Relocate Farmer's Market? Metro Jacksonville takes heat!November 9, 2006 2 comments Print Article
Surprisingly, Metro Jacksonville’s push to have the market relocated closer to downtown was met with a lot of negativity. So much we’re compelled to respond to what appears to be several misconceived notions from those who apparently did not read our previous articles or failed to grasp the ideology behind the concept relocating the market to a nearby, yet better site.
QUICK RESPONSES TO COMMENTS CONCERNING RELOCATION
“Meanwhile, two passionate and influential downtown advocacy Web sites lobby for a market move downtown.”
MetroJacksonville and Urban Jacksonville both have recognized the factors associated with farmer’s markets. This is the reason we suggest the market be moved closer to downtown, not “in” it. The primarily industrial areas mentioned by the websites sit exactly on the east side of the Beaver Street viaduct and west of downtown.
“But the Farmers Market is a separate entity and financially breaks even, at best, said Jeff Edwards, Beaver Street chief financial officer. The company wants to shift it to adjacent property."
There’s a reason for the market is barely breaking even. Part of it may have to do with little to no marketing along with a substandard and isolated location that prohibits it from interacting with the surrounding neighborhood. A more high profile alternative location would resolve that issue by potentially doubling or the market’s profits because of increased exposure and accessibility to a large segment of the local population that would rather avoid the current location.
“Here's a chance for the city to plant some deserving economic seeds, within reason. Cultivated correctly, the market could flourish.”
No doubt, but flourishing long term means much more than putting up new sheds. You have to address the site’s problem of it being isolated. Rushing to put up new sheds and not solving the critical location flaws affecting the market will only end up as being a real loss and missed economic opportunity for both the city and farmer’s market.
“When it was initially realized that the Farmers Market might need to be reconfigured on property we owned, we engaged in discussions with City officials to consider alternative urban area sites that might be better suited. Unfortunately, no sites were available that could meet all the requirements for necessary land area, parking and street access for both vehicles and trucks, land use, timing, and to meet financially feasible parameters.”
The only totally feasible solution remaining was to consider the originally conceived multi-phased reconfiguration on land we owned that already met all of the above requirements. Additional advantages included that this area is located within a Jacksonville Neighborhood Improvement District, Florida’s Enterprise Zone, and the Federal Empowerment Zone while also being convenient to downtown Jacksonville and I-95 and I-10.”
The two alternative sites suggested below, not only fit the bill, they exceed it by offering visibility and direct access to I-95, instead of just Beaver Street, and are currently available, plus located within the same improvement districts, empowerment and enterprise zones as the current site. Take the time to consider these alternatives with an open mind before hastily constructing open air sheds next door, without solving the market’s isolation problem.
TAKING A LOOK AT THE SUGGESTED SITES
This aerial shows the location of the existing site (yellow), proposed site (red) and the two (blue & green) suggested by Metro Jacksonville. Both alternative sites offer direct visibility and access to I-95, while the existing and proposed sites only have visibility from Beaver Street, a second tier highway.
Another important factor is the alternative sites are located in industrial oriented areas that blend in with their surroundings, offering the potential redevelopment of large sections of the urban core. Metro Jacksonville's position is that what's on the line is much larger than just replacing farmer's market sheds. Its the opportunity to create a unique market district. An area of town that is just as much of an attraction as it is a necessity.
This image illustrates the problem facing the market's current site. Not only is it boxed in by a large four lane bridge and railyards separating it from the central urban core, the layout of the land and existing neighborhood's suburban commercial footprint limit the possibility of the market creating synergy with its surroundings. This is one of the reasons, along with poor marketing, that it barely turns a profit today.
ALTERNATIVE SITE 1 - LA VILLA INDUSTRIAL DISTRICT
This aerial shows the LaVilla lots and their proximity to Interstate 95, the skyway and the under utilized remains of the LaVilla industrial district. This site is cleared, provides direct access and visibility to the I-95 and the skyway and most importantly, is owned by the City of Jacksonville. With the city already owning the land a simple 10 year low rate lease, similar to MOSH's ($1/year) could be granted to the market, allowing the immediate construction of sheds and additional market facilities. A market in this location would also benefit from events held at the convention center as well as the future development of the JTA transportation center nearby.
The remains of the LaVilla industrial district lie immediately east of Alternative site #1. The adjacent warehouses along Houston and Forysth Streets could be transformed into wholesale businesses specializing in local products, such as seafood, poultry and meats, creating a unique market district, easily accessible to both local residents and tourist. A market in this area would also be within downtown's official borders, meaning it would be heavily marketed and promoted by Downtown Vision (DVI).
ALTERNATIVE SITE #2
As seen in the aerial, this location sits just west of I-95 in the same industrial area as the current market. The major difference is there's an I-95 interchange providing a direct connection to the 4.7 acre site only a block away. This site is unique because its already developed and currently available. Owned by Load Kin the site contains a 46,000 square foot brick warehouse with land for parking and several truck docking facilities. Its also not cut off from its surroundings, meaning support and related businesses and industries could set up shop next door turning a struggling historic industrial district into a vibrant hub of industry focused on local food products. Because the structure is already standing, with the help of the JEDC, a deal to purchase the site could be struck, allowing the market's vendors to move into the space with little site improvements.
An image of this brick warehouse facility can be seen in the photo in the upper left hand corner. This site also is located in the same empowerment and enterprise zones as the Beaver Street Market, meaning the same grants available for the current market also apply here. The major difference is this site is located in the middle of several vacant or under utilized brick industrial buildings, all within close proximity to each other. Examples of these structures can be seen in the remaining three images.
Findlay Market in Cincinnati's Over-The-Rhine District is an example of a historic farmer's market stimulating growth and the reuse of adjacent buildings for support businesses creating a destination that becomes much larger, than just a farmers market.
This plan view illustriate's Findlay's footprint, sheds and parking area in relationship to the buildings surrounding it.
First and foremost, we fully appreciate Beaver Street's committment to keeping the market and open and the JEDC for stepping up to the plate to assist them with the immediate construction of a brand new market.
Nevertheless, we fully endorse the idea of trying to integrate the new market, regardless of the location chosen, into its surroundings, something the current site fails to do because of the railyards and new Beaver Street viaduct. We encourage both Beaver Street and JEDC officials to look at the relocation situation with an open mind and make a solid and reasonable effort to consider the mentioned alternatives.
While we expect that this article won't change any decison maker's minds, we would still hope that those calling the shots will at least work to promote and market the market to the general public and work with the JTA to extend the Azaela trolley line, which currently runs down Myrtle Avenue, to include a stop at the new market, thus providing a connection with the downtown core.