance space, restrooms, and landscaping.

Both designs have attractive features and would be an improvement to the market as it exists today.

Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the proposals may help us decide for which design we would like to advocate or even improve upon, as the final decision will be made by city council.

The costs for the full implementation of designed improvements are roughly $4,390,000 for the Water St. site and $3,661,000 for the Garrett St. site. However the Garrett St. site would cost over $1,000,000 in rent over the duration of the contract, so the two options have essentially similar costs. One argument put forth is that the sale and development of the Water St. lot would help finance the development of the market on the Garrett St. site. However, if the market moved, it could be a long time before the Water St. site would ever be developed because the city policy for development requires on- site parking which drives up the cost of development prohibitively. Would it be advantageous to move the market to a place that would now require rent while the Market St. site potentially remains undeveloped? The site where we are now has always been available for development, yet it has never happened.

Other advantages of the Garrett St. site are the topography, more space, and the presence of other businesses around the site, thus contributing to the Market District concept. However, the site also presents problems relating to the train (that comes by at least once during the market, usually for less than seven minutes to pass), and street closings. A dedicated permanent space for the market allows it to evolve as needs arise, such as opening more than one day a week, opening year round, having special events, perhaps shelter in winter, etc. Can Garrett St. be closed according to market needs? Or will its evolution be restricted by its environment?

Another issue with the Garrett St. site is the question of permanency. Even having a long term lease does not guarantee a permanent home, where changes can be made according to market needs. And in the long run, if the property ends up being purchased for the market, is it smarter to wait 25 years to buy two parcels versus dedicating the current property to the market now and preserving the permanency of the market.

These are some of the issues coming to the forefront when evaluating the choices presented by the market consultant. I think that both sites will work, but that the Water St. site feels a little safer in terms of a permanent commitment to the market. The Garrett St. site proposal, as it stands now, has too many uncertainties and may put the market in a position where it would have to move again. What do you think?

This is just the beginning of the conversation in response to the consultant’s proposals. There are many more angles and opinions to explore. If you care to join it, please email Market Central or stop by the MC table at City Market to continue the conversation.